The Analytics of Social Media in Cultural Heritage

Digital Content Matters

Apr 30, 2018 · 4 min read
Photo Collage by Dustn.Tv

The Fundamentals of Social Media

According to this 2017 statistic, the average person manages 7 different social media accounts. Why? Social media has become the primary tool for sharing information. Its success, however, is based on how we receive it.

Different social media channels appeal to different visual audiences, a concept similar to the VARK model of learners. Some people respond to information visually, while others prefer to hear it rather than read it. In the digital world, people chose to receive information via an image on Instagram, a video on Youtube or tweet on Twitter… and sometimes, all three.

The Shift in Cultural Heritage

Cultural heritage conserves information of the past. It’s shared in the form of long, technical pros that would only be appropriate for conferences, journals or reports. In recent years, conservation has gone digital and new outlets are needed to support these visualizations. Many cultural heritage institutions are turning to social media, but few understand this (not so) new digital landscape.

Archaeological Analytics examines the cultural heritage industry to determine its proficiency in all things social media. Are they appealing to different visual audiences? If not, is this gap attributed to age or aloofness to modern technology?


We counted social media channels of 256 U.S. or Canadian cultural heritage institution. We limited our scope to the top four social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube) as well as blogs.

The list of institutions are sourced from the American Archaeology Social Media Directory moderated by Archaeological Analytics. Data includes the institution name, location and industry sector. Institutions were organized and counted by sector using the following categories:

  • Cultural Resource Management /CRM (46)
  • State Historic Preservation Office /SHPO (15)
  • Museums (47)
  • Public Outreach Programs (31)
  • University Programs (59)
  • Archaeological Societies (58)


Popular Channels- The graph below shows the distribution of professional accounts across five platforms. Facebook leads as the preferred channel followed by Twitter, Instagram, blogs and Youtube.

Multi-channels- Less than 25% of cultural heritage institutions are managing more than one profile. Multi-channeled institutions are most likely to create their first account on Facebook, followed by Twitter, then Instagram.

Channel Preference by Industry- Museums and public outreach programs have the most well-rounded social media profile with equal presence on all channels, including Youtube. Instagram is also widely used by CRM, museums, universities and public outreach. Archaeological societies and preservation offices have similar preferences for Facebook and Twitter and less interest in videos and blogging.


Despite having access to new digital media, the cultural heritage industry is largely unaware of trends in social media. Most institutions have limited their social media presence to one platform and even fewer have adopted popular apps, including Youtube and Instagram. We consider two scenarios affecting these results.

Considering the Age Gap- Demographics suggest that people over the age of 50 are most likely to use Facebook and Youtube. Interestingly, Twitter has the lowest percentage of followers from most age groups except 18 to 24 year olds. If we assume that cultural heritage accounts are moderated by middle-aged admin, Facebook and Youtube would have comparable numbers across the board.

Considering the Technology Gap- The results, in fact, mimic the history of social media. Social media went mainstream with Facebook in 2006, then Twitter in 2010 and so on. Based on channel distributions by industry, every cultural heritage institution is following this pattern. At this rate, cultural heritage is adopting social media as if it is 2014.

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Cultural Analytics


Written by

Digital Content for North American Material Culture

Cultural Analytics

Digital Trends in Cultural Heritage- Moderated by Archaeological Analytics

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