4 Tips For Effective Facebook Advertising for Museums

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Facebook advertising represents an amazing marketing opportunity for museums and cultural institutions.  The methods by which Facebook can target audiences allows for very focused advertising, which can produce incredible results online and in the museum space.

Effective Facebook Advertising for Museums thumbs up

Museum Hack has utilized Facebook advertising to help us reach our goals of expanding and increasing relevance.  We’ve been able to successfully engage new audiences, promote our events and content, and grow our social media following. We’ve also helped museums achieve these results:  we helped the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History promote one of their special events to new audiences via Facebook.

We know Facebook advertising works.  Given time and the right method of audience research, we’ve found that this form of advertising boosts engagement and showcases what makes a museum unique to new audiences.  In this post, we explore four tips for effective Facebook advertising.

#1: Be specific with targeting.

Facebook allows for hyper-targeted advertising to virtually any community.  Their customizations are nearly endless: demographics, interests, behaviors, page likes, etc.  But there are a few that are more effective than others. With all of these tips, we recommend following best practices but being open to the learning and “serendipity” that happens from the near infinite-variety of experiments you can do.

In our work with the Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History, being specific about location  we wanted to target had a huge impact on success.  The Santa Cruz Museum of Art and History has a unique location within the San Francisco Bay Area, with a potentially wide-reaching audience.  But we found that trying to target the entire San Francisco Bay Area, and even the smaller area of San Juan, was ineffective.  The most RSVPs to the museum’s event came when we targeted people living within a much smaller radius of the museum: the locals, who likely knew of the museum but may not have realized what fun they were missing out on!

Facebook’s tools are also super-effective when you utilize your current membership base.  Our advertising campaigns are targeted to Lookalike audiences — those who exhibit the same interests and behaviors as our current newsletter subscribers or past attendees.  Utilizing this method, we’ve been able to reach people who are more likely to follow us, join our tours, or reach out to us for consulting services.

Determine what types of audiences will like which types of posts -- and adjust your strategy accordingly

Whichever method is chosen, we’ve also learned that taking time to research and brainstorm ideas appropriate to specific events or posts is most effective.  We — like many museums — publish multiple types of content on our Facebook page, and we don’t expect every member of our audience to love each and every post.  Targeting is no different: you have to brainstorm and determine what types of audiences will like which types of posts, and adjust your strategy accordingly.

#2: Make Your Ads Appealing

There’s a lot of articles about the science behind advertising: what colors work, how to setup images, whether text is effective, etc.  However, there’s a better question to ask: “What makes your event or museum unique?”

The answer can be many things, and how you craft your ad’s language and image should reflect the unique aspects of what you offer.  Advertising a maker faire?  Include images that show people having fun while making things.  Have bold, daring stories to tell? Make the image pop with bright colors and strong text.

It won’t just be the catchy headlines, bright and colorful images, or happy smiles that gain an audience’s attention.  While those things are certainly important, and we emphasize using them in every ad, what matters most is that those components come together to showcase something unique — an experience only you can offer.

Group in front of Temple of Dendur
Showcase the experience that only you can offer.

#3: Wisely Invest Your Money

Like any investment, Facebook advertising can be a stunning success — or a huge disappointment.  There are many ways to customize how your money is spent in the ads.  How you spend should be determined with your objective in mind. 

Does your budget require only spending a maximum amount per engagement?  Do you really need to reach audiences on Instagram as well as Facebook? Is your Facebook audience primarily desktop or mobile?

Throughout our advertising campaigns, we’ve found that our audiences respond best via Desktop or Mobile News Feed — but that doesn’t mean your audience will, too.  Looking at your current Audience Insights can determine a lot about the wisest course of action for your ads. 

Important: the wisest course of action may not require crafting a brand new post.  Sometimes, the most effective advertising comes from putting more money towards previously boosted posts that had high engagement, or towards posts that are currently performing very well organically.  This still depends a lot upon your ultimate goal, but evaluating where, and on which posts, your audience already engages with you can provide major insights into how your money will be most effective.

Every campaign is an opportunity to evaluate and learn

#4: Evaluate. Evaluate. Evaluate.

We track every boosted post, in terms of how much we have spent, how our audiences engaged with that post, and how that post helped us toward our target goals.  With each new ad, we learn more about our audience — how they engage, the topics they prefer, and what is most effective for converting them into long-term supporters.  We also take the time to review our Lookalike Audiences, ensuring that they are up-to-date with our current member database and ascertaining whether one type of lookalike is better than another for specific goals.

Facebook advertising provides multiple ways to evaluate posts and audiences, and each new advertising campaign is the an opportunity to refine our techniques.  We also utilize these statistics to inform our future offerings and content.  Does our audience respond well to our sliders or more original content?  Do they prefer certain topics over others?  Do they like specific types of art history mashups more than others? 

Every post is an opportunity to evaluate and learn.   And this constant reflection is our best method for determining how we can be more successful — in terms of relevance and engagement — in the future.

We Can Help Market Your Museum with Our Audience Development Agency

We absolutely love the opportunities that Facebook advertising presents for museum audiences.  In fact, we find it so effective that we’re now working to help museums and cultural institutions utilize Facebook advertising to engage new audiences with exhibits, programs, and events.  

We help tailor these ads to reach target audiences, utilizing what museums already know about their members — and the populations they want to reach — to craft customized targeting.  We also test these custom targets, as well as ad language and images, to see which messages resonate where, further helping to refine and target Facebook ads.  

At the end of the advertising campaign, we produce and deliver a report on the effectiveness of Facebook advertising to meet institutional goals and our suggestions for future marketing efforts.

Interested? Learn more about our museum consulting work or email us to find out how we can help your institution design effective Facebook advertising campaigns.

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