Many museums already face a bit of an uphill climb when it comes to attracting and engaging new audiences. When state budget constraints closed the Illinois State Museum for nine months, museum officials knew they needed some fresh new ideas to regenerate interest in the museum once its doors were reopened.
The museum is home to collections and exhibits that focus on the natural, cultural, and artistic history of the state. Prior to the shutdown, the museum had run a string of successful special event Saturdays. After reopening, staff was eager to revive the series that had been a long-time staple of their community in Springfield, Illinois.
It was important to the museum that the first event in their Saturday series revival was a huge success, so they called Museum Hack!
For this event, called Remarkable Raptors!, the museum partnered with the Illinois Raptor Center to host live demonstrations with real raptors. Museum officials also planned to host educational events for all ages throughout the day.
How To Define and Find Your Museum’s Ideal Audience
To get started, we talked with Elizabeth Bazan, Assistant Curator of Education at the Illinois State Museum, to better understand the event and the museum’s goals and objectives for the day. With this new information, we crafted a Facebook marketing plan to help drive engagement for the event.
We took the museum’s existing Facebook event for Remarkable Raptors and changed it up with a fresh new description and eye-catching images. We used attention-grabbing pictures to run ads and craft special posts designed to encourage maximum engagement.
Our conversations with Elizabeth clued us into the museum’s typical demographic and helped us identify the primary audience to target with our specialized advertising.
We used the museum’s existing audience and targeted visitors within that group who had relevant interests listed on Facebook. We took it one step further and set the ads to run to people who liked pages similar to that of the Illinois State Museum’s, such as the Henson Robinson Zoo or Washington Park Botanical Gardens.
By identifying the ideal audience so specifically, we ensured that our messaging was landing with people who would be the intrigued by the event. This narrow focus gave our ads the best chance of success.
Now that we knew who we’d be directing our ads towards, we wanted to make sure the ad itself was enough to grab the audience’s interest. In our experience, a simple, eye-catching image is critical to standing out as folks scroll through their social media feeds.
For this event, we combined images the museum provided of children and families enjoying themselves at past events with captivating images of the amazing wildlife that would be at the event. By combining images, we were able to instantly convey both the event content and the family-friendly atmosphere.
We designed Facebook posts designed to promote the event with engagement and implemented specific social media strategies, such as:
- Encouraging Facebook users to caption photos;
- Asking people to ‘like’ a picture of their favorite raptor;
- Scheduling reminders about event details to help convert interested guests into attendees;
- Using calls to action in posts throughout the week.
Calls to action are incredibly important to drum up more engagement. The call to action encourages a user to do something; on Facebook, this is usually some kind of interaction with the post. This boost in interaction results not only in a higher place for your posts on your fans’ newsfeeds, but helps foster a relationship with your current audience.
Cultivating a better relationship with your current visitors also allows for your museum to understand them and their needs, so when it comes time to plan an event, you’re able to advertise more effectively.
For our last major push to drum up even more interest for the event, we boosted the event page to our target audience during the last 48 hours leading up to the event to get maximum reach with this group.
Did It Work?
“It went really well. We had about 230 people. We had a lot of people here at 11:00, which is rare for us.” – Elizabeth Bazen, Assistant Curator of Education Illinois State Museum
Here are some of the results:
- Our posts reached up to 13,000 Facebook users in the Springfield area.
- Many uses shared the event page on their own timelines, inviting their personal network to attend. This is awesome because it offers an element of social proof, i.e. “your friend is interested in this event.” Shares can be a huge amplifier for your ad or event.
- The Illinois State Museum’s main Facebook page saw a ton of growth.
- Engagement soared; during the week of our event promotion, the main Facebook page reached moe users and had a noticeable increase in clicks, comments, likes, and shares – even on old posts.
- Page views spiked and the Illinois State Museum gained 6x the amount of page likes that week.
Much of the event’s success comes from a solid understanding of the primary audience demographic, i.e. knowing who’s most likely to enjoy and attend the event. From this, targeting your existing base for those who have pre-existing interests that align with the event creates a super focused group to whom you can effectively advertise.
Thanks to Facebook’s built-in analytics, we know this was a successful strategy that helped boost event attendance and had a huge positive impact on the Illinois State Museum’s Facebook page. Now the museum has an even bigger base to re-market to in the future!
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