Radiotopia, ‘99% Invisible’ & the Guggenheim Take You on a Tour… Virtually

Not your typical Zoom virtual event

Mariel Cariker
PRX Official


Image courtesy of the Guggenheim

In this time of lockdowns and quarantine, with heightened news cycles, you might be feeling a bit of social media burnout. Honestly, I am too. In planning out Radiotopia’s social media strategy over these past few months, I’ve been asking myself, how are we positively contributing to people’s timelines? What can we offer that’s new and interesting?

Like many others, during the pandemic I miss taking trips, and I miss going to museums in new destinations. I miss strolling through and looking at art, getting a coffee in the café, reading every intricate installation description. This made me think about how to bring what we love about traveling and museums to us at home. “99% Invisible’s” episode featuring Roman Mars’ audio tour of the Guggenheim museum came immediately to mind.

After teaming up with the Guggenheim and “99% Invisible” teams, a Twitter chat, and virtual tour were born.

Event Overview

We coordinated a live Twitter chat event to virtually bring Guggenheim patrons and “99% Invisible” listeners to the Guggenheim virtually. The Twitter chat was coordinated to follow along with the “99% Invisible” audio tour of the Guggenheim. Our teams looked at the best times to get engagement on social media and found that Friday was the most active day. While mornings are typically great times for social posting and engagement, we chose a time in the afternoon to meet different time zone needs. Guggenheim & Radiotopia are on the East Coast, and “99% Invisible” is on the West Coast.

“99% Invisible” host Roman Mars and Ashley Mendelsohn, Assistant Curator, Architecture and Digital Initiatives at the Guggenheim Museum offered the opportunity for participants to share their memories of the Guggenheim while listening to the episode and following along with the hashtag #99piGugg.

Ashley and Roman shared fun facts and behind the scenes photos, and encouraged listeners following along to share their own images of the Guggenheim, and share what museums they’ve been missing.

The Twitter chat format allowed for easy engagement, evergreen sharing, and an accessible point of entry and discovery, where people could hop in and out, and view later.

“The museum had never participated in a Twitter Chat before,” says Olivia Manno, the Guggenheim’s Social Media Producer, “but we immediately recognized it as a social initiative that was tailor-made for this particular moment. Our “99% Invisible” episode is such a highlight for the institution, so having the chance to not only revisit it but to engage with the audience, as well, was an opportunity we didn’t want to pass up. I think that, because of the pandemic, people are searching for connection more than ever, and often turn to social media to find it. That was the beauty of the Twitter Chat — it was equal parts nostalgic, interactive, and informative, and seemed to collectively inspire the participants.”

Ashley agrees, adding that, “the best thing about the format was that it provided a platform to engage on a deeper level with a self-selecting group of followers that wanted to know more, which was why we could provide such specific building, construction, design, and history anecdotes.”

Results & Data

We saw increased downloads of the “99% Invisible” episode during the Twitter chat, as well as higher than average engagement on Radiotopia’s Twitter page.

Based on download data, “99% Invisible” back catalogue episodes tend to peak on new episode drop days, likely based on people going back and listening to old episodes. We saw a similar peak on the episode on the day of the Twitter chat, despite it not being a drop day. So the rise in downloads can be connected to the Twitter chat.

99% Invisible download numbers per day

If we look at the hourly view, we can see a specific peak at the exact time of the Twitter chat.

Hourly downloads of ‘Audio Guide to the Imperfections of a Perfect Masterpiece’

To calculate data for engagement on Radiotopia’s Twitter, we tracked the data on the weekend before the chat, and after. On July 10–13th, the weekend before the chat, we saw 164 total engagements on Twitter and had 55,660 followers. The weekend of the chat, July 17–20th, we saw 242 total engagements and 55,757 followers. This was an increase of 47.6% in engagements and 0.2% in followers. One hundred and sixty-three of those engagements happened on the day of the chat itself.

What Worked?

Although this was a Twitter chat and not a typical “live video” online event, we still used an Eventbrite event to collect the emails of interested participants. Eventbrite sent out a reminder to registrants about the chat two days before, two hours before and 10 minutes before. We were able to send an email after the event with links to the Guggenheim’s website, “99% Invisible’s” Apple Podcasts page, and Radiotopia’s newsletter. We saw a burst of new subscribers to the newsletter from this email outreach.

Partnering with the Guggenheim allowed for multiple people to work on the project and provide support. This chat allowed us to deepen our relationship with the Guggenheim, based on the previous relationship built with “99% Invisible” when the episode was first created.

Plus, we saw a lot of positive feedback from participants and listeners on Twitter!

Replies from participants on Twitter during the chat

Moving Forward

Through the chat, we reached potential new listeners who are fans of the Guggenheim, museums at large, and maybe haven’t heard of “99% Invisible.” We introduced the Guggenheim audience to the Radiotopia social platforms and vice versa. We engaged “99% Invisible” super-fans to relisten to the Guggenheim episode and interact with Roman, the Guggenheim, and Radiotopia.

We’re going to take what we learned from this Twitter chat, and apply it to upcoming social media strategies and digital events. Especially as COVID-19 doesn’t seem to be going anywhere any time soon.