Art Museums and YouTube: Current Practice and Potential Strategy

Emily Robbins, SFMOMA, USA

Published paper: Art museums and YouTube: Current practice and potential strategy

Social media and online content play an increasingly important role in the efforts of museums to reach audiences, including online video distributed over sites like YouTube. Taking into account the established goal of museums to educate the public and previous literature on museums' uses of social media, this study investigates how museums currently use YouTube, and whether their strategies are successful in gaining desired viewership numbers. Data collected on a large number of art-museum YouTube accounts establishes trends in video content and reveals which types of videos are more successful than others. The study also evaluates the impact of video-titling practices and presence of celebrities or well-known artists on video view counts. The data suggests that it is common for museums to use YouTube channels for both content-marketing and traditional-marketing purposes, and that content-marketing videos can be categorized as either "inward looking"—videos about museum activities and practices—or "outward looking"—videos about art, artists, or other educational or entertainment content. Data analysis reveals that "outward-looking" content tends to perform better on YouTube, and sheds light on the importance of choosing video titles that are familiar to a general audience in order to gain views. Additionally, many examples of popular non-museum educational YouTube channels were analyzed in order to provide suggested tactics to the museum world. Synthesizing these findings, the author offers possible recommendations for YouTube channel enhancement, including search engine–optimization consciousness, hosting of a channel by a dynamic on-camera personality, and honing of video content to the YouTube audience.