Leading Museums, Museum Leaders

2022’s top 20 museums on social media

Reason to smile: the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao has been a standout social media success, increasing its followers by 60% between 2021 and 2022. Photo: AK-StreetPhoto/Alamy Stock Photo.

Aimee Dawson, Revealed: the top 20 most popular art museums on social media in 2023, The Art Newspaper, 27 March 2023

We look at how the 100 most-visited museums in our Visitor Figures survey performed online. Research conducted by Chinma Johnson-Nwosu.

Visitor Figures
The Art Newspaper’s Visitor Figures survey is conducted annually and is the foremost authority on the attendance of art museums worldwide. Read the full 2022 report here

In a year that has seen post-Covid digital fatigue paired with a tumultuous social media landscape, our museum social media survey is somewhat muted. For the fourth consecutive year, we have added up the total Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and TikTok followers for the 100 most-visited museums in our annual visitor survey. Amid the financial crisis at Facebook and Instagram’s parent company Meta, protests against Instagram’s commodification, and Elon Musk’s riotous takeover of Twitter, it is almost a wonder that there is a social media landscape to research at all.

Every institution has seen an overall growth of its social media followings to varying degrees. While the top 15 most followed museums remain the same, there is an interesting movement among the next five. Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum has moved up four places to 16th position. Its popularity can be attributed in no small part to the museum’s major Johannes Vermeer blockbuster, which, after much press attention in the lead-up, opened on 10 February and was sold out within 48 hours. Several of its recent Instagram Reels on the Dutch artist have received more than 100,000 views each, and the droves of visitors posting photos of the show are further improving the museum’s social media standing.

© The Art Newspaper

The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao in Spain makes its first appearance in the top 20 this year with more than 60% growth in social media followers. The boost may have come from heightened social media activity and publicity around its 50th anniversary in 2022.

To TikTok or not?
The National Gallery in London has seen an almost 10% increase in social media followers, which is particularly interesting given its slow recovery of in-person visitors. It is currently two years into a five-year plan to “build its profile nationally and globally through social media, digital content subscriptions, and a tour of masterpieces around the UK regions” ahead of its 200-year anniversary in 2024. The strategy includes joining platforms such as Snapchat and TikTok; since signing up to the latter in July 2021, the museum has gained almost 240,000 followers. Clearly, it has been more successful in attracting digital visitors than real-life ones.

It is notable how much landmark anniversaries and exhibitions affected museums’ social media growth—it will be interesting to see if this pattern is evident next year, particularly for the Pablo Picasso-related museums marking 50 years since the artist’s death.

Only 21 of the 100 most visited museums actually use TikTok
TikTok continues to be a slow burner for the world’s leading museums, with only 21 of the 100 most visited museums actually using it and just six of those having more than 100,000 followers. Madrid’s Museo Nacional del Prado continues to top the charts with more than 440,000 people following its fun and educational videos. The museum’s following has grown by nearly 7%, almost entirely from Instagram and TikTok. “It’s not easy to manage, but it really pays off,” Javier Sainz de los Terreros, the Prado’s digital communication manager, told online news platform Blooloop. “Videos just go viral, and you reach people you wouldn’t normally be able to engage.”

Russian slump
Russian museums are conspicuously absent from the top 20. St Petersburg’s State Hermitage Museum was 16th last year and this year is 30th. In fact, the social media accounts of Russian museums are now mostly dormant, since Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram were all banned, and TikTok restricted, following the war with Ukraine. Most accounts have not been deleted but have had no new content since March 2022, leaving a time capsule-like reminder of a different era.

For the first time since The Art Newspaper began gathering this data in 2020, the total number of followers for the 100 most-visited museums has decreased—by a not-insignificant 7%. While the top 100 museums change from year to year, the decrease is representative of a wider trend.
All platforms showed a decrease in followers, with Instagram and Twitter in particular seeing dramatic drops. As the social media stalwarts start to fall away perhaps this survey will need to include alternative platforms such as Mastodon and Discord in the future.

• Methodology: The data was collected on 7 March from the top 100 museums in our visitor survey for the four most popular English-language social media platforms: Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter. It is worth noting that the omission of non-English language sites—such as Sina Weibo, WeChat, Douyin, Telegram, and VK—does skew the results toward Western museums

All the data is supplied by the institutions concerned and covers the respective calendar years. The research for the 2022 report was conducted via email and telephone during February and March 2023. 

Council of Australasian Museum Directors c/o Lynley Crosswell, Museums Victoria, GPO Box 666, Melbourne VIC 3001, © CAMD 2023
Disclaimer: The content of this website is provided for information purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for professional advice. No claim is made as to the accuracy or authenticity of the content of the website. The Council of Australasian Museum Directors does not accept any liability to any person for the information or advice (or the use of such information or advice) which is provided on this website. The information on our website is provided on the basis that all persons accessing the site undertake responsibility for assessing the relevance and accuracy of its content. No responsibility is taken for any information or services which may appear on any linked web sites. Hostgator.