Millennials seem to be trading museums for trips to the cinema. Only a small percentage of millennials spend their time visiting museums, while the vast majority of them prefer going to the gym, catching a movie or going out for a meal. Less than half of young adults visit one museum in a year and most of them visit none, according to a report by marketing agency Futurecast.
Millennials are the world’s largest generation, so museums have to find ways to engage them. They’re also the most connected adult generation, with the widest reach in information sharing. Engaging millennials is not about marketing, it’s about operating as a good cultural center in the social ecosystem. These are some ways to get millennials away from the silver screen and into the museum.
1. Engagement is about more than just digital.
While it’s hard to think of millennials without thinking of smartphones and social media, it’s important to remember that those are only methods of communication. Engagement does not stop at the tweet, post or chat. Visual representation and experience amenities are key components of engaging any group, including 18- to 34-year-olds.
2. Ask for and use feedback.
To appeal to younger audiences, museums need to develop new ways of working, because millennials’ needs change quickly. Rather than guessing what millennials want, museums can do something even better: ask them. Speaking with youth allows for flexibility and feedback, which lets you know what’s really needed. For example, the Museum of Modern Art in New York has full-time staff devoted to interviewing visitors for feedback on their overall experience. They also focus on specific product feedback within the first few weeks of release.
3. Speak the language of visitors.
High quality information and art are important, but museums should also find ways to make them relatable and relevant to them. Relevance is defined by the visitor, not the museum, but museums make choices about what objects, spaces and amenities are most relevant to their brand and their visitors.
4. Engaging new audiences takes leadership support.
Leadership plays a big role in deciding what gets prioritized. Every initiative needs support from leadership in the form of funding, resources or at the very least a nod of approval. Having a supportive leader makes a huge difference.
Appealing to millennials may improve visitor experience for more than just 18- to 34-year-olds. Things that young adults expect — a welcoming environment, engaging storytelling, good food and coffee, innovation and free Wi-Fi — are not exclusive to this age group. If museums embrace these “millennial” values, they may well serve everyone that much better.