Reynolda House made a bold institutional decision for a mid-size museum in 2014 to dedicate personnel resources to expanding and enriching its online audience, but knew little about how directly its online efforts would influence onsite visitation. In the first year after this strategic sea-change, the museum’s social media followers increased by 38% and website traffic increased by 74%.
Despite the apparent correlation of increased online engagement and actual Museum attendance, evidence of a direct causal relationship between the digital follower and physical visitor was elusive. So, the Reynolda House Communications department set out to create for the opening weekend of its 2015 exhibition, George Catlin’s American Buffalo, a digital marketing campaign designed to directly measure the conversion of online buzz to onsite attendance.
The #ReynoldaBuffalo campaign fundamentally fused the physical and digital by deliberately tying a concrete action, place, or experience to all its digital messaging. Leveraging Instagram, targeted Facebook posts, directed Twitter chatter, and strategic email marketing, the four week social media campaign hinged on four primary components that consciously straddled the digital and physical worlds.
First, the Museum preparator built a lifesize buffalo out of foam, the #ReynoldaBuffalo, that was strategically inserted into online conversations of highly engaged social media followings of popular local establishments like restaurants, bars, and coffee shops that attracted our target demographic. By taking the buffalo to these physical locations, the Museum photographed, tagged, and engaged these digitally active populations.
Second, the messaging centered around an “Opening Weekend Package” that not only included actual items that a visitor had to physically retrieve from the Museum, but touted an exclusive Opening Weekend experience that included “priority admission,” a discounted meal at a landmark restaurant, a “buffalounge” with refreshments, and photo opportunities with the #ReynoldaBuffalo himself.
Third, the package included a limited-edition, custom t-shirt designed by a local design firm with a fanbase and recognizable style. The design itself was simple - a buffalo silhouette with “#ReynoldaBuffalo” largely inscribed inside it with a much smaller subline, “at Reynolda House.” The design worked twofold: it spoke directly to a demographic that understood the language, but also became a shareable digital commodity when photographed and tagged in visitor’s respective social media profiles.
Finally, the true conversion of the Museum’s digital follower to the onsite visitor occurred at the point of purchase, which was solely promoted and exclusively available online. Therefore, we could literally track where these visitors linked from and captured their email addresses, which we later leveraged to survey their overall experience and demographics.In the end, the #ReynoldaBuffalo campaign resulted in the highest attended opening weekend on record. The Opening Weekend Package completely sold out, of which 40% were first time visitors to the Museum, 82% visited reynoldahouse.org before their visit, and 77% were Museum social media followers. However, despite the marketing savvy of the entire campaign, 88% of package purchasers declared it was the art and exhibition that motivated them to purchase their ticket, not the benefits of the package.
Assistant Director of Marketing & Communications, Reynolda House Museum of American Art
With a background in creative writing, video art, and the tech industry, I found the world of museum digital engagement, and I was hooked. I love what I do because I get to play with the power of words and images in a digital space to tell stories. I am also a strategy-geek that gets my kicks from data analytics. YUM!
Director of External Relations, Reynolda House Museum of American Art
I spend a lot of my time thinking about marketing & communications and visitor experience at Reynolda House Museum of American Art. I'm interested in how museums are using technology to support visitors, attract visitors, and retain visitors ... and what that says about the brand.
Friday November 6, 2015 9:30am - 9:45am
Great Lakes A2
Hyatt Regency Minneapolis 1300 Nicollet Mall Minneapolis, MN 55403