Twitter … It’s what’s happening


Twitter is an online news and social networking service where users post and interact with messages, or “tweets,” which are restricted to 140 characters. It has many uses including news and politics, sports, popular culture, publicity, influencers and utility.

Retweeting is used to share and spread the word instantly.  Here is a link to the twitter glossary that explains the many features of twitter:

Twitter and Museums

Museums use twitter to reach the public to promote events, share news and for influencers and experts in the industry to connect with creators, artists, celebrities, and other professionals. For example, the AGO uses twitter to promote events and uses hashtags to get events to trend and be shared, on Sundays encouraging the use of the hashtag #FamilySunday.

The AGO, like other Museums and Libraries, use the platform as a marketing tool.  The most common uses of twitter for cultural institutions include event listings or reminder notices, promotions or announcements, engagement with other institutions, saying thanks, and sharing links. Metadata is automatically generated through the use of tagging and hashtags, which becomes especially efficient when institutions promote trending hashtags that are commonly used when tweeting about the institution or a specific event or collection.

#MuseumWeek is a world cultural event that consists of a one week campaign based around hundreds of world art institutions tweeting about their collections. It began in 2014 when 630 museums signed up for the digital event. By 2015 2,207 museums participated globally. During this week, galleries and museums from around the world share parts of their collections as well as fun facts and anecdotes online. By using the hashtag #MuseumWeek, people are invited to enter into dialogue by sharing their own opinions and experiences,  as well as ask questions to learn more about art and culture, even from thousands of miles away from participating institutions.

The majority of participating museums and galleries are from Europe and North America, with big names like the British Museum, the National Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum tweeting from the UK, or the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim Museum and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) taking part from New York. Don’t miss out on #MuseumWeek 2017 on June 19- 25 !



Another way institutions engage with the public is by using a twitter wall in the gallery space itself. At the Tate, for example, Twitter was used to foster conversation and debate about live art.  An interactive “Comments Wall” was installed at the gallery, and visitors were asked to participate by answering the question, “What do you think?” and adding the hashtag #thetanks.  Comments were then automatically projected onto the wall.   The findings from this event allows the museum to understand the visitors reactions and thoughts about the space.

Photo: The Tanks © Tate Photography

What visitors tweeted during or after their visit offered a great opportunity to apply content and sentiment analysis, and to learn about the main topics they talked about and their overall feeling towards the space and the live art program. Of all the tweets analyzed, 89% regarded the experience as positive.

Photo: The Tanks © Tate Photography

Tools that were used in the social media evaluation were Rowfeeder or YourTwapperKeeper, in order to gather tweets based on a search criteria. The analysis, in this case, was done using spreadsheet software and NVIVO.

This type of analysis can be applied to other museum events and activities such as exhibitions, specific products such as memberships, or even wider goals like understanding how the museum brand is perceived by the public.

We spoke with a Toronto journalist and social media marketer Geoff Nixon about twitter and the rules he abides by to ensure he does not infringe on copyright and his experience with FIPPA . When tweeting, he does his very best to credit the correct owner of each image he retweets: if there is breaking news about a local fire he contacts the person who tweeted the photograph and asks if they took the photo.

Geoff  spoke about his experience using FIPPA to access documents that are in the public domain but are kept in an art institution. Nixon spoke about an article about a Quebec painting that received complaints about what the gallery was going to do with the painting, and he was interested in getting the complaint letters that the gallery had. He used FIPPA to request the documents and gained access to write the story. Often, his retweeting of these images is protected under fair use, but he notes that usually it is encouraged to only use each image once. Through our research we found that Museums are generally (not ALWAYS but mostly) covered by fair use.



AGO Toronto Twitter Page:

Twitter Glossary:

Rowfeeder and social media analytics:


“Canadian Museums Join Twitter, Museum Week.” Accessed February 17, 2017

“Social Media Policies & Museums.” Indianapolis Museum of Art Blog. Accessed February 17, 2017.

“The Twitter glossary | Twitter Help Center.” Twitter. Accessed February 17, 2017.

“The Tanks: Art in Action, Online Audiences Report.” Accessed February 17, 2017.

Blog by Naoise Dunne and Erin Levitsky


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2 comments for “Twitter … It’s what’s happening

  1. Emily
    March 1, 2017 at 11:10 am

    One of my favourite twitter stories: when Diddy wanted to be Puff again!

  2. Tanya
    March 7, 2017 at 11:09 pm

    It is interesting to see how museums are using Twitter as a way interact with their patrons both inside and outside of the gallery. Having an interactive wall is definitely a good way to get people to post their thoughts on the exhibitions they are attending. #museumweek is interesting because it gives anyone with a Twitter account a chance to share their experiences in museums. Museums themselves also give the visitors special looks into the collections as well as facts, this sort of interaction is also important.
    Your conversation with Geoff Nixon is interesting because across the different social media platforms it seems like institutions that choose to post images of their collections online usually have some sort of citation as a way to draw attention to the object. Citing the original on twitter seems like it would be more challenging than on other social media platforms mostly due to the 140 character limit on twitter but it is good to know some individuals still try even if it is just to avoid copy right infringements.

    Tanya and Sam

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