Mar Dixon espouses the values of Instagram following success of @52Museums

On the eve of @AskACuratorDay Mar Dixon gives tips on using and setting up an Instagram account as a worthy companion to Twitter and Facebook

Since launching @52Museums I’ve been amazed to see the growth of museums on Instagram (yes it was happening before but this is my point of view). As the project has been running, more and more museums have contacted me to join in on the list and to say they are starting an Instagram account just because of @52Museums, which is brilliant!

Every museum that hosts @52Museums is asked to fill out an exit form at the end of their week. I will share the complete findings after we complete a year in but the feedback so far has been very positive. All said they would do it again and all said they felt it was worthwhile. With this account they get the open instructions:

  • If you can post a few for LA time, East coast and Europe time that makes a difference.
  • Post 7-10 times a day – it sounds like a lot but really works with our current audience.
  • Try things you can’t do on your own account.

Another project I run is @AskACurator Day (September 14 2016 – eek!). There are over 1,200 museums on the list to take part (with more signing up each day). It got me thinking that I should combine the @52Museums list with the @AskACurator list to make a ‘Master List’. Sounds simple enough, right?

How wrong I was. But it has led to some insight that I’d like to share

According to this SproutSocial report Pew Research found 35% of Instagram users visited the network multiple times a day in 2015. And nearly 60% of Instagram users admit to checking their feed at least once a day. Think of that waiting audience!

Not all museums have Instagram. Is this an issue – sort of – I would advise those museums with little or no resources to create an account and use your bio to say ‘Please find us at [Link] and thanks for sharing!’ A lot of people will be using Instagram to tag rather than scroll for content (but if the content is there they will follow). Remember, you might not have the resources but the public wants to tag you – let them!

With Instagram you search for the museum so make sure your museum name is in the bio. For example World Museum Liverpool does not have Instagram (surprisingly!) but people are still tagging them when they visit. Another example: State Museum of Archaeology Chemnitz is @smac_sachsen on Twitter but @smac_museum on Instagram and I couldn’t successfully search for it on Instagram (luckily they had it on their website).

Keep the account names consistent across platforms if you can although I noticed in some cases this was not possible. For example, LBJ Presidential Library is @LBJLibrary on Twitter but on @Lbjlibrarynow on Instagram. One trick is to use your Twitter handle in your Instagram bio so it comes up on the searches (or of course use your full name).

Some museums are really missing an opportunity especially as their collections really lend itself to Instagram. The National Trust have seen the value and seem to be taking the opportunity to showcase their properties but also allowing the public to tag them. It doesn’t make sense to have a Facebook account without creating an Instagram account as it’s almost a one-step process to join.

During this research I was taken back by how many websites do not indicate their museums have an Instagram accounts but do indicate they have Twitter and Facebook accounts. I can only assume the Instagram account was created after the website was last updated but still an icon added can’t hurt.

Advice: check your website to make sure all your social media is indicated. Also try not to bury the information under ‘About Us or Contact Us’ – most people going to the website will expect and address and social media on the front page these days. (There are many reports about how people use websites – this book looks good also!) This is a really nice example:

There were a few Twitter bios that had ‘term of use’ (with a link) indicated but when I checked their Instagram account, the term of use was removed. This is sending mixed messages. Try to be consistent if possible.

If your museum has/uses flickr does that mean you can’t have Instagram? During my research it seems that is an excuse some museums are using. However, flickr is not the social media/sharing platform Instagram has grown into. Those that have researched the platforms 2-3 years ago will be surprised by the difference (and growth in numbers).

Certain countries haven’t bothered to join Instagram and that is ok if they aren’t getting a lot of tourists. Up until recently, I would have said Austria and Finland were the same but they seem to have looked at what their tourists/public are doing and slowly migrated to ensure they had Instagram. (And yes, some have created accounts just for people to tag them!)

You can equate to not being on Instagram in this day and age to still having a section on your website called ‘Games for Kids’ and having a non-mobile friendly website. You just can’t afford to be stuck in 2013! Instagram while seen as the new kid on the block has been going since 2010 and is just as vital as Facebook and Twitter as the PUBLIC is using it and wants to use it on their visits.


  • Try to be social. So many accounts are just pushing content out and not responding to any of the comments.
  • Try to post several times a day to reach different time zones.
  • Hashtags are your friend. Unlike twitter and Facebook, you are encouraged to add as many hashtags to the post as you’d like. One tip is to bury the hashtags within comments so it doesn’t take away from your post.
  • Another hashtag tip is to add ‘Insta’ to most words. #art #instaart #Philadelphia #InstaPhiladelphia #history #instahistory – you get the idea.
  • See what hashtags people are using when they tag you in a post.
  • You can’t (at the time of writing) schedule Instagram updates like other social media channels, however you can prepare content to be delivered. I use a note file on my phone for each account that has all the hashtags I’ll be using to help save time.

Hope this update was a little useful. Obviously it doesn’t cover everything but provides enough pointers for those starting out or not sure what to do with Instagram. And remember, add your favourite museum to the Museums on Instagram list!

This blog post first appeared on September 8 on