by • 14 Oct, 2010 • TechnologyComments (6)5206

I like museums – Using Facebook’s Like Button to connect with visitors

Facebook Like Button Stamp

Facebook Like Button Stamp by design studio, Nation.

Facebook Like Buttons are revolutionising the web. There’re even rumours about Google going to use them in their search algorithm. Recently, at the museum, I’ve been adding Like Buttons to many of our websites and the results are significant.

Conversion is high and traffic from Facebook increased. Small and specific communities are built around projects, events and activities. We don’t have a physical collection, but I can see the same happening for objects in online collections.

Adding Like Buttons is as easy as copy-pasting. In fact, you can customise and copy the code on the Facebook developers website and have a Like Button online in under two minutes. Generic solutions might take a bit more skill and time (adding it to our 750+ activities in next week’s Week of History took about an hour).

With the ease and impact of the Like Button it’s an amazing tool for museums to connect with visitors and build useful connections online.

How does the Facebook Like Button work?

The Like Button is simple. You add the button to any page online and when people click it, the URL, description and image of this page is shared on the person’s Facebook wall. There it reaches the friends of this person, who presumably like it as well (they’re friends for some reason) and click the link to end up on your website. Perfect direct marketing.

We’ve used it, for instance, in the aforementioned Week of History to help people find their favourite activities. Browsing or searching through 750+ activities is a lot of work and most people enjoy going with someone, in fact: most people go to activities because they are recommended to do so by friends. Facebook’s Like Button exactly does that.

Connecting with the people who liked you

Admins of a liked page can contact the people who liked the page on Facebook. This way, with the Like Button, you can build extremely well targeted micro communities around objects from your collection, events, etc. These you can send personalised information. This allows for a true connection with your visitors, based on their interests.

For example, in two weeks we’ll host an evening event. The people who liked the event online get periodic updates about the programme of the evening. After the event, using the admins ability to contact them, I’ll send them the photos of the event.

Imagine you host a new exposition with objects from your online collection. You might want to send the people who liked the objects an invitation for the exposition. They’ve shown interest and are – probably – likely to show up.

The future of the Facebook Like Button for museums

It’s not difficult to imagine Like Buttons outside of websites (I’ve seen T-shirts with them already). We’re working on a project to add the Like Button functionality to a physical installation, so we can connect offline visitors to online communities. Other ideas:

  • Add a Like Button to objects on display in your museum. Have visitors use QR to like stuff from their mobile phone or RFID cards to link it to their Facebook profile. After the visit, the visitor can check a wrap-up of his visit on his Facebook wall.
  • Add a Like Button to your entire museum, at the entrance. Use a terminal where people can connect with Facebook to like you and put up a big sign.
  • Connect the Like Button with audio guides, so when people hear something interesting, they press a button, like the sound bite and can listen to it again from their Facebook wall.
  • Just before Christmas, add Like Buttons to the items in your store and make sure the message (from your online shop) says, “I like this but do not yet have it. Will you give it to me for Christmas?” You’ve got your subtle hint and Facebook wish list right there!

Things to remember when you use the Like Button

  • Make sure you use all the correct meta tags when you install the button. You can influence description, URL, title, image and much more. That way, whatever is liked, shows up perfectly on people’s wall.
  • Make sure you have admin rights to the pages that are liked. The “admin page” link (next to the Like Button) does not always show up immediately, but it does exist and is your only entrance to the special wall of every liked page.
  • Keep track of what’s liked and what not. It’s possible, but tricky to keep an overview of this from Facebook’s Insights page.
  • Don’t use the Like Button to spam people. They liked one part of your museum, not everything. So keep your conversation limited to what the people liked.

As I’m only starting to discover all the possibilities of the Like Button, I’m curious about your experiences, thoughts and best-practices. Please share them! (And, to add to my investigation about conversion rates, of course you should like this post on Facebook! ;-) )

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  • Ivan

    Very interesting post! Thank you for these insights! will try in my museums website :)

  • Christine

    First of all I just discovered your blog and love it. I’m following you on twitter (seadel).

    This article is super interesting, focusing on the use of technology in the museum and touching on Like buttons specifically, though in a less positive note. Not sure if you’ve seen it?


    “The various votes for ‘likes’ in the museum are equally unilluminating. The result is a kind of scarcely literate cybergraffiti that does nothing to help reach a deeper understanding of the works or reveal their artistic traditions or cultural significance. The museum becomes a smorgasbord of objects, their importance a mystery.”

    So, in which situations are Like buttons actually useful, and in which is the act of “liking” something just another passive interaction/response?

  • Hi Christine!

    Thanks for your reply and the article. I’m not sure it’s a less positive note: it’s an encouragement for us to start doing useful stuff with mobile apps!

    I think “liking” is a very powerful tool. As Tom Chatfield says in a compelling TED talk: liking + sharing = engagement (source:

    What we need to do is make the liking the social act it can be and through it get people engaged with our collections, I think.

  • Corina MP

    One little thing I’d add is even though sending “spam” is bad… not sending anything is bad too!! I know I’m on some mailing lists and some Facebook groups that don’t really send things constantly and it looks dead and reflects very poorly in my opinion. One museum that did an AMAZING job (at least it hooked me!) is the Think Tank Science Museum in Birmingham on Facebook. They send stuff almost every day or two, and it’s not “advertisement” (ok well sometimes it is) for them but rather links to fun stuff like pictures where you have to guess what the picture is about, or cool articles or even there was this youtube video on “what if life was like facebook” and it was a music clip where all the people on the street were “tagged” and you could have them as “friends” by clicking on them as you walked past, etc. Like it’s humorous, entertaining and perfectly targeted at their audience — they definitely understood what we visitors are interested in and they give it to us! Which I think is fantastic compared to say a Museum in my city (I’ll be nice and not mention which :p) which only sends me mail twice per year… and it’s to ask for money! I find the Think Tank museum has connected very well even with visitors who like me aren’t in their city. But you can be sure now that when I will visit Birmingham, they’ll be one of the first place I will want to visit — or recommend that my friends visit.

  • I agree that “corporate” accounts should not be quiet and have a pro-active strategy. The unique FB profiles behind liked pages, however, do not need to send information or engage in conversation per se, as they’re not like groups or pages. For these pages I strongly recommend: do not send unless it’s of the utmost importance to tell your audience something.

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