What're we doing wrong on Twitter?
There’s still a lot of excitement about Twitter in the museum sector. Major institutions are reaching hundreds of thousands, if not millions of followers. When you add up all the twitter followers from the top ten museums on ALVA it comes to 6.6m. That’s greater than the population of Scotland (5.2m).
However something has been bugging me for a while. When you start to look at individual twitter feeds, something doesn’t add up. Why are our tweets getting so few retweets and likes? Why is engagement so low? How can we boast that we have x million followers, when less than 30 people retweet our messages? Is it just the nature of the channel, or is it us?
To check this theory I did a little investigating. Taking the top ten organisations from the ALVA list, I looked at the last ten tweets from each of the organisations. I then took away the lowest and highest performing tweets (to cut out any anomalies) and worked out the average number of retweets for each organisation.
You’ll be surprised to see that the average number of retweets is 0.008% of the total number of followers.
If you take an organisation like the British Museum, that’s an average of 90 retweets from 609,000 followers. Actually, the British Museum is one of the top performers for engagement on Twitter.
Others don't perform quite as well – the Southbank Centre and Somerset House tweet a lot about events (as you’d expect) which generates low levels of engagement. Top of the list is the Library of Birmingham (it has a much smaller number of followers to start with), the British Museum and National Gallery.
So what types of tweets are most popular?
- The British Museum frequently uses the #OnthisDay hashtag and it produces great results.
- People like to see collection items - something the National Gallery does a lot.
- The Tate sends out ‘Happy birthday’ messages to well-loved artists like Ai Weiwei and Man Ray.
- Links to current affairs boost impressions - for example, the V&A linked to Notting hill Carnival this weekend.
- Tweets that include images or video content have been proved to get more retweets.
And what don’t people want us to tweet about? Boring retweets, too many sales messages and content that is linked too much to a physical location e.g. event promotion.
The other way of looking at the issue is to look at Twitter as a channel. Its ‘feed’ functionality makes it very hard to keep track of all the information posted, as it’s hugely overwhelming. Just like Facebook, what you share on Twitter isn’t seen by all your followers. Even if you tweet the same message multiple times, even hitting a third of your followers would be a huge success.
You could also argue that Twitter works best for real people, rather than brands. Often the staff that work at museums have much higher engagement rates than their corporate channels. With careful use of lists and hashtags, it's a great way to manage personal relationships.
I’d welcome your views– feel free to leave me a comment below.