One Media Outlet Alone Will Not Reach Your Audience
COVID-19 has brought about an onslaught of digital content and material to endlessly scroll through. But creating that content is only the first part of engaging with an audience while people feel disengaged with the outside world, especially for museums. During COVID-19 the necessity of using social media outlets and creating new forms of content based out of employee’s homes, took on a whole new level of importance. However, creating content just to have the content will not immediately garner an audience to view it. The Carnegie Science Center’s YouTube presence during the global pandemic provides a clear example that creating content on a social media platform only works when put with other methods of communication and outreach.
The Carnegie Science Center was shut down on March 14, 2020 due to the COVID-19 Pandemic health regulations and re-opened to the public on June 29th with timed entry and limited occupancy. During the height of the pandemic, the Carnegie Science Center used their social media to reach their target audience while they were unable to reach them in-person. With this emphasis on social media, there was a parallel influx in social media content across museums adding to the sense of endless scrolling that drives the need for both outstanding content and clear communication across multiple platforms. However, the Carnegie Science Center was unable to fully communicate their content across platforms leaving numerous videos on their YouTube channel to barely receive any views regardless of their content.
The Carnegie Science Center’s YouTube channel has 531 subscribers as of September 2020. However, this number is miniscule when compared to their other social media outlets. The Science Center’s Facebook has over 53,000 likes, their Twitter has over 20.9K followers, and their Instagram has 14.8K followers. Not to mention, their additional email blasts, website, and even Pinterest boards that connect to thousands of people. But without proper utilization of these audiences and directing them to new content on other platforms including their YouTube channel, the content can easily be unreachable and unknown to the target audience preventing any form of clear message delivery.
The Carnegie Science Center’s YouTube channel featured a total of 65 videos as, of September 2020, during the COVID-19 pandemic. These videos averaged a total of 376 views per video. Which considering they have only 531 subscribers that is about 70% viewership, if we assumed that there were only subscribers watching. But, of course, other people watch the videos who are not yet subscribed to the Carnegie Science Center’s YouTube channel, and that difference is made increasingly clear by the comparison between featured and unfeatured. In the chart below, there is a depiction of total views on each video in order from March 20th until September 30th. Admittedly the most recent videos have not yet had the time to reach a larger audience and there is likely a misrepresentation of their unpopularity with the final week.
With this concern aside, there is a clear pattern depicting increased popularity with videos featured in their email blasts and social media rather than those that were published to YouTube alone. The average number of views for the unfeatured videos was 255 views and the featured videos averaged 912. That is a 358% difference in viewership. Now I am not claiming that every single video that is created should be featured in an email blast to increase viewership. There is no guarantee that that would work, and it would likely cause some individuals who receive emails from the Carnegie Science Center to unsubscribe from their newsletters. But the pure difference in viewership does highlight the need to cross-promote even content that is designed for social media.
The other important note about the Carnegie Science Center’s YouTube channel is that after their video highlighting their re-opening, there has been minimal viewership and no featured videos. The pandemic forced the Carnegie Science Center to produce additional content on their YouTube channel, but it seems as though that may have just been a temporary surge in use and features even with the continuity of the pandemic. The longevity and emphasis on YouTube may fade soon, and we will have a better idea in the near future where their social media emphasis will lie as the year progresses.
The Carnegie Science Center’s use of YouTube during COVID-19 highlights the importance of creating content and then highlighting that content across social media platforms. There is a clear difference between the YouTube videos that were featured across social media and those that were not. In order to have the most successful social media accounts, the cross-promotion of the content has to be considered and utilized in order to properly justify the creation of the content.
Alex Warren is a public historian living in the Twin Cities. She is passionate about digital opportunities to engage public audiences and encourage community engagement.