The Art Institute of Chicago and Social Media: 5 Tips to Make Your Online Presence a Masterpiece!

If you live anywhere in or have vacationed in the Chicagoland area, then there’s a good chance you’ve visited the Art Institute of Chicago. As the second largest art museum in the United States, the Art Institute offers visitors the chance to view thousands of permanent works along with dazzling visiting exhibitions.

But that aside, the Art Institute also has a seriously impressive social media presence. Their content and interaction on different networks is varied, interesting, and constantly makes me want to go back and see their artwork. And I’m guessing I’m not the only one.

Here are 5 tips we can pull from the Art Institute’s social media accounts to help make your social media presence just as artistic!

1. Pick the Platforms That Make the Most Sense

While the Art Institute is on a lot of social networks (you can follow them on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, and Pinterest), they aren’t on every single one. Most agree that no matter what your business or organization does, you should be on Facebook and Twitter. But after that, it’s up to you to decide which social networks would be best for your business.

As the Art Institute contains many works of art, they’ve focused on visual social networks like YouTube and Flickr for their second tier of social media. If you run a B2B company that sells marketing solutions, you may have better luck finding leads and networking on LinkedIn or SlideShare.

Takeaway: Don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to keep up with each and every social network. Pick the networks that work best for your brand and that have the majority of your customers.

2. Completely Fill Out Your Profiles

It’s no brainer that you should have your social profiles filled out and properly linked to each other. But that’s only half the work. You also need to have gorgeous cover photos, links, and then take it the next mile.

The Art Institute has done this a few ways. To start, they’ve created a gorgeous Twitter profile by using one of the most recognizable paintings from their collection: one of Monet’s Water Lilies paintings.

art institute twitter

Their Facebook page is also extremely thorough. Their cover photo isn’t just a picture of their building or a hall in the museum; their cover photo changes to showcase their current visiting exhibition.

They’ve also filled out their external links section so that visitors can connect with the museum on a variety of different social networks and websites.

art institute links

And if that wasn’t enough, they’ve also taken the time to fill out their Facebook timeline. Special events for the museum (like new gallery openings and artwork acquisitions) are scattered along their timeline with at least one every couple of years all the way back to 1879 when the museum was founded.

art institute timeline

This encourages Facebook visitors to click around the museum’s history and learn something that they may not have known before. And with pictures accompanying all of the milestones, visitors can see the milestone and it may inspire them to make a visit to the museum.

Takeaway: Completely filling out your social profiles will keep fans and prospective customers engaged with your brand longer. They can also alert fans from one social network to follow you on another.

3. Keep Your Content Varied

Like the best brands, the Art Institute makes sure not to just post self-promotional announcements. In addition to announcements about new exhibits and membership specials, the museum posts fun facts, celebrates artist birthdays, and shares exciting news or tidbits about other art museums. They recognize that their fans are a collection of art lovers, and they would find this content interesting.

For example, they shared this story about a real life doppelganger of a painting from the Philadelphia Museum of Art:

art institute doppelganger

They also made sure to alert fans to painter Claude Monet’s birthday by posting about it on both Facebook and Twitter.

Their YouTube channel also has varying content: their videos range from two minute interviews to forty-five minute discussions; instructional content to teasers for upcoming exhibitions. They also feature videos of Art Institute staff picking out their favorite works. It’s a great way to introduce their audience to both their employees and their collection.

One of my favorite things that the Art Institute does on social media is their Doppelgangers photo album. The museum encourages their visitors to post pictures of themselves with paintings and sculptures that they resemble. Not only is it a fun, interesting way to display their works of art, but it makes fans feel like part of the community and they are crowd-sourcing unique content.

Takeaway: It’s not just about you! Share relevant industry news, post related pictures, and encourage your fans to share their own stories or photos. It’ll help you form a community and loyal fans instead of just serving as another way to broadcast your latest promotion.

4. Engage, engage, engage!

There’s no sense in creating full, visually-appealing profiles if you’re just going to let them sit there. So luckily, the Art Institute makes sure to engage with their fans and followers on a regular basis.

Frequently, when fans reply to a post or tweet, the Art Institute will reply with a clever quip or post some kind of follow up factoid. Lots of people liked, commented on, or shared the Monet’s birthday post. And then the museum followed it up by posting this on Facebook:

follow up post

And replying to a fan on Twitter with this:


It’s amusing, interesting, and most of all, engaging! (You can find that picture here, or by clicking the link in the tweet).

They also make swift replies to fans with questions or concerns.

Takeaway: Make sure that you address any questions, concerns, and other customer service related items on your social media accounts. But also feel free to interact with your fans! The personal touch can plant the seeds for brand loyalty.

5. Stay Up-To-Date to with Trends and Holidays

And part of their varied content comes from commenting on current trends or holidays. It’s smart to post something related to current events on social media. People will be searching for it on Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+, and Facebook will group posts on the same topic in your fan’s new feed.

For example, when Halloween was approaching, the Art Institute started sharing some Halloween-centric content. They made a pinboard of spooky artwork on Pinterest and shared art-themed costume ideas on their Facebook and Twitter accounts.

And during the recent presidential election, the museum shared an article about ballot design while also encouraging their fans to get out and vote.

Takeaway: Latching on to current events, trends, and holidays doesn’t just spice up your content; it also gives your posts a fighting chance to be seen. Being creative with your products and services invites discussion and enthusiasm in your community.

The Art Institute is a great example of an organization that knows exactly how to use social media. They’re a great mix of education, resources, humor, and self-promotion. I think it’s practically impossible to navigate away from their Facebook page without wanting to take a trip to the museum itself.

Do you follow the Art Institute on any social networks? Anything else they’re doing right? Anything that could be improved? Do you also feel the overwhelming need to visit?


Mandy Kilinskis

Mandy is proud to be a part of QLP’s content team. A self-professed nerd, her interests include video games, sitcoms, superhero movies, iPods and iPhones but never Macs, and shockingly, writing. Her claims to fame are: owning over forty pairs of Chuck Taylor All Stars, offering spot-on coffee advice, and knowing an unbelievable amount of Disney Princess facts. You can connect with Mandy on


  1. Cybernetic SAM

    I love the Art Institute! When I worked for a Nursing Home, once a year The AI used to come and give presentations of the art collections to the oldies and at the end they would give all the staff members several FREE FAMILY PASS tickets good for anytime. That was always really neat. So not only do they engage on the social media platform the also reach out in person!

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      Wow, that is awesome, Sam! That’s really cool that they’d bring the art to older fans who might not be able to make a trip to the actual museum, and that they give out passes to the staff members. That’s excellent community outreach if I’ve ever heard it!

      You rock, Art Institute!

  2. Mikey

    Actually, I don’t believe that I’ve ever been to the Art Institute, or at least I don’t remember ever going. Which is surprising, considering that I absolutely love visiting the museums in Chicago. And, yes, now I do feel the need to visit! I must say, they do appear to be quite on top of their social media, and it’s refreshing to see a company/organization that remembers how important it is to do so. These are some great lessons that any company with a social media presence should take to heart. Great and informative post, Mandy!

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      Gasp! You’re definitely going to have to take a visit now. No matter what kind of art interests you (Impressionism, Modern, Greek, Roman, Jewelry, Armor, Furniture), they probably have a few pieces of it. No matter what you personal preference is, they have something that pleases. It’s also the home of my absolute favorite painting, so I’m just a tad biased. 🙂

      I am extremely impressed with their social media. They also have an active blog with frequent posts. They call them ARTicles, which I find to be extremely clever. Thanks for the comment!

      • Eric

        Michael, do yourself a favor and get yourself down to the Art Institute. Back when I was in college, I’d take go down there on Tuesday afternoons to take advantage of the free admission days. Easily one of the greatest art musems in the nation, if not the world altogether. And to experience it for free? Can’t beat it.

        Speaking of…anyone of y’all familiar with what the free admission days are these days?

        • Mandy Kilinskis

          I think Thursday nights are free thanks to Target family nights?

          According to the museum website:

          Free Wednesdays
          Admission to the Art Institute of Chicago is free to Illinois residents the first and second Wednesday of every month.

          So there’s that.

  3. Rachel

    Awesome write-up, Mandy! It has been far too long since I’ve visited the Art Institute. I had no idea they had such a widespread and engaging social media presence. I think your #4 point — how they reply to fans — is especially meaningful. Brands that take the time to interact with fans, answer questions, etc. are far more impressive to me because they’re actually using social media socially instead of just as a branding platform. Not that the latter is always bad! But interactivity is an extra step that many companies just don’t risk taking.

    Now, off to like the Art Institute on Facebook. 🙂 Thanks for the great post, Mandy!

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      Totally agree, Rachel! I’ve been pretty blown away by all of the Chicago museums’ social media. The majority of those brand do reply to you. I asked the Shedd Aquarium about their latest whale calf, and they replied to me – that was really cool.

      I stumbled onto the Art Institute on Facebook kind of by accident, and I am so glad I did! Thanks, Rachel!

  4. Eric

    I never knew they’d such a sense of humor about themselves! The Halloween costume suggestion, ala Picasso. They’ve always been my favorite Chicago museum. Neat stuff, Mandy. Had no idea they’d as much presence online as they do.

    • Mandy Kilinskis

      Their humor on social media is so refreshing! It’d be pretty lame to just share some boring status updates about their programs. I guess it’s just another reason to be your favorite Chicago museum!

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