Tate Papers ISSN 1753-9854

Tate Social Media Communication Strategy 2011–12

This report provides an overview of Tate’s Social Media Communication Strategy, outlining the key objectives for each of its social media platforms.

Tate Online aims to help fulfil Tate’s mission to increase public understanding and enjoyment of British and modern international art. Given the rapidly developing scope and potential of digital communications, Tate Online is uniquely placed to reach new audiences and engage them in new ways.
Tate Online Strategy 2010–12

We also want to sustain, build and broaden the range of audiences who experience Tate. We want to develop our current audiences and build new audiences for the future – in particular by focusing on a more diverse range of young people.
Tate Audience Strategy 2010–12

In recent years the web has undergone a significant transformation, characterised by the emergence of self-publishing platforms (e.g. Blogger, Flickr, YouTube), social networking (e.g. Facebook, Twitter) and other technologies broadly grouped under the term web 2.0 (e.g. RSS, content syndication, Wikipedia). These new web platforms and technologies have led to greater user interaction with the web, with audiences now expecting content to be presented in a variety of digital and social media. The social web in particular offers significant opportunities for cultural institutions to open themselves up to diverse audiences by initiating conversations about art in order to increase engagement and understanding of it around the world.

Acting upon its mission statement, Tate has responded to web users’ demands for accessibility and person-to-person online contact by taking content to its audiences, where they are already congregating, and by providing spaces for people to discuss, debate and engage with art.

This document outlines an approach to communicating with, and engaging audiences on third-party social media and networking websites. These initiatives are a strand of activity that exists within Tate’s broader digital strategy. This strategy aims to make Tate Online a social platform through:

  • close integration with social media, networking and bookmarking websites
  • the expansion of the Tate Blog with new voices and strands
  • new social learning spaces (Tate Kids, Turbine Generation and Young Tate websites)
  • social features around the online collection
  • the development of a strategy for mobile technology, including mobile applications (apps), the mobile web, in-gallery commenting systems and social features within gallery tours.


Through increased activity on social media and social networking websites, Tate aims to achieve the following goals:

1. Be one of the world’s leading social media platforms for culture

Tate is considered to be one of the leaders of the use of social media in the cultural sector. However, there is much that can be learnt from commercial businesses and other cultural institutions.

2. Engage current audiences in innovative ways and build new online communities

Social media provide an opportunity for Tate to fulfil its mission to increase enjoyment and understanding of art. It can do so in the following ways:

  • provide more relevant, targeted messaging
  • encourage gallery visitors to review exhibitions by sending automated post-visit emails
  • increase knowledge of online channels among gallery visitors by giving them a higher profile online, in the galleries and in advertising campaigns
  • increase user-generated content where appropriate
  • increase levels of interaction and debate between fans and with Tate voices
  • reward social media followers with fan-only offers and events in the galleries
  • cross-pollinate awareness of Tate’s other social media platforms more effectively.

3. Communicate through many voices from across the organisation

In the autumn of 2010 curators were trialled as new voices on social platforms and this proved successful. We understand that those who have the most individual and compelling content are within departments throughout the organisation, rather than within the Communications and Marketing Departments. We aim to activate numerous individual accounts across Tate, with departments having their own social platforms so that they can communicate directly with their own audiences. The Social Media Working Group will monitor all accounts and devise guidelines for appropriate use to be upheld by Tate employees.

4. Distribute its content where audiences are active online

As well as taking Tate content to our existing platforms (Facebook, Twitter and YouTube) we aim to reach out to new online communities and bloggers where discussions about the visual arts are apparent. By working together, the Communications and Marketing Departments aim to reach a network of influential bloggers and online communities that can maximise Tate’s online reach and conclusively direct traffic to Tate’s website. This requires the following preparation:

  • finalise an online PR strategy by the end of Spring 2011
  • produce a directory of visual arts bloggers and online communities relevant to Tate, such as Mumsnet.com for Tate family notifications
  • build relationships with online communities and bloggers to match the strength of Tate’s relationships with the print media
  • identify and actively seek out opportunities with new and emerging social platforms
  • agree copyright approval from lenders to exhibitions for content to be distributed on social media.

5. Direct traffic to the Tate website

Tests conducted over the last six months have proved that social platforms such as Facebook are key traffic drivers to Tate Online. Facebook has become the second highest traffic driver to the website. With this in mind, fans and followers will be encouraged to click to Tate’s website with ‘teasing’ content. The top sources of Tate web traffic (excluding search) should consistently include social platforms.

6. Direct footfall to the four Tate galleries

Tate’s online community currently comprises 60% international followers and 40% UK-based followers. International fans find that Tate’s social platforms provide an opportunity for them to connect to Tate, while for the UK demographic, the aim must be to drive footfall from social sites into the galleries. The following ideas have been suggested to achieve this:

  • fan-only events in the galleries
  • Facebook behavioural advertising on UK fan pages
  • social base segmentation – offers for UK or international followers
  • redeem ‘fan-only offers’ in the galleries, such as ticket offers
  • prize incentives that can only be redeemed in the galleries or after visiting exhibitions
  • ‘tweet’ UK-focused messages in the morning, while US audiences are asleep.

7. Integrate its social media channels into its marketing campaigns

8. Generate sales across its income streams

Tate’s social networks are predominantly viewed as platforms for promoting the Tate brand and for raising awareness of exhibitions. However, as Tate’s number of fans increases, they aim to promote ‘fan-only’ offers, such as discounted tickets, to reward fans for contributing to Tate’s global appeal. Tate will also aim to establish and develop social networks particular to e-commerce, including increasing the following of the Online Shop social sites, and driving product sales at key moments in the year, such as Christmas.

9. Encourage fans to act as advocates for Tate

Tate acknowledges that fans on its social media platforms have influence and can therefore be of great value. To entrust its online presence to its fans, Tate must:

  • establish key influencers or ‘super fans’ on its social sites, and encourage them to be online advocates
  • reward key influencers or ‘super fans’ by granting them special access to Tate
  • identify fans who are likely to donate or become Patrons or Members.

10. Build developmental audiences

Tate’s Audience Strategy 2010-12 has identified younger audiences, and people who live close to a Tate gallery or platform as priorities for development. Social media platforms provide a particularly effective tool for communicating with these audiences. The primary objectives are to:

  • develop social media initiatives for family and youth audiences
  • develop social media initiatives for local audiences
  • integrate social media within the new Young Tate website
  • work more closely with the Learning teams across Tate to promote learning resources and opportunities.

11. Increase awareness of Tate’s key strategic messages

Tate’s social media are expanding, with more voices, more followers and more content. This growth must be supported by clear strategic messages and core values, which should in turn nurture the development of exciting individual editorial identities and niche communities. To unite these principles, Tate will:

  • communicate internal briefings and provide media training
  • have a clear position on statements with a range of issues and beyond core values and a code of ethics
  • ensure that content stays relevant and of a high quality into a more robust system
  • act as a touchstone for a much wider group of spokespeople and social media platforms.

12. Cultivate partnerships to increase Tate’s online following

Tate will take part in global conversations with other cultural organisations and brands, and will:

  • instigate campaigns such as the Twitter #followamuseumday and #askacurator projects
  • collaborate with media organisations and brands
  • develop its relationships with Tate partners, such as those within Plus Tate and the Great British Art Debate.

Existing platforms

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are Tate’s main social media platforms. Facebook and Twitter, being the most prolific in terms of activity, lend themselves to timely content posted by Tate. Audience responses vary in quality from heavily engaged comments to quick remarks. Content is evenly spread between ‘light’ posts and richer material, and adapted to the specific social platform.

1. Facebook

Facebook is currently utilised in the following ways:

  • There are five main Tate Facebook pages: London, Liverpool, St Ives, Tate Shop and Tate Members.
  • The total number of fans grew from 14,000 in January 2010 to 130,000 in September 2010, an increase of 829% over eight months as a result of more regular posting, unique content and timely advertising. The most recent figure is 205,000 fans (May 2011).
  • Tate ‘posts’ three times a day.
  • Tate advertises its exhibitions and events on other Facebook pages using behavioural targeting. The single most successful result from this type of advertising was an increase of 16,000 new fans over one week.
  • All content is discussion based, offering something that fans can respond to or interact with. Regular features include the ‘Tate Weather Forecast’, which uses a work from the Tate collection to illustrate the forthcoming weekend weather, the ‘Tate Debate’ and ‘Tate’s Work of the Week’.
  • Facebook consistently provides a rich source of feedback about audience experiences, visits to exhibitions, events and memories of Tate.
  • Tate receives approximately one hundred comments a day, exceeding other international museum and gallery Facebook pages.

Tate’s Facebook objectives are:

  • to increase the number followers and level of fan engagement
  • to increase Facebook traffic to Tate Online
  • to investigate the integration of Facebook plug-ins with the Tate website
  • to monetise its Facebook pages with ‘fan-only’ offers, incentives and gallery events
  • to harness the pages as destinations for Tate visitor reviews
  • to involve the Visitor Experience team in deciding how to moderate and respond to public queries on the Facebook pages
  • to engage with fans, monitor discussions and value and respond to comments.

2. Twitter

Twitter has 190 million users, and there are currently 343,000 followers of Tate. Messages, or ‘tweets’, communicate with audiences on a personal level, so followers can experience a ‘one-to-one’ connection with a Tate voice. Twitter is a better place for receiving information rather than a one-to-one connection. A high percentage of Twitter followers access their accounts from mobiles or desktop software rather than through the Twitter website, making measurement difficult.

Twitter is considered to be a ‘true’ social network, in that ‘tweets’ can be sent to people that you do not know personally. It is also a platform that the public can search to find ‘real-time’ information about news and events. In short, Twitter serves as an aggregator of interesting feeds and content, so much so that Google has now included Twitter in their search listings.

Twitter is currently utilised in the following ways:

  • There are six main Tate Twitter sites: London, Liverpool, St. Ives, Tate Shop, Tate Etc and Tate Kids.
  • The total number of followers grew from 24,000 in January 2010 to 200,000 by July 2010, an increase of 733% over six months as a result of consistent tweeting and regular interactions as well as taking part in community projects such as #askacurator.
  • Tate writes timely tweets, up to six times a day, from ‘behind the scenes’ content such as the installation of an exhibition, to event notifications and weekly features such as the ‘Tate Weather Forecast’.

Tate’s Twitter objectives are:

  • To activate multiple Tate Twitter accounts, for departmental use and for individual employees.
  • To give followers of Tate the opportunity to follow exhibiting artists, curators and specific divisions within Tate. This will make ’tweets’ more relevant, conclusively maximising audience interaction.
  • To make being a ‘Tate voice’ on Twitter part of the job descriptions of specific Tate employees, including and especially curators. The Social Media Steering Group will authorise all new accounts, manage beginner tutorials and ensure that the ‘Tate Social Media Code of Engagement’ is upheld.
  • To provide employees with the ‘Tate Social Media Code of Engagement’ and other guidelines on managing, listening to, interacting with, and understanding followers.
  • To involve the Visitor Experience team in deciding how to moderate and respond to public queries on Tate’s main Twitter account.
  • To improve partnerships with other cultural institutions by setting up lists and working to identify tags and topics that will be of interest to mutual followers.
  • To make use of new and engaging Twitter features.

3. YouTube and Flickr

YouTube is website that allows anyone to upload, share, and view videos. It is currently the second biggest search engine behind Google, with two billion views a day, and serves as a quality source of website traffic for Tate. Tate has 3,000 subscribers and its videos have been played 701,000 times.

Flickr is a website that allows anyone to upload, share and view photographs and other images. It currently hosts over four billion images and is widely used by bloggers who use the website to host images that they embed in blogs and other social platforms. There are currently 1,000 subscribers to Tate’s Flickr page.

YouTube and Flickr are currently utilised in the following ways:

  • Daily management and uploading of videos on the Tate YouTube channel is done by the Media Production team, and the uploading of images on Flickr by Tate Online.
  • Subscriber growth and viewing statistics have reached a plateau over the last year; there currently is no interaction with our subscribers on YouTube. Flickr interaction is targeted to specific audiences relating to specific events.
  • Flickr has been a useful platform for Tate to engage with a niche audience of photographers over recent years. Partnership projects with Flickr have resulted in a large body of images taken by gallery visitors which have been included in exhibitions and published in books and on posters.

Tate’s YouTube and Flickr objectives are:

  • to improve its YouTube channel by actively inviting subscribers to upload their films of Tate (which will be vetted)
  • for the Marketing and Online team to work closer with the Media Production team to produce and test short, viral clips of exhibitions
  • to improve the promotion of the YouTube channel on other social platforms and through email marketing
  • to optimise YouTube keywords and investigate paid search to promote films
  • to continue to investigate the copyright implications of posting content on Flickr (as is done on other sites)
  • to continue to devise specific audience engagement projects for these platforms.

4. MySpace

The Tate MySpace page has been left untouched since 2007. Tate aims to re-develop the page to support its future marketing partnerships for 2011 and onwards.

5. Other online communities

It is very important for Tate to listen to and participate in online conversations about its exhibitions and displays. Tate aims to distribute content relating to its programming where audiences are active online. It aims to reach out to new online communities and influential bloggers where discussion around the visual arts is apparent or where there are audience development opportunities (see Goal 4, above).

Activity Overview

In order to deliver its goals, Tate will undertake the following areas of activity:

  • Raise the profile of social media activities through the integration of online and offline marketing campaigns.
  • Distribute ownership of social media platforms across teams and departments within Tate (with clear boundaries, guidelines and objectives) and create new skills within the organisation to support this.
  • Engage in dialogue with its online communities (as opposed to merely broadcasting), ensuring that the owners of social media platforms within Tate have the time and skills to undertake this.
  • Develop a small number of initiatives tied to the themes of the programme that invite deep engagement and user-generated content, ensuring that these projects have the resources that they need to succeed.
  • Create specific streams for specific target audiences, especially developmental audiences
  • Embed social media in the re-launched Tate website, including the ability to easily share web content, and integrate Tate content into online discussion platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.


The ongoing success of Tate’s social media activity will be noted in the forthcoming Monthly Tate Online Metrics Report. Work on the form of this report is in progress, but the aims are expected to be the following:

  • Increase the number of people engaging with Tate’s social media.
  • Increase referral traffic to Tate’s website from social media websites.
  • Increase the number of people visiting galleries and events as a result of social media.
  • Measure audience advocacy (i.e. the number of people ‘re-tweeting’, ‘liking’ or ‘sharing’ content).
  • Increase usage of social media across teams and departments at Tate.
  • Analyse the demographics of social media users wherever possible.
  • Measure the effectiveness of different types of content.

Social media implementation groups

1. Social Media Steering Group

The Steering Group consists of selected representatives from the Marketing, Communications and Tate Online Departments. The group meets monthly and is responsible for:

  • achieving Tate’s social media goals and directing its strategies
  • managing the implementation of new social presences
  • developing opportunities to increase audience engagement;
  • evaluating performance and metrics
  • establishing a consistent Tate tone of voice across multiple social media platforms
  • administering guidelines to all users of Tate social media platforms.

2. Social Media Working Group

The working group comprises representatives from the Marketing, Communications, Online, Information, Shop and Tate Etc departments. The working group meets every fortnight and is responsible for:

  • the daily moderation of all Tate social media platforms and accounts
  • sourcing, collating and confirming Tate content for its social media platforms.
  • posting messages on Tate’s social media platforms
  • moderating online conversations about Tate on its social media platforms
  • uploading content relating to Tate’s exhibitions
  • maintaining and updating the Tate Social Media Planner every fortnight.

Tate social media code of engagement 2011–12

Tate has created these guidelines both to support new Tate voices on third-party social media websites (Twitter, Facebook etc.) and introduce guidelines on how to maintain and interact with its online audiences. At the heart of these guidelines is a common sense approach. Users are to reflect the best interests and reputation of Tate at all times.

Setting up a Tate presence on a third-party website or social media platform

All social media platforms established in Tate’s name, or to promote Tate need to be authorised by Tate’s Social Media Steering Group. The Digital Communications Manager should be contacted so that the proposal can be added to the agenda of the next meeting. In some cases, it may be more appropriate to add the intended project to an existing Tate community or channel rather than establishing a new one. The steering group needs to be informed of all Tate’s social media activity so it can incorporate everything into the overarching social media communication strategy.

Listen, respond and update

It is important to regularly update your account, and to listen and respond to as much as possible in order to get the most from it. Be conversational, friendly and informative. By actively responding to questions or comments from fans, you will build greater trust and increase your following. It is critical that you establish a two-way dialogue with your audience because new followers will be put off by an inactive or monotonous account.


  • Be personal: say who you are, what you do and what your expertise is.
  • Be conversational: create starting points for conversations and participation, rather than merely broadcasting messages.
  • Be open: be prepared to respond to any questions or comments for as long as there are comments coming in.

Do not:

  • Bring Tate or its work into disrepute.
  • Announce anything about working with an artist or a forthcoming exhibition that remains under press embargo (if you need clarification on what is in the public domain, and what is not, the Press Office can advise). Be aware of/cautious of major political events (again, check with the Press Office if unsure).
  • Write about your colleagues without their permission.
  • Comment on internal institutional processes.