Insta for the win – by Cristina Hoffmann

Museums play an important role for tourism in Basel. Thus, it is no surprise that museums use English  as an international language to reach and communicate with more tourists than could be achieved by Swiss German or even standard German. To reach younger international museum goers, instagram has become the medium of choice, but creating a good caption under a post can be difficult and museums have to come up with a way to combine information with motivating and enticing language use in order to reach as many readers as possible and turn them into potential visitors. This blogpost will be focusing on how institutions like museums use Instagram as a marketing tool to bring information to the masses.

Museums use Instagram as a platform to reach the younger generations and entice them to go to new exhibits or events at the museum as well as for basic marketing purposes. This is done through the use of English as well as a younger language, pop culture references such as lyrics from a Spice Girls song or even emojis, which, in an ordinary post on a company’s website, would be considered unprofessional. By relating to the younger audience, said audience feels not only addressed but also heard. The feeling being included opens people up to new experiences. As to the choice behind this type of language lies of course a financial interest but also the interest to educate masses on art and artists.

The posts made by the museums are not only to entice young people but are a quick and far reaching way to spread information. This information can include dates, opening times, what one can expect or even the ideas or intentions of the artist presenting their work. The language itself does not come across as extremely persuasive but rather enticing, trying to arouse interest, by stating that this is an event, that should not be missed or “save the date” type of utterances. Persuasive without being demanding, which is a fine line to tread without coming across demanding.

This way of informing might address the younger population but create a problem for communicating with older generations: each generation might follow somewhat different popcultural references, this makes some messages less accessible for different generations. Who has tried to show a parent or family member something funny one saw on the internet and it then being completely dismissed or just going completely over their heads? (See Winnie-the-Pooh).

But in order to accommodate the masses of all generations these posts have to accommodate not just the young but favorably all generations able to go onto the internet and read posts. Thus, these posts integrate informational statements, that people of all generations should be able to understand. The “younger” language as well as the pop culture references are for the younger users as to catch their eye and to get them to read the full post and maybe entice them to visit a new exhibit or the museum night prevalent and widely known in the museum culture of Basel.

The posts can basically be read as informative guides as to what to expect when visiting the museum with eye catching titles, pictures, or text. A lot of thought goes into just one such post, since it is a great marketing tool. It is free after all, and many companies have found, that social media platforms present a great way to promote products, people, events, and the companies themselves. Museums are no different, they want to appeal to the masses though language choices, thoughtfully selected pictures, that tie in the visual of what is to be seen with the text that should pique the interest of readers. Unlike posts from social media influencers, whose first and foremost job is self-promotion, the posts of museums and similar institutions, usually have more practical and usable information listed, such as opening times and for how long the exhibit can be visited etc., rather than a cheeky or short funny caption. Although that does not mean that a funny caption cannot be combined with informational aspects of a post.

Thus the choice of using Instagram as a form of outlet for information in reference to events or happenings in the institutions as well as a place to cast a wide net to recruit new visitors.

by Cristina Hoffmann