As the Museum is gearing up for launch of two apps in conjunction with our Alexander the Great exhibition we’ve been thinking lots about how to promote and market these to potential users, keeping in mind our ethos of engaging our audiences before, during and after a physical visit.

Two resources have been helpful. The first, Burnette, et al Getting On (not under) the Mobile 2.0 Bus: Emerging issues in the mobile business model (2011) highlights some of the issues around devices provided by museums and those provided by visitors, citing research that found visitors say they want a product on their own device yet questioning whether they actually will download it. Another issue was access – how to provide mobile interpretation for those without a device (in my opinion this will become a non-issue in future given the rise of smart device ownership). The authors discussed the need for museums to think holistically when developing mobile content in terms of formats, audience, distribution and time within the visit when access is required.

Finally, they mention that internal marketing is key – not only how to let visitor know what’s on offer, but to integrate within all marketing and signage from the beginning. This paper contains useful examples of internal promotion that can be adapted for your museum.

The second resource is an article by Koven Smith, Mobile Experience Design: What’s Your Roll-out Strategy? (2011) full of useful tips and insights. Smith makes three key points:

  1. the advances in technology frees museums up from the pressure to design one mobile product that fits all users
  2. museums need to carefully design how to roll-out the apps as carefully as the production itself, with the aim being “not to reach more users, but rather to reach more of the right users” (p.83) and that “museums need to begin making far more deliberate choices about how their mobile experiences are rolled out to the public” (p.88)
  3. the roll-out should make clear to visitors the kind of experience they can expect so they can make informed choices about the experience that is right for them

Smith detailed three mobile app scenarios and how museums could leverage each:

  1. Broad appeal: reach all; not aware of mobile before their visit; must be truly usable and seamless; focus on mass marketing throughout the museum, especially at locations where they need to use the app
  2. Stealth: targeted to a niche group or small subset; will be aware and engaged before the visit with “discovery, exploration, and mystery are primary components of the application design … the act of figuring out how the application works should be a key part of its appeal” (p.85). In this marketing is part of the app process itself and use influencers in the target audience to spruik the app
  3. Third-party: when a museums' content is made available by an external app developer (i.e. through an API), noting that this can be difficult to schedule a roll-out and museums needing to think about brand differentiation. He suggests that museums provide incentives or ways to work with third-parties so that the products can be best marketed to encourage an uptake beneficial for all parties

Needless to say, in developing our apps we just jumped in at the deep end without really considering these issues in any detail, so we will try different approaches over the next few months, starting with user-testing of how to market our apps and encourage downloads either before the visit or once they are here. I’ll keep you posted!

Burnette, A., Cherry, R., Proctor, N. and Samis, P. (2011). Getting On (not under) the Mobile 2.0 Bus: Emerging issues in the mobile business model. In J. Trant and D. Bearman (Eds). Museums and the Web 2011 Proceedings. Toronto: Archives & Museum Informatics.

Smith, K. (2011). Mobile Experience Design: What’s Your Roll-out Strategy? In N. Proctor (ed). Mobile Apps for Museums. American Association of Museums: Washington DC.