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Special Guests — Unlimited Van Abbemuseum

The Myth of Demographics

A Q&A with Mariët Erica from Van Abbemuseum

Mariët is presenting a post-seminar talk at the upcoming Digital Identity sessions hosted by Van Abbemuseum in November. She talks about her role, the challenges and opportunities of using social media and the myth of demographics.

Mariët Erica, Online Communications Manager, Van Abbemuseum

Mariët, tell us a little about yourself
I am an online communications manager for the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven. I’ve worked here for eight years and for the last three I’ve been dedicated to online communications. As part of this role I am responsible for the website and for our social media.

“I work on long term digital projects, but at the same time, they are really about the here and now.”

What is the most interesting aspect of your job?
I work on long term digital projects, but at the same time, they are really about the here and now. What I really like is that you can be agile in the way you conceive, develop and execute ideas for social media. We’re also using social media to share stories that add something new to the experience visitors have.

“I think demographics are a bit of a myth on social media. It doesn’t really matter if the people we want to speak don’t fall under certain headings and categories.”

So, who is your audience on social media?
That’s an interesting question. I’d say it is a process of discovery. For example, when we first started using Facebook, we thought there would be a much younger audience. But that isn’t true. I think demographics are a bit of a myth on social media. It doesn’t really matter if the people we speak to don’t fall under certain headings and categories. It’s not about that. It’s about discovering who is interested in our museum and what goes on here.

Would you say you don’t have any fixed demographics on social media?
Yes, you could say that. Sometimes we do try and engage a specific target audiences. For example, as part of our Special Guests project, we are actively working with the deaf community right now and social media has helped us reach out to specialist networks. Within these networks we are discovering and working with people who share our values.

“Beyond demographics, understand the nuance of communicating with audiences on different platforms . Take some time to familiarise yourself with their expectations.”

What is your advise for a museum that wants to experiment?
It is really a case of trial and error. Spend some time getting to know the medium better. Most social media is very direct. You can very easily see what works and what doesn’t. Beyond demographics, understand the nuance of communicating with audiences on different platforms . Take some time to familiarise yourself with their expectations. I don’t mean to say we have to do what the audience dictates. Our story is about what goes on in our museum and we’re using social media to tell that story in different ways. From our point of view and also from the point of view of our visitors.

Are you looking forward to the Digital Identity sessions in November?
I attended the sessions in Leiden earlier this year and found them really inspiring and insightful. There was a lot to think about, but at the same time the approach was very hands-on and pragmatic. It was great to meet so many of my peers and have frank and open conversations. We had a such great mix , from Sieboldhuis to Boijmans, from Taalunie to VPRO. I realised that in a way, we’re all in the same boat. Also, good practise can come from some surprising places. This is why I was keen for Van Abbemuseum to host the Digital Identity sessions. We hope to create a similar forum of discussion, new thinking and learning.

The Digital Identity sessions will be hosted by Van Abbemuseum on November 17–18, 2015. The sessions introduce new approaches to storytelling using social and digital media. Please click here for details and registration information.

I am interested in the context & values of our Digital Identities.

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