Social Media Strategies – Ethnography and Marketing – Part 2

In my last post I was talking about the possibilities that marketing approaches to participatory media might have for museums.

Allen-Greil et al. argue that by using business approaches to consumer trust, museums can begin to understand how public trust can become more sustainable [16]. They suggest that social media could result in new models for collaboration within organisations [16]. This could be expanded upon, in the context of this paper, to consider instead the possibilities for new models for collaboration outside of the organisations.

Benefits of the use of social media are often reported as increases in ‘eyeball’ and rises in search engine ranking leading to business exposure, and an increase in qualified leads. These factors have been identified in Anderson’s The Long Tail where the phenomenon of the biggest money being in the smallest sales is outlined [17]. Anderson’s model could be summarised as follows: make everything available, lower the price dramatically, and make everything findable. Since the mid-nineties, most studies of visitors’ engagement with museums have been based on Bruner’s theory that identity is negotiated through interactions [18].

In-line with this, Anderson’s long tail approach could be adopted by museums for their use of social media:

  1. Social media as the tool to make more information about the collections and buildings available online and not maintaining an online presence that mirrors their offline character. For instance, a museum can only display objects from the collection within the bounds of the buildings within which it operates (on- and off-site), online there are no physical barriers to display.
  2. The price incurred by individuals in relation to museums is the time required to physically or virtually visit an exhibition, or to locate and then experience the information generated during that visit. Social media tools can be used to personalise communications with museums so that experiences are more focused and therefore engaging.
  3. User generated distribution can make information more locatable on an individual basis.

Following adoption, Whaling provides an overview of engagement metrics for social media [19], and these are directly relevant to museums as they are indicators for non-impression engagement. They include quantifying time spent on content, instances (such as comments), references and endorsements, multimedia content (such as images and videos), and users and also users’ referrals.

Next I am going to try to apply this approach alongside ethnographic approaches to museums use of social media.


[16] Allen-Greil, D., S. Edwards, J. Ludden, E. Johnson, 2011. ‘Social Media and Organizational Change’, Museums and the Web 2011 Conference, MW2011, 6-9th April 2011, Philadelphia, PA. Available at:

[17] Anderson, C., 2004. ‘The Long Tail’. WIRED Magazine, 12:10. Available at:

[18] Bruner, J., 1996. The Culture of Education. Harvard University Press: Cambridge, MA

[19] Whaling, H., 2011. ‘5 Ways Social Media Has Changed Marketing Campaigns’. Modern Media Agency Series, mashable, 12th May 2011. Available at: