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With more than a billion daily users, WeChat is an essential tool for cultural destinations striving to connect with China. The vast majority of Chinese cultural institutions are already well-established on WeChat, but there remains huge potential for western institutions to utilize the platform to engage Chinese audiences.

Each month Jing Travel examines how cultural institutions are performing on WeChat and looks behind the numbers by giving insight on successful strategies.

Western Museums and Cultural Institutions

With vast swathes of the Chinese populace housebound due to the coronavirus, people spent more time online and most institutions saw reads increase over the month of February. Posts about Valentine’s Day proved particularly popular.

Art Institute of Chicago

For decades, the audio guide has helped museums welcome and engage foreign visitors in their native languages. With research showing Chinese travelers desire cultural background knowledge when visiting western museums, institutions should consider following Art Institute of Chicago (AIC) in making audio content available on WeChat. AIC’s top February post explained how followers can access curatorial insights on museum masterpieces. Following the key provided, users message AIC’s WeChat account with a number to receive the corresponding audio clip — e.g. type ‘11’ to learn about Pablo Picasso’s “The Old Guitarist”. The feature is a smart use of WeChat’s auto message function and can be easily expanded over time.

Asian Art Museum

Asian Art Museum’s first February post succeeds in offering readership both heartfelt support and engaging content. Leading with a message wishing health and safety to the museum’s friends and families, the post then guides readers on a ‘Exhibition Cloud Tour’ (云逛展). It integrates personable videos by museum director Jay Xu with concise text and well-considered photographs to detail collection highlights. The guided walkthrough may not reach the immersive heights of Chinese institutions, but it stands as the museum’s most read post since our index began in May 2019, which shows the current demand for quality online art content in China.

Chinese Museums and Cultural Institutions

February’s dip in reader views reflects Chinese cultural sites remaining closed during the coronavirus outbreak. Some institutions, however, have used WeChat to publicize innovative digital strategies (such as UCCA’s concert series on livestreaming platform Kuaishou) and saw traffic rise accordingly.

Suzhou Museum

WeChat is proving a pivotal communication and engagement tool for Chinese museum during the coronavirus outbreak. As Suzhou Museum is demonstrating, the potential of posts on China’s most popular social platform extends far beyond text, gifs, and images. From providing virtual tours and lecture videos, to offering a range of mini games, Suzhou is showing the demand that exists for playful and educational material through readership numbers that grew by 36 percent from January. While the reopening of Chinese museums remains uncertain, government directives and institutional initiatives are taking the digitization of museums in exciting new directions.

HOW Art Museum

HOW Art Museum, HOW Store, Yitiao, Modern Media Group, MOVE THE MIND, ART021 and 80 arts institutions, have launched the charity auction “Standing Together Through Thick and Thin”. It will fund the procurement of medical supplies for around 100 schools in areas affected by the virus. The proposal has received considerable attention with HOW Art Museum donating artworks worth RMB 8 million ($1.15 million). The auction took place March 2 to 5 on short-video platform, Yitiao, further evidence of how Chinese technology platforms are being harnessed during the epidemic.

WeChat Index Content by Richard Whiddington and Wenzhuo Wu

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The Jing Museum Index