Research Update #3: Best Practices of Twitter

According to statistics from Digitalbuzz, there are over 288 million monthly active users on Twitter, 60% of which access the social network from mobile.

              Source: Digitalbuzz

             Source: Digitalbuzz

What differentiates Twitter from Facebook is that it is more public and conversational. People use Twitter to find and share content. Complete strangers can engage in conversations that are “just like the face-to-face encounters.”

Twitter Objectives of the three art organizations:

The Met’s Chief Digital Officer Sree Sreenivasan says that the museum “uses the real-time nature of Twitter for coverage of their live events.” Not only does the Met tweet more often than it posts on Facebook, but Sreenivasan also encourages tweeting beyond “the 9-5 EST schedule” to build international audiences.

The Warhol’s active use of Twitter has helped it reached a huge audience. The museum currently has more than 700,000 followers on Twitter, ranking the 10th among museums around the world

Tate Modern’s Twitter objectives are somewhat more complex, as it operates six separate Twitter handles (London, Liverpool, St. Ives, Tate Shop, Tate Etc and Tate Kids – according to Tate’s website). The Tate’s Twitter channels facilitate the work of the Visitor Experience team, partnerships with other cultural institution, as well as serving general followers who may want to “follow exhibiting artists, curators and specific divisions within the Tate.”

    Best practices on Twitter:

1.       Hashtags

Twitter users may participate in discussions by using #hashtags. It is possible that those who follow hash-tagged topics are not the organization’s followers yet, meaning that hashtags allow organizations to participate in conversations and reach a wider audience.

According to the Warhol’s manager of digital engagement, Joshua Jeffery, hashtags can also create new conversations and provide a specific way for audiences to engage with the museum.

 Tweet by @TheWarholMuseum

Tweet by @TheWarholMuseum

#WarholQuote is used to tweet out memorable quotes from Warhol, while is #SoundSeries promotes the monthly sound series events. Both have proved successful ways to engage audiences.

Earlier this month, when the Met was live tweeting its event “Dressed to Kill: Arms and Armor from Medieval Knights to Games of Thrones”, it included various hashtags in the tweets, actively reaching out to new audience by joining into other existing conversations. 

 Tweet by @metmuseum

Tweet by @metmuseum

2.      Engagement

Retweeting is a key way to engage with the Twitter community. As Moz.com puts it, retweeting boosts community members’ content and makes them feel good.

Another way to expand your influence is to reply to tweets or tag other Twitter handles by adding @username to tweets. Mentioning others also “encourages the people mentioned to share what you’ve posted or further engage with your community.” All three organizations actively retweet and mention specific users in their posts. One interesting trick used by the Tate is to put a period in from of tweets starting with an @username, allowing more users to see these posts. Without the period, these tweets would only be visible only to users who follow both the museum and the follower’s account.

 Tweets by @Tate

Tweets by @Tate

3.      Shortening Links

Twitter is characterized by its unique limitation on word count. To include external links in tweets would take up extra characters. Although Twitter now auto-shortens links, other tools can be used to achieve the same effect. For example, the Warhol uses Bit.ly; the Tate uses Ow.ly. The Met takes a step further using its own distinct shortened link, met.org. Such detail makes the tweet look more professional and reiterates the brand image.

 Tweet by @metmuseum

Tweet by @metmuseum

While the above best practices can help build an organization’s Twitter page, it is important not to abuse them. For example, too many hashtags may seem annoying; only add hashtags when the tweet meaningfully contributes to the conversation. Also, while addressing others adds a sense of politeness and interaction, too much of it may put people off.

As for frequency of tweets, there is no fixed standard. According to Twitter Counter, for the past month, the average tweets per day of the three arts organizations was 12 (the Met), 2 (the Warhol) and 13 (the Tate). It's more important that the content is consistent with the organization’s mission and matches the interests of potential audience.

Here are more free Twitter analytic tools. Feel free to share your feedback on these tools with us in the comments. Do you find them helpful? How do you measure the impact of your social media?