Sure, it makes sense for a cultural venue like a museum to pair up with a social media platform centred on visuals like Instagram. Three of five museum visitors belong to the young generation; these folks digital natives who use Instagram to interact with friends and follow just about anyone or anything of interest.
So, for museums looking to engage this demographic, using Instagram Reels is an obvious choice.
Roughly two years ago, Instagram decided to offer this new feature.
Reels are a video format allowing users to record, edit, and share 90-second clips with music or other audio enhancements.
Why Short Instagram Reels?
The collection of amazing content practically hidden within the walls of a museum is a great opportunity to create brief educational stories that can be told in the form of short videos.
Museums already have the stuff to make it big on digital media – objects, artifacts, and artworks – all that's needed is a creative approach.
Instagram came up with this feature as a response to TikTok's success.
Yet, more than being a mere competitor, Reels offer museums the opportunity to reach and engage with new audiences by telling stories in an easy-to-digest format - as opposed to lengthy blog posts or podcasts.
Here are some ideas for museums to make the most of this format:
1 - Behind-The-Scenes Access to Visitors
Reels could give visitors a peek behind the curtain into the museum's conservation and research efforts. This could include museum staff introducing themselves or giving insight into their work. It's not like the museum will spend much time or money creating content. It's more of a "spur of the moment" style.
One ingenious example is London's The Design Museum, which recently showcased a behind-the-scenes timelapse of British designer Miyelle Karmi. The handmade clay-based items were introduced in a short yet satisfying visual presentation.
2 - Ask Questions & Polls
Interaction and engagement are key components of Reels, so museums should create content that encourages viewers to join in the conversation. For instance, they could put their questions out there and ask people what they think about certain topics or pieces of art.
It's another quick yet meaningful way to get visitors involved.
For example, the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History uses polls and quizzes to pique the interest of its followers. Other museums can use this example and take it up a notch by introducing an element of surprise and humour through an Instagram Reel.
3 - Create Mini-Tours
Visitors can't always experience the museum in person, so why not bring it to them? Museums can create short tours of their galleries and exhibitions using Reels, giving viewers an up-close look at some of the most prized artifacts and artworks.
Remember, these short clips aren't meant to provide a detailed explanation of each item but rather the opportunity to appreciate it from afar.
4 - Digital Exhibitions
We all know digital exhibitions are becoming commonplace because of the pandemic – but they don't have to be boring! Reels can be the perfect promotional tool for exhibitions, allowing museum curators to discuss art pieces or archaeological artifacts entertaining and captivatingly.
This ingenious approach makes the exhibition more noticeable, even to those unable to attend in person.
5 - Convert Blog Posts or Website Content
Museums with official websites and blog presence can use Reels to transform existing content into short videos. Content easily broken down into chunks – like a few paragraphs or shorter pieces such as quotes and facts – is ideal for Reels.
This allows the museum to take advantage of its already well-crafted content while delivering it in an engaging format.
But while Instagram Reels could change the fortune of museums, they must be used with caution. The content should be carefully considered and produced by people who understand the underlying strategy behind its creation.
Remember that Reels are meant to entertain, engage, and educate audiences - not just sell tickets to exhibitions.
Crafting Engaging Video Reels for Museums: Doing it Right
Use a hook. Start your Reel with something that will grab viewers' attention and keep them watching. It could be a stunning artwork or an intriguing object as long as it's visually appealing.
Keep it short and sweet. You don't want to bore your audience with lengthy, narrated clips - aim for 15-second snippets that provide quick, interesting facts about the artwork or object. So, although Instagram now allows for 90-second clips, it doesn't mean you should take advantage of that.
Mute it. Reels don't have to include sound for them to be successful. Consider using captions or subtitles to provide viewers with more information without overwhelming them with an audio track.
Focus on visuals. Make sure you use high-quality images and videos that accurately reflect the museum's collection and stimulate viewers to learn more. The keyword here is "eye-catching," as this is what will draw viewers into the Reel and make them stick around.
Get inventive. You don't have to stick to one static format - change it up now and then. Add some GIFs, text-based clips, or even a few interactive elements that viewers can interact with as they watch the Reel. Other options include split screens, picture-in-picture techniques, motion graphics, or fun animations to capture people's attention.
Don't forget the CTA. Every Reel should have a call-to-action (CTA) that encourages viewers to take the next step. This could be visiting the museum's website, following them on other social media platforms, or signing up for their newsletter.
Share it everywhere. After creating the Reel, ensure it's shared on both Instagram and the museum's website or blog. It'll help them reach a wider audience and encourage people to share their Reels as part of the museum's digital presence.
Perhaps the most notable impact of using Instagram Reels is it extends the museum's reach. When Reels are done right, they bring in new audiences and inspire them to visit the museum in person. As such, it could improve foot traffic.
The far-reaching potential of Instagram Reels makes it a powerful tool for all sorts of cultural institutions, from museums to art galleries and beyond. Best of all - it's free!