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Metropolitan Museum’s Chief Digital Officer Shares His Artful Perspective on Social Media

Met Museum Roof Cloud City FinalWhat does New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art have in common with the Broadway musicals Kinky Boots and Jersey Boys, the Frick Collection and the Manhattan skyline? They’re all top five NYC attractions on TripAdvisor.

That’s what Sree Sreenivasan discovered when he checked the popular travel review site. He’s the Met Museum’s first chief digital officer, and formerly worked as Columbia University’s chief digital officer and professor at their journalism school. He spoke at The New York Times Travel Show on Friday about the museum’s digital initiatives.

The Met’s exhibits and collection ranges from modern sculpture (Cloud City 2012, above) to ancient objects (William the Hippo, below). The museum has long been active on digital fronts, like interactive video screens, digital photography and social media. The Met’s digital efforts are especially interesting given its global audience and high-profile art fans, like celebs Bono, Psy and Steve Martin.

Sreenivasan’s goal is to enhance and expand on the museum’s existing digital programs, leaving no masterpiece unturned. He outlined the Met ‘s current social media status and future plans. He also shared tips that can apply as examples beyond the art world.

Met Museum William the Hippo FinalFacebook: The museum mixes content on Facebook, so “it’s not always predictable”, alternating artworks of the day with blog posts on museum happenings, said Sreenivasan. They emphasize visual images and photography, featuring both gallery photos and individual artworks.

Twitter: The Met “uses the real-time nature of Twitter for coverage of their live events”, said Sreenivasan. The museum’s tweets are more frequent than its Facebook entries. He encourages posts beyond the 9-5 EST schedule, since “one-third of our audience is international”.

Celebrities and influencers visiting the Met serve as ways for the museum to promote its offerings and interact with its fans. Psy stopped by the exhibit, Silla: Korea’s Golden Kingdom, and recently Steve Martin made a surprise appearance and played banjo. Celebrities’ social media comments are re-tweeted from the museum’s account.

Pinterest: The Met largely uses Pinterest as a collaboration tool, which Sreenivasan said works better with the platform’s new place pins. He’s a proponent of “re-surfacing existing content”, which the Met has in abundance. One example is a wedding-themed board that combined the contributions from 17 different curators. Overall he noted that the Met’s Pinterest users spend more time and dig deeper into content than followers of the museum’s other social networks.

Videos: The museum’s 100-part series, 82nd and Fifth (its NYC address), “is a way to travel the world with the Met,” Sreenivasan said. Hosted on its website, each 2-minute video features a curator highlighting an individual artwork or object. The Met’s second most popular video in the series is an antique cabinet with secret compartments that Gizmodo featured. As he said, “You never know what will strike a chord and get people to like what they’ve seen”.

Instagram: The museum posts a range of photos, shifting between location-based shots like lobby flower arrangements and artworks such as Van Gogh‘s sunflowers. One popular theme is images of the Met when it’s empty after visitors leave. In contrast, crowds will converge in May for the costume exhibit and red carpet gala arrivals, and the Met will post real-time photos.

Website: It’s important “not just to push the latest and greatest, but old and relevant still makes a difference”, said Sreenivasan. He pointed to Throwback Thursday’s concept, where various brands focus on their history, often using black and white visuals. The Met possesses an inherent advantage given their archive of art treasures, he said. On the museum’s website is a prime example: a guided Monuments Men art tour that ties in with the recent movie.

Future digital plans: While the museum makes digital progress, it’s an ongoing endeavor that first involves data. “It’s important to see what’s out there about you and your competitors” and to have a presence on platforms that matter, such as TripAdvisor, said Sreenivasan.

His upcoming plans are multi-dimensional: highlight user-generated content across channels, especially Flickr; involve curators and conservators more on social media; step up the museum’s YouTube efforts; increase behind-the-scenes content, and launch on new channels. The museum has its own media lab.

Sreenivasan also wants the museum to work more with other cultural institutions. Though he didn’t elaborate, we thought we’d speculate. Given NYC’s TripAdvisor rankings, perhaps we’ll see Kinky Boots-inspired Pinterest boards, or interactive kisoks on the Met’s roof garden for visitors to take in more of Manhattan’s skyline.

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