Saturday, August 27, 2022

8 Takeaways for Museums from Tiktok

Here are 8 things I learned after spending the last three months posting about art and museums of my personal Tiktok. With 50K followers, 34 Million videos, and 3.4 Million likes, I’ve learned some things.

  1. People are interested in art, but they want the information to be served up in an interesting way. I rarely post videos longer than 30 seconds. And when I do them I think of all the “well actually” folks who work at museums. I mean the people who’d tell me I’ve “dumbed it down.” And I’ve absolutely simplified things. But I work hard to make sure I’m factual. And I’ve learned if you make it enjoyable, people will watch. I think the “dumb it down” contingent don’t know how to hit an entertaining tone, and are not able to see the merit it entertainment. 

  2. Again! People are interested in art. I’ve had scores and scores of people commenting on items as vast as ancient Indian art to Liza Lou’s kitchen. I’ve gotten as much positive feedback about abstraction as decorative arts. When you don’t talk down to people, they are willing to listen.

  3. People trust people to tell them about art. While I only recently put my real name, I’ve often had people say they like my approach to talking about art. I’d previously done Tiktoks for a museum account, and I never had as much pick up on videos. I think people want to hear from an authentic human voice rather than a brand. 

  4. Learn their language rather than making them learn ours. My whole challenge is finding analogies between other Tiktok videos and art. If you’re not familiar with Tiktok, you might not know about duets. People reshare other peoples videos with that commentary. I used that popular format but to share ideas about art. Sure, I could have done short traditional videos about artworks. But that is less popular on Tiktok. Why try to get people to my ideas in a way they are less likely to like? 

  5. Remember people want to learn about art for fun. They are not doing it because it’s good for them. So don’t make it a chore for them. It might be our job, but it’s their time off. 

  6. Even if people like art, they don’t have much scaffolding. I have a core group of art lovers who know about art. The vast majority of commenters have basic questions or thank me for discussing basic elements. Schools teach less art, and so our visitors have taken less. It makes them no less interested. But it does mean we need to remember that when communicating about art.

  7. People don’t care about museums, just the stuff inside them. Museum people, particularly boards, think visitors are excited by museums themselves. Sure, storage, art theft, removing varnish are interesting, but that’s because they look cool. Very few people are jazzed at hearing about the history of your museum. 

  8. And some people don’t care and won’t care. For most of my museum life, donors and boards have asked, how do we bring in non-visitors? The thing they should be thinking is how do we bring in more people like the people who visit or how do we change to bring in new visitors. If you stay the same, the people who don’t come, won’t. That said if you change, the old people might stop visiting. Each organization needs to decide what is the right call for them. And after all of that, some people still will not care. That is okay. Do your best for the people who you want to come

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