Black Country Living Museum: Where history meets pop culture for TikTok domination
Where does Anderson Paak converge with the West Midlands of yesteryear? At the Black Country Living Museum, an open-air museum that uses TikTok to entertain and educate followers about life in the region throughout history.
Emily Smith, Audiences and Communications Manager – and the actress who plays the 1940s lady at the BCLM – shares how the museum found fame during the pandemic and why their videos have helped bring beef dripping sandwiches back into the modern age.
Brush up on your social media dos and don’ts by joining Sprout’s social media agony aunt Stacey, as she resolves another of your pressing social media concerns, and get in touch with one of your own social media dilemmas by emailing email@example.com. Connect with the BCLM on TikTok via @BlackCountryLivingMuseum or on Twitter and Instagram on @BCLivingMuseum.
CAT ANDERSON Welcome to Social Creatures, a podcast from Sprout Social. I’m Cat, and I’m here to explore some of my favourite success stories from the world of social media. This is a space for everyone. And, really, nearly anything goes. But what makes an account successful or popular? Honestly, it’s hard to know. But that’s what we’re here to find out.
Throughout the series, we’ll talk with the brands behind the accounts you know and some that you don’t to explore the weird and wonderful ways that businesses, organisations, and individuals have achieved success on social media, all with tangible insights that you can apply to your own social strategies. And we’ll be heeding the advice of Stacey, our social media agony aunt, who’s here to guide you through some of your trickiest digital dilemmas.
So, this week, I’m joined by Emily Smith, audiences and communications coordinator at the Black Country Living Museum or BCLM in the West Midlands in the UK. For those who don’t know, the Black Country Living Museum is just a little bit of a TikTok sensation. If you’ve ever felt fed up with seeing the same types of video trends in your feed, I can guarantee you that the Black Country Living Museum will be a welcome and refreshing relief. Detailing life in Britain throughout history, it still feels incredibly modern. In terms of content, it’s totally unique. It’s a blend of history and modern culture. It’s funny. And on top of it all, it’s educational.
I cannot wait to talk to Emily today about their secret formula behind their incredible social media. If you’d like to check out what they get up to, you can follow them on TikTok @BlackCountryLivingMuseum or on Twitter at @BCLivingMuseum.
Emily, welcome to Social Creatures.
EMILY SMITH Hello. It’s really nice to be here.
CAT ANDERSON It’s lovely to have you here. And oh, my goodness. I’ve spent most of the day trolling through all of your TikTok videos. But—. So, I have a million questions, but before we get into the amazing social presence of BCLM, we should take a second to recognise how unique it actually is. And maybe for those listeners who don’t really know anything about it, could you please explain where you are, what happens there, and why the BCLM is not your average museum?
EMILY SMITH Yeah. Of course. So, BCLM tells the story of the Black Country, which is an area consisting of several towns and cities within the West Midlands, and these towns and cities played a massive part in the history of the Industrial Revolution. It’s also a really interesting area, because although it’s really famous, the exact boundaries are massively up for debate. So, it’s often said that you might struggle to find two people that actually agree on where the Black Country starts and ends.
The museum is based in Dudley, which is absolutely a hundred percent definitely in the Black Country, and tells the story of Black Country history ranging from the late nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century. And it’s not your average museum, because it’s a living museum and it’s open air. So, we’re a twenty-six-acre site, and visitors walk around and experience the museum first-hand. So, you’re not looking at objects behind glass cases. You’re walking around and you’re seeing houses and shops and industrial areas and you’re meeting characters. And using, like, all five senses. You’re seeing things, hearing things, touching, and smelling and tasting things as well.
There’s history everywhere at a museum. There’s lots of different houses you can walk in. You can, like, meet the people that would be living in the houses. You can go to a vintage pub and buy a pint as you would have been able to do in 1910. We have very famous fish-and-chips shops. So, a lot of people go there. You can go and watch a chain-making demonstration and, like, feel the fire as it were of, like, a chain-making demonstration and seeing all that kind of thing actually being made. So, it’s really cool.
CAT ANDERSON That’s so cool. And, actually, maybe fair to say that you’d think that a museum that’s detailing historical life in a particular part of England might not seem like the type of business that would absolutely dominate social media. But I’m wrong. I’m totally wrong, because you are completely dominating social media. And I just wonder, before we get into just the huge success you find: Are there other museums are doing what you’re doing or are you totally unique with what you’re doing on TikTok?
EMILY SMITH You’d actually be surprised how many heritage organisations are present on TikTok and on other platforms. We kind of led the way a little bit. But there’s so many of them on there now. So, we’re absolutely amongst friends. English Heritage and Ironbridge Gorge Museum have an excellent TikTok presence, and there are lots of other UK organisations on the platform that are absolutely smashing it. And we’re also joined across the pond by places like Sacramento History Museum, Old Salem, which is another living history museum that’s doing great things on TikTok.
Twitter is also really great place to find examples of great social media from museums. We are particularly fond of York Museum’s #CreativeBattle. They encourage other heritage museums to share particularly weird and wonderful objects in their collections. They might be like, “Okay. Museum, share your creepiest item.” And you get museums bustling out to see who’s got the creepiest thing in their collection. And we think that’s just absolutely fabulous.
CAT ANDERSON I love that. I love that so much when people find, you know, a little—. Your – your little corner of social media. [crosstalk 0:05:23].
EMILY SMITH I love it when people find their niche.
CAT ANDERSON Yeah.
EMILY SMITH It’s great. It’s – it’s a strange part of, like, the – the Internet to find your cell phone, but it’s a wholesome and wonderful place.
CAT ANDERSON Yeah. Totally. And to that point, you could think, “How is this going to translate onto social media?” It is actually a brilliant setting for social media content. You have gained notoriety for your videos on TikTok, which feature actors in historical dress who entertain and educate followers on the story of one of the very first industrialised landscapes in Britain. I mean, that does not do it justice. And maybe in your words, how would you describe the videos that you do and why are they special?
EMILY SMITH I think they’re especially because we try to combine history and kind of trending concepts as well. So, we’d, like, try to balance learning and entertainment. And I think that if you can try and strike that balance, that’s how you make social media that’s interesting and engaging, especially on things like TikTok, when you haven’t got that long to kind of grab people’s attention, ’cause it’s so easy to just scroll away.
CAT ANDERSON Totally. And it’s funny, you talk about that sort of education and entertainment blend, because although it is hard to pick a favourite, one video that I do think is absolutely hilarious is the “Pretty Sure This is Why British People Love Tea So Much” video, which has got Anderson .Paak and Bruno Mars in the background. I’m not going to, like, make you suffer, but it’s the song, you know. “Not to be dramatic, but I want to die.” And it shows a lady dressed in Victorian garb, drinking boiled cholera water. Not un-boiled cholera water.
EMILY SMITH Not un-boiled. Absolutely.
CAT ANDERSON And she dies. But this is just one of so many videos. So, I wonder: How do you keep that creative process going and coming up with cool new ideas?
EMILY SMITH I think it’s—. A lot of the cases that myself and the rest of our marketing team use TikTok ourselves in real life. We’re all kind of different ages and have different interests. So, we kind of corner different parts of it. But we use it enough to recognise trends.
CAT ANDERSON Mmhmm.
EMILY SMITH But we also are obsessed with where we work and the people that we work with. So, it’s really easy to kind of scroll through and see videos, see trends, see clips and think, “Oh, how can I – how can I make that museum? How can I make that history?”
We’re also super, super lucky here, because we’ve got so many things that kind of lend us to filming. So, we’ve got historic characters on site, and they’re already beautifully dressed by a costume manager. We’ve got historic settings, because we’ve got all these beautiful buildings that have been replicated or translocated to the museum, in this, like, beautiful little patchwork historic village. And we’ve got researchers that provide a lot of the historical content. So, what our videos represent is what a trip to the museum is.
CAT ANDERSON Mmhmm.
EMILY SMITH A lot of it is so much of our core offer and the kind of things that you would learn if you came to the museum anyway. Just the TikTok version. And I think that’s why it’s so easy for us to find ideas, because we already know so well what the museum is. And then, once you start to use TikTok a lot, you learn what TikTok is. And then, if you can kind of try and marry those two together …
CAT ANDERSON Mmhmm.
EMILY SMITH … it creates some really nice content.
CAT ANDERSON I do think we’ve said this before in this podcast, but there is a real trend for when people just are being themselves, having a bit of fun, knowing what the unique selling point is. It is so often sort of the little secret formula behind things going well.
And, actually, let’s just talk about how well it has gone for you on TikTok. So, you have one-point-three million followers on TikTok, which is amazing. So, congratulations on the incredible followership. Em, why do you think it’s been TikTok that’s been so successful, and how did that followership grow? How did you get it to that number?
EMILY SMITH It’s a strange one. It really is. And I’m genuine the amazed that we’ve got it to this far. But the museum is in a really great position, like I’ve mentioned, because we’ve got so much readily available, like material, actors, costumes, historic settings. What you see in the videos and the stories you hear and the kind of the characters you meet, and they’re all versions you would expect to see at the museum. Like, sure, you might not see, like, the school teacher dancing to Tina Turner on a – on a visit. I’m afraid I can’t – I can’t promise that. But you can actually visit the school and you can learn about Edwardian education and you can meet the chemist and talk about—I don’t know—Edwardian cures and you can hear the stories of people living in poverty. And we really do have characters that are just really lovely and really nice to talk to, like, Granddad. That is exactly how he is in real life. Like, I can completely attest to this, ’cause I was filming with him yesterday, and he will just turn to me and say a poem or turn to me and just sing a Frank Sinatra song at me.
CAT ANDERSON Wow.
EMILY SMITH And that’s just, like, the kind of people that we work with. So, I think it’s because we – we’re able to be really authentic on the app and I think TikTok really, really enjoys that and I think our viewership really enjoys that on TikTok, because it’s not so much explicit marketing.
CAT ANDERSON Mmhmm.
EMILY SMITH It’s trying to get across who we are. And I think that works so much better on TikTok than it does on any other platform.
CAT ANDERSON And when you originally went on TikTok, what were your original goals? You mentioned that it’s not just flat-out marketing. It’s about sort of demonstrating who you are. Would that sort of have aligned with, originally, what the plan was?
EMILY SMITH Yeah. Absolutely. So, we started the account in 2020. And, obviously, a lot was going on that year. So, firstly, it was really important to us to try and reach kind of visitors at home when the museum was closed. And it was a way that we could connect with people when we had a bit more time on our hands, because we weren’t trying to market events and we weren’t trying to sell these tickets for various things. So, we had time to make these videos and to try and make people happy without having to do any kind of more explicit marketing.
We were also really keen to try and find a way to engage with a younger audience. We don’t tend to see many, like, kind of sixteen- to twenty-four-year-olds visiting the museum. And we think they’re, like, a massively important part of the museum’s future. And TikTok is such a great way to engage with that age range. So, that was definitely part of the reason that we started. But another thing was just we’ve got this opportunity. Let’s just have some fun with it and see where it goes. And where it went was pretty incredible.
CAT ANDERSON Yeah. And so, was this something that was a slow burn or was this something that, you know, there was one video that was the great change and you started to get a big influx of followers? I’d love to know. What did the journey to one-point-three million look like?
EMILY SMITH So, the second video we posted on the platform was a fashion video based on, like, K-pop street fashion trends. Like, the video and you’ve got K-pop in the background and there’s someone, like, walking dramatically. And we did it so that it was a K-pop soundtrack in the background, but it was historic characters walking down the streets.
CAT ANDERSON Love that.
EMILY SMITH So, we’ve got, like, a gentleman dressed in forties outfit with, like, a knitted pullover, and we’ve got like an Edwardian lady walking down the street with a bucket, and we’ve got like one of our horse handlers walking through a paddock with, like, a saddle and things like that. And that video kind of went a bit mental. So, all of that’s our social media manager.
But anyway, we started the account in the summer. It was, like, “If we get ten thousand followers by Christmas, I’ll be happy.” She posted that video. And then, forty-eight hours later, she woke up and we’d hit ten thousand without even thinking. So, that video went mental.
CAT ANDERSON Oh, wow.
EMILY SMITH And that was kind of what started gaining traction on the platform. And then, there are a couple of other videos that kind of really did help us to gain notoriety. So, there was a video that we did about women’s roles in World War II to an Ariana Grande song. That was our first video to hit two million views, which was insane. And then, we did a video about how to stay warm in the Victorian period and heating up a brick by the fire. And people really took to that. But it was so strange that someone would heat up a brick and just pop it in bed.
And then, we also had lots of videos that did really well because they were, like, Victorian recipe videos. So, like, pack a lunch with me, for my kids, except it was like a beef dripping sandwich. And people really connected that. Maybe in a wrong way, because they were like, “This sounds awful. Why would you do that?” But kind of those jokes landed really well. And I think those are the kinds of things that have led us to have a kind of notoriety on the platform.
CAT ANDERSON Wow. I feel like I can’t get over a beef dripping sandwich, actually. My brain is [crosstalk 0:13:36].
EMILY SMITH Oh, I’m not going to lie. I’ve had one. They’re really good.
CAT ANDERSON Really?
EMILY SMITH Yeah.
CAT ANDERSON Okay.
EMILY SMITH I think it might be a bit of a Black Country thing. But, like, bread and beef dripping is – is actually pretty fantastic. That’s—. It’s not – it’s not so bad. It might just be a bit of Black Country specialism. But yeah.
CAT ANDERSON Back to social media and away from beef dripping sandwiches for a second, you mentioned that going onto TikTok was going to be a good way to reach the sixteen- to twenty-four-age group. And, certainly, that definitely aligns with what we hear about TikTok. It’s more skewed towards a younger audience. I wonder: Did that actually translate then into the visitors who are actually coming to the museum? Did you see a change and did you start to see more of this age group coming?
EMILY SMITH We’ve kind of so far been unable or it’s difficult to gather a lot of quantitative evidence to support the fact that, like, more people in that age group are visitors because of the platform. But there’s absolutely a load of anecdotal evidence to support the people have been visiting due to TikTok. And I speak in my own experience from that. Like, I have been dressed as a character, stopped in the street, because people want to take a photo with a Forties Lady. I have had people message me being like, “Oh, a family of four came today and they wanted to take a photo with me. And I was already starstruck and I didn’t know what to do.”
I’ve also had people message me or chat to me outside of work, not knowing that I work at the museum, not knowing that I’ve had anything to do with the account. And the museum will just come up in conversation and they’ll be like, “Oh, they’ve got a really good TikTok account.” And I’m like, “Oh, lovely. That sounds—.”
CAT ANDERSON “Oh, really? Tell me more about how much you—.”
EMILY SMITH “Oh, really? I had no idea.”
CAT ANDERSON “Tell me more about how much you love the account.”
But hold on. Hold on. Hold on. You are one of the characters, did you say?
EMILY SMITH Yeah, I am.
CAT ANDERSON Tell us more about that.
EMILY SMITH I am the Forties Lady.
CAT ANDERSON And who is the Forties Lady. Tell us a little bit about her.
CAT ANDERSON This Forties Lady is the character that appears in a lot of the videos about women’s rights. She is the most fabulous character. I love her, because she – she means I get to literally roll my hair and put on red lipstick and get out of the office for a little bit and, I guess, wear fabulous clothes and tell stories of women’s rights. And it’s just great. And now, I get to be behind the camera as well.
CAT ANDERSON Now here at Sprout Social, we know that social media is a wild and wonderful beast. It can surprise and delight, but it can also confuse and perplex even the hardiest of social media users. Who better to turn to for help than our social media expert, Stacey Wright, who’s here to answer your questions over a cup of tea and some biscuits, in the part of the show we like to call Sound Advice.
STACEY WRIGHT Right. I’ve got my cup of tea and I’ve got my letters, which can only mean it’s time for us to take a break and cosy down together. This is the part of the podcast where I, your social media agony aunt, Stacey, guide you, our dear listeners, through your trickiest digital dilemmas.
Right. Let me see what social media conundrums you’ve sent my way today.
“I’m in a new role for a small company where I get the great but daunting task of setting up the social channels from scratch for a new, trendy bakery. Getting to define the social strategy myself was honestly the main thing that attracted me to the role. But I also have a brand-new boss. She’s great. She’s inspirational and wants big results and she’s also on social media a lot, meaning a lot of opinions, but not necessarily expert ones. She has made it clear that she wants me to have accounts on all platforms from the off. I don’t agree that instantly trying to create, build, and manage presences on all platforms is something we can or should do.
“That said, I want to impress my new boss. What should I do?
So, Jeanie, firstly, I am going to agree with your boss slightly. In the first instance, you should definitely go on to all of the social platforms and claim those profile names, regardless of whether you end up developing a strategy for them.
Then, secondly, do the research and find out where your target audience is consuming their content and interacting. So, you could take cues from any existing branding or market research you might have for the company or, if not, you could use something free, like YouGov, which is an online database where you can seek out information on brands that are similar to yourself, see who their audiences are, and then, from there, see what social media networks, those audiences prefer. So, using that information, you can then focus your attention.
When I led social strategy at an agency, my CEO used to get a little bit ticked off with me for telling clients where their focus should be, but also where they might be wasting their time. So, for example, if your bakery is a trendy doughnut shop, you might want to be on a fast, cool content network like TikTok or Instagram. But if you’re an artisan sourdough bread bakery, then you might want to be on Facebook for local community groups or show your process of making the bread on something like YouTube, where you can have longer-form content.
Being selective allows you to master those platforms and then also see really impressive fast growth, which your boss is going to love, but also stops you being a jack of all trades. It can make space for you to pivot when user behaviour changes.
So, when we think about platforms like Instagram where they’ve moved into a space of reels and stories and how people digest content on there, which has changed a lot, that will give you that room to change the content strategy as those platforms evolve, too.
Once you know the platforms, align your resources. Do you have enough budget or skills in-house to create great video? If it’s a no, YouTube and even Facebook and Instagram might be out for now. Your strategy might have to be solely focused on short digestible content like shorts on YouTube, reels on Instagram, or even stories on Facebook.
Once you’ve chosen your networks and the content strategy, then tailor where you promote those channels within the touch points you have as a business with your new customers. So, depending on the type of the platform and the content you’re after, maybe Instagram is going to be, like, your online storefront, so you want to encourage user-generated content that might be on the wall in the bakery, at the point of sale, in the shop window. Whereas if Twitter or WhatsApp is going to be a customer service tool, you might put that on receipts or order confirmations for online or places where they might be reviewing you as a business.
And from there, this will start to build out real followers that reflect your objective for those channels. Whilst it may be easy to get everyone that works in the bakery and all of your friends and family to follow and like a new social profile, it’s really not going to help you in the algorithms. Instagram will then serve that as a profile to people who are like those people and not necessarily like your target audience. One quick way to do this is to have a launch. So, either at the bakery itself, you could do it online, and that will help push people towards your brand-new channels who are already interested in the business or might be invited, because they reflect the audience you’re trying to target.
Jeanie, thanks so much for emailing your social media conundrum. Hopefully, this will help you with a fully-approved and not half-baked social strategy.
Until next time, listeners. Stay strong and stay social. And now, back to the interview.
CAT ANDERSON Do you keep track of where your fans are, where your followers are coming from? Are they in this sixteen- to twenty-four-year-old bracket? Are they history lovers? Are they other museums? Or is it broader than that?
EMILY SMITH So, the creative tools analytics means we can keep track of who it is that follows us at who it is that watches our videos. Generally, they are people aged sixteen to twenty-four, askew is a little bit more feminine. So, we have more women than men watching our videos. We also find that we have a lot of views from America and a lot of views from the UK and then a couple more rogue international places that you would never think would be interested in a little museum that talks about Black Country history.
But the audience demographic of TikTok is pretty extensive. And the same goes for our international audiences. Some people follow us because they like history and because they like museums. And others follow us because they like the themes portrayed by certain characters. Maybe they like to watch the chemist videos because they like learning about medicine. Maybe they like to watch the Forties Lady videos because they’re particularly interested in feminism and women’s rights. Or maybe they like to watch Granddad’s videos because they like a bit of life advice, they’re like a bit of poetry. And I think some people just follow us because they find the content engaging and it’s enjoyable to see a different take on a trend that you might have seen fifty times beforehand.
But we do tend to use the platform mostly just for brand awareness and a little bit of education. So, it’s really easy to engage with the content if you live somewhere else. Like, it doesn’t necessarily matter too much that a lot of our viewership lives overseas. Because if we’re not using it for marketing, it doesn’t matter if people aren’t necessarily coming through the door, but they are still learning and they’re also learning about the Black Country and getting our name out there. And that’s what counts really, isn’t it?
CAT ANDERSON Oh, yeah. Absolutely. And I think that that is to your credit. The sign of really good content, if it’s engaging with people who live overseas or maybe would love to, but, you know, they don’t have any means to come and visit the museum, but they still follow you. That just speaks to the quality of the content.
I do wonder. You’re not just on TikTok, but I think you’re known for your TikTok account. But you are also Instagram on Twitter and Facebook. How does the content that you post differ across these channels, and what’s your strategy behind what you’re posting where?
EMILY SMITH So, our audience profile varies for each platform. So, we try to kind of vary our content accordingly while retaining some kind of like overarching BCLM voice throughout, so we’ve got a little bit of consistency across. We tend to use Facebook for our most kind of explicit digital marketing. It’s where most people ask most questions about the museum. It’s where they want to know what our opening times are. It’s where they want to know where they can get—I don’t know—food while they’re here, how the parking situation works. Things like that.
We use Instagram more for kind of celebrating the aesthetic nature of the museum. We’re a twenty-six-acre site. We’re a beautiful place. We’re full of wonderfully dressed historic characters. The buildings are beautiful. We’ve got two particularly handsome horses. So, we use Instagram to kind of celebrate that.
And we also have a Twitter account that we use for a number of things. It’s a great platform to engage with other organisations, ’cause you can retweet people. But it’s also a great place to celebrate Black Country history. So, people love it when we tweet things in like original dialect. So, for example, the other day it was raining. I posted a picture of a said rain in one of our couple of streets with the caption: “It’s black over Bill’s mother’s,” which is a Black Country phrase basically meaning, “Gosh, the weather is awful.” And that tweet did really, really well, because it’s such a niche regional saying that so many people identify with and, if they’ve moved out of the area, might not have heard in thirty years. So, people really love it when we post in Black Country dialect. Although that does tend to extend to Facebook as well, actually.
Overall, we do have, like, a little bit of a set of guidelines as to what the aims of our content should be across different platforms. And as long as it fits with that, then you can kind of—. You’re good to go no matter what you’re posting.
CAT ANDERSON Wow. You guys are doing a lot on social. Fair play to you.
I kind of wonder. You know, so the clips that you’re posting are really high production, high quality, amazing outfits. You’ve got the actors and actresses who are actually dressed up as these characters. And it sort of, from the outside, looks like it would be quite costly. But I’ve actually wondering: Are there a lot of production costs that go into these things and, like, scripting and filming? Or is it something that you’re actually just in that really fortunate position because it is all there that you can kind of do it?
EMILY SMITH We are massively lucky, because so much of this kind of stuff can be done in-house just because it’s so conducive to the museum’s offer. So, the videos are filmed in and among our museum buildings. We’ve got sets right there. Our historic characters are dressed beautifully in kind of very period-appropriate clothes that are made by a wonderful costume manager.
We script videos based on research that’s provided by our interpretation team that they would already be providing for kind of general museum purposes. We use equipment that we use already as a marketing team. So, we have some fantastic camera equipment that we are very lucky to have. And we’ll be given some information from a research department, and then myself or another member of the audiences and communications team will then sit down and turn that into a script that is then kind of digestible by our viewership.
So, really, the main cost associated with our videos is time and also staff capacity. We do have a small allocated TikTok budget that we use for, like, additional props, costumes, and equipment and things like that. But, generally, we just kind of make do with what we have lying around.
So, the biggest cost is time, because we are quite a small marketing department, especially when you consider that, like, one good video can take—I don’t know—twelve hours from organising the filming. Actually doing the filming, editing the filming, writing the script. A good TikTok video can take a really, quite a long time to produce. So, it’s not so much a physical thing.
CAT ANDERSON And do you think that since you’ve seen the success and the followership get to where it’s at, has there been increased pressure to, you know, continue to create videos to this standard? Because it’s also and, like, you’re still just having a lot of fun with it, which is great. But yeah. I just kind of wonder. Like, one-point-three million is a lot.
EMILY SMITH Absolutely. Since we started growing our viewership massively, that’s the only thing that increased really was just the pressure to keep putting out so much of this high-quality content. This was absolutely doable at first, especially when we were kind of in and out of lockdowns and we could still film. But the museum wasn’t open to the public and it was quite easy to do that kind of thing then.
But we had to take a little bit of a break over the summer and over the winter. We relaunched the account on the 14th of February. And that was because we had to run a museum as well. We’re starting to do these more full-scale events again. We’re starting to get capacity on site. And we’ve got so many other things to do that it really is a case of having to try and balance “Oh, my gosh. We’ve got this really famous TikTok account” and “Oh, my gosh. We’re also a museum marketing department and we have to do all the other things that museum marketing departments do.”
Being a presence on TikTok is absolutely worth it. It’s so much fun. It’s done great things for the internal morale at the museum, because it’s so exciting to see the Black Country story be told worldwide and people to be really engaging with it no matter where they are. But it does take a lot of time and effort and definitely more than you would initially expect, especially when it comes to actually putting the videos out there and also to properly engage with your audience. It’s not just a case of pressing post and walking away. You have to keep checking the comments and engaging in those conversations and vetting things and keeping your eye on what’s going on.
And so much of our account is kind of the admin character that replies to the comments. So, it’s not just a case of pressing post and walking away from it as you might think it would be on Facebook and Instagram. It’s really like a conversation that continues after you’ve pressed publish.
CAT ANDERSON A hundred percent. And I’m sure loads of the listeners who are hearing you speak will feel like it’s never just one thing. Also, your point when you press send and just leave it. Like, that’s definitely not how social media works. You have to engage with and respond to. And that takes time as well. So, yeah, my goodness. There’s no doubt about it that TikTok is still a platform that a lot of businesses do struggle to get to grips with. How do you demonstrate the value of this social media marketing?
EMILY SMITH Well, well, I would say a social media marketing on TikTok has been absolutely invaluable to us in terms of reaching new audiences and increasing brand awareness. It’s so nice to be able to be engaging with sixteen- to twenty-four-year-olds and for people in other countries or further afield in this country to recognise who we are and what we do.
I think it’s important to recognise that it’s not necessarily the right platform to use for any sort of, like, explicit advertising or marketing, because people are quite sensitive on TikTok to what I would call, like, inauthentic marketing. So, people won’t see an ad on TikTok and click on it necessarily. I think it’s really important that you use the platform to be yourself and get across your kind of organisation’s message more than it is to be like “Buy this thing.” But it’s a great way to give your organisation kind of an authentic voice that enables you to engage with younger audiences.
Internally, people have been really supportive here as well. So, it’s a great way to kind of generate some morale internally within your organisation. But I think it’s just important to recognise that it is really hard work. Like, it’s great. It’s absolutely worth it.
CAT ANDERSON That’s so lovely to hear that you’re being supported with the absolutely amazing, unique, hilarious and educational content that you’re doing. So, I absolutely love it.
The final question is a question that we’ll be asking for all of our guests on this podcast. If BCLM had to delete all of the accounts that it follows on Twitter, leaving only one, which would it be?
EMILY SMITH Oh, this is such a horrible question. I don’t know if we could pick one. There are some really lovely regional museums doing great things on Twitter. We love the content from MREL and the Yorkshire museums and we’re always really inspired by English heritage and places like that. There are also some other brands that we think are fabulous, ’cause they’re putting out some really kind of playful content, which is really aspirational to us, including places like Aldi and Reiner.
I think my favourite account that I see when I am checking the museum Twitter is probably [Innocent’s movies 0:31:44]. Their April Fool’s Day tweet absolutely killed me. Their manager changed their profile picture to a picture of his wedding. And now they’ve absolutely rinsed him on social media. I love it. I could never get away with it here. I wouldn’t want to get away with it here. But I love their social media. I love their Twitter. I love their Facebook. And I think, if it was up to me, that would probably be the one that I would say. I love that.
CAT ANDERSON I also love [Innocent’s social 0:32:11]. I think they are absolutely brilliant. But so are you.
EMILY SMITH Thank you.
CAT ANDERSON BCLM is really fantastic. And it has been so great to have you on the podcast. So, thank you so much for taking the time, Emily, to talk to us today. It’s been so great to have you.
EMILY SMITH Oh, thank you so much. It’s been fabulous. And so, thank you so much for having me.
CAT ANDERSON You’ve been listening to Social Creatures with me, Cat Anderson. Many thanks to Emily Smith of the Black Country Living Museum for joining me today and to Sprout Social for making this podcast possible.
Make sure you catch the rest of the series by subscribing on your favourite podcast platform, where you can tune into a new episode every two weeks.
You can continue the conversation around today’s episode by getting in touch on our social media @SproutSocial or by sending your social media quandaries to our agony aunt, Stacey, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you in two weeks.
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