Flickr as Pull, Not Just Push Marketing for Museums

2009 June 26
by Joe Hoover

I made an earlier remark about the trend of museums and organizations pushing large amounts of their content on-line in spaces like Flickr with not much consideration of how to use it to pull customers back into their own web spaces or facilities or actively engage with their organization.

Debra Askanase of the blog, Community Organizer 2.0 wrote an article on the innovative ways three arts organizations are using Flickr creatively, engaging and empowering stakeholders and doing a good job of pulling Flickr users to their organizations.

1. The Houston Ballet uses Flickr to give users a look behind the scenes in their warehouse and the creation of props. Behind the scene tours are appealing to just about anyone but they are particularly appealing to museums hardest sell, teens which are interested in knowing how things work under-the-hood.

2. The Mass Museum of Contemporary Art (MassMOCA) and The Luce Foundation Center for American Art both used crowdsourcing to engage and pull in viewers. The Mass Museum of Contemporary Art asks viewers to upload photos specific to an assigned topic. The topics usually relate to one of the exhibits happening at the time.

3. The Luce Foundation Center for American Art pulls off both crowdsourcing and is able to introduce users to it’s collection by engaging them as citizen curators to find appropriate works of art of size to fill-in-the-gaps in their display units  while matching the other artworks in theme.

MHS on Flickr

MHS Flickr groupsWhere I work, the Minnesota Historical Society does a lot of content “push” on Flickr, adding items from its collection, event photos, historic site photos nothing (as of yet) as clever or engaging on Flickr as the previous three mentioned. It’s pull is limited to the basic making sure photos are marked up properly with titles, captions and tags.
One thing discovered while adding photos on Flickr of the historic sites we manage  was just how few good contemporary photos we actually had of the sites but not only that our customers seemed to be taking much better and more numerous photos than we could or were. Flickr seemed the perfect place to do a little simple crowdsourcing-light of our own by asking others on Flickr to add their photos they have taken of our sites to the site’s equivalent group on Flickr. With that we were able to pull in the photos to our site using a widget to give viewers a better idea of what the site looks like.

While this is a good step it is inspiring and nice to see other museums using Flickr to engage and pull viewers back to their collections and museums in creative ways.

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