While many museums find most success on Instagram, LACMA’s best-known social platform has been Snapchat. Tell us how you conceived of the museum’s social presence when you became Social Media Manager. And what is it about Snapchat that has allowed LACMA to connect with new audiences?
I was fortunate to inherit a thriving social media presence when I became LACMA’s Social Media Manager in April 2015. My predecessor, Maritza Lerman-Yoes conceived of the Snapchat strategy when the museum first joined the platform in 2014. When I came on board, things like Stories and Lenses were just being introduced on Snapchat, so I was able to take LACMA’s account to the next level.
Last year, LACMA’s Snapchat was the recipient of a Webby Award for Culture & Lifestyle. Congratulations! What did this win mean for you and your team and to what do you attribute your award-winning success?
THANK YOU! Winning the Webby Award last year was an incredible honor, especially since we were up against two larger museums (The Met and MoMA in New York), and two brands (Tastemade and Refinery29)—we felt like the Little Engine that Could. Staying fresh and relevant on Snapchat especially is such a tremendous challenge, so winning the Webby really helped validate all the blood, sweat, and tears (OK, maybe just sweat) that went into our work this year.
Has there been one specific change or trend online in the past 5 years or so that has most opened up new doors for LACMA’s ability to extend its outreach digitally?
The first thing that comes to mind is Snapchat, which launched in the past 5 years (in 2012). In general, social media has been an incredible way to reach diverse audiences around the world—but Snapchat really changed the game for LACMA in terms of engaging a younger demographic and gaining brand recognition for the museum.
As the Social Media Manager of LACMA, what have you learned about how people interact with art on the Internet? What’s most surprised you?
Prior to coming to LACMA, I worked on social media at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, so I’ve learned a lot over the years about how people interact with art on the Internet. In fact, way back before I started my museum career, I was one of those people. I wrote a blog called Met Everyday, which chronicled my visits to the museum and highlighted some of my favorite things—and blogging is just one of many, many ways people engage with art online. I’ve also seen countless selfies, GIFs, vines, boomerangs, videos, websites for learning like Khan Academy, aggregators such as Google Art Project, and many many other types of content produced by art lovers and professionals alike. What’s most surprised me is not the variety and volume of content, but the communities that form around it—I’m pleasantly surprised and fortunate to be among these immensely creative and intelligent individuals that work in museums and technology! Shoutout to Museum SM Managers Facebook group, #musetech, #artstech, and friends at different museums around the world.
How do you see LACMA’s social media efforts, including the meme-ification of visual works of art, fitting into the museum’s overall mission?
LACMA’s mission is “to serve the public through the collection, conservation, exhibition, and interpretation of significant works of art from a broad range of cultures and historical periods, and through the translation of these collections into meaningful educational, aesthetic, intellectual, and cultural experiences for the widest array of audiences.”
I work tirelessly so that the museum’s social media really hits on all of these points with the main goal of reaching the widest, most diverse audiences possible. Reach, engagement, and follower growth are our three benchmarks for success, and I’m happy to share that we are steadily building upon all three. Further, social media is about interpretation for a certain audience or audiences. Just like a scholarly publication, exhibition catalogue, or even docent-led tour is meant to interpret the artworks in the collection, social media serves to broadcast those interpretations as well as to create its own interpretations through storytelling tools like Snapchat or Facebook Live.
Regarding the meme-ification of visual artworks, we’ve found that it’s a great way to connect with at least one large segment of our audience—particularly those who skew younger. It lowers the “intimidation factor” traditional art history might have, and provides an easy entry point for people whose interests may not fall squarely in the visual art realm.
The Internet changes so rapidly that it’s essential to keep innovating to stay relevant (thus our theme this year, “Internet Or Die”). What does it mean “to Internet” at LACMA? What does that look like in practice?
“To Internet” at LACMA is to constantly create. Whether it’s a Snapchat story, Tweet, or a Facebook Live broadcast, creating content is, in effect, helping to create The Internet.
What emerging digital trend are you most excited about right now, and how do you see it changing the future of the museum’s presence on the Internet?
VR and 360 video, hands down. What if you could visit the site where an ancient Egyptian work was excavated, both in the present day and in the past while the structure was intact? And then you could take off your headset and look at the actual object right in front of you. That’s just one thought for virtual reality in museums, but the potential is endless!
The future of museums on the Internet is that they will become a virtual meeting place for humanity to reference its own history at the tips of their fingers. Museums on the Internet will be libraries and encyclopedias, as well as spaces for living artists to create and share works.
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We’d like to thank Lucy for discussing her social media success at LACMA. If you aren’t yet following LACMA (seriously?), get your daily culture fix from the @lacma Snapchat account, and keep up with the latest news from the museum on Twitter.
Stay tuned for more interviews with the rest of our Internet Or Die partners for the 21st Annual Webby Awards. And remember, the Extended Entry Deadline is Friday, January 27th, 2017—enter today!