In a world where we are bombarded with thousands of marketing messages every day, our society has grown hyper-aware (and hyper-wary) of advertising in all its mutated forms – from magazine ads to product placement in television shows, from celebrities dropping brand names during interviews to Facebook pages used solely to increase ticket sales. When it comes to using social media, motivation is a key factor in forecasting whether an organization’s efforts will succeed or fail.
With motivation, I’m talking about the “why” not the “what.” Often we confuse the question “why are you using social media” with “what do you hope to achieve with social media.” Our answers tend to revolve around increases in attendance, ticket sales, registrations, donations, etc. Many of us mistakenly perceive our desired outcomes as the reasons motivating our social media participation.
I say “mistakenly,” but for some people there is no motivation for using social media beyond increasing the bottom line. Now, I know it is counterintuitive for me to proclaim this in an arts marketing blog salon, but here goes. Social media sites are not marketing tools, they are engagement tools. (Wait! Don’t call me a heretic yet.) When social media sites are used with a motivation for engagement rather than self-promotion, they often lead to those desired marketing outcomes of increased sales and brand awareness.
When I think of social media superstars like the Brooklyn Museum, what stands out for me is the sincerity of their motivation. I truly believe that the Brooklyn Museum cares about community and the visitor experience. Why? Because they walk the walk. Very rarely do I receive blatant marketing messages from them through my social media accounts. Instead, I receive interesting content related to current exhibitions and the permanent collection, as well as opportunities for me to connect and interact with others who share my interests in the museum.
Okay, I’m as cynical as the next guy. So I know some of you might be thinking, “Yeah, right. Don’t be fooled, buddy. They want to increase the number of attendees as much as any other museum.” Of course they do, but that is not “why” they chose to pursue building and engaging audiences through social media. It is, however, an outcome of their efforts.