I’ve been reading and having a lot of conversations lately around digital strategy, big data, and how it applies to business. As someone who is passionate about cultural institutions and museums, and has worked with many of them over the years, I can’t help but think about these topics through the lens of culture: how does digital strategy influence the present and future for cultural organizations? Digital is relevant for cultural institutions, but the approach needs to shift given some of the unique facets of the cultural institution model and offerings.

Looking back at the past 10 to 15 years of digital engagements I’ve worked on with cultural institutions, the common thread is that engagements have largely been project-based: digitizing an exhibit, taking content online to make it more accessible, and always in support of a physical, in-person engagement either in the past or future. These projects and initiatives became more and more frequent, and more and more necessary due to shifts in audience attention towards new media.

The one thing that still hasn’t happened is that digital hasn’t been truly integrated into the overall strategic model at cultural institutions. The intent of most digital efforts I see is to ultimately bring people in the door at the physical location. This doesn’t consider that there is a portion (potentially sizeable) of the digital audience who may engage frequently and meaningfully with your organization, but yet never visit the physical location. The data on these visitors, thanks to the analytics available on digital platforms, is there, but there hasn’t been a widespread effort to use it as effectively as we can, because value is still seen as converting digital visits to analog, in person visits.

Instead of carrying on with project-based digital engagements, in the next 10 years we’re going to see a shift. Digital strategy will become integrated with the overall goals of cultural institutions, and this will be marked by recognition of how digital-only engagements with audiences can be used to support strategic goals other than driving in-person visits. Cultural institutions will build upon their status as a signpost and a place where people come to connect and experience while at the same time integrate digital into every step of the process. We’ll see organizations making more use of the wealth of data available about their audiences – not who they are necessarily, but where they are, what they’re doing to connect with the organization and how they prefer to engage. Targeting audiences effectively based on these factors will become the norm, and we’ll see more and more creative ways of doing so.

We need to move away from a project- and pain-based engagement model. Right now, every cultural institution has a huge opportunity to make digital an integrated more natural fluid experience. This is something I’m passionate about, and I want to start a conversation about the best ways those inside and outside of the cultural sphere see this happening. What does the future look like for your institution? Leave a comment, send me an email or get in touch with bv02 so we can figure this out as a community.

Skip to sharing