Chung to study effects of social media on art museums

Today it seems like just about everyone uses social media to promote their business, social life, or cause. Doreen Chung, assistant professor of apparel, events, and hospitality management, wants to know how social media can help art museums. Using interviews and research techniques based in social identity theory, Chung aims to show that an online community can promote art museum success.

“Museums are an important part of leisure life,”  said Chung. “And by using social media, visitors will feel more of a connection to the museum and be more inclined to visit and support it through donations.” 

Chung says that social media is a valuable tool, but art museum staff need to be effective when reaching out to their network. “It’s not enough to post just the time and date of an exhibit. Staff need to include a personal tone – to share event photos and create a dialog between staff and patrons in the community. The social network page is a virtual group – and if people perceive themselves as part of the group, they will want the museum to succeed,”  Chung said.

Because museums depend largely on donor funds, Chung says that other nonprofits can benefit by utilizing social media networks. “By using social media, organizations can build up their brand image. Building their brand image and their relationships with visitors is how social networks can contribute to financial sustainability. But also, museums educate the community. And social media offers opportunities for that as well,”  Chung said.

The College of Human Sciences seed grant supports untenured professors and offers them the opportunity to design a research project for under $10,000. For now, Chung’s project focuses on interviews from art museum staff in the Midwest. But she would like to eventually see this project turn into something larger.

“In the future, I’d like to work on social media strategies with other nonprofits. It would be great to add more museums to the study, and also work closely with specific museums – to build a social media strategy from the ground up and see the outcomes,”  Chung said.

Chung hopes that her project will give insight to museum staff and contribute to the literature on relationship marketing for other non-profits. “More and more organizations are using Facebook and Twitter as a communication channel for various purposes such as promoting or attracting new visitors. But social media is not a free lunch. Staff need to understand how to create a meaningful page – one that builds a relationship with the users,”  Chung said.