If you’ve been online just once during the past month, you have probably came across at least one video in which the time seems to stand still, the camera seemingly floating between people frozen in action. Well, that’s the now unmissable Mannequin Challenge.

Each year seem to get its viral video challenge. 2013 had the Harlem Shake, in 2014 people showered in ice cubes for the Ice Bucket Challenge, Drake’s Hotline Bling ruled 2015 and 2016 saw the Mannequin Challenge booming.

All those internet phenomena (and many others) have an enormous following on social media, with thousands of versions popping up, featuring anyone from Mark Zuckerberg and Taylor Swift to teachers from the school next door.

For the Mannequin Challenge – that started at the beginning of November – museums were not exactly massive early adopters, but some have successfully used it to showcase a bit of their everyday life, summed up in one motionless minute or two, like the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston or SCHIRN in Frankfurt.


If you have not filmed your mannequin challenge yet, the internet lifecycle makes it a bit too late, but here are some tips so you can make the most of the next opportunity!

  1. Keep an eye on what’s trending and act quick

Twitter may be the best place for that, as massive trends are easy to find through the trending topics… You should quite naturally find major hashtags and clicking on them should make their signification quite clear. This requires a your social media team to be truly internet-savvy, as they will quite possibly find out about the trends scrolling around the web for their personal use. Once the trend is found and the decision is taken, find how to get it going and where it fits it your social media schedule. A well-executed internet challenge allows a museum to reach an audience beyond their usually one, and certainly made of slightly younger folks. For example, the MFA Boston’s Mannequin Challenge feature above already has more than 66,000 views, vs. 2,000 to 10,000 views for the majority of their videos.

  1. Then again, don’t rush

Not every trend is worth your attention. A new challenge comes to life pretty much every week. Dancing, singing, planking, reciting the alphabet underwater… You name it! Some of them are real fads (fads that will last even less than 6 weeks and will reach just a small amount of people), some are here to stay (6 weeks is the new century), some seem to have a very small outreach but are huge in your core community. Some will be done in one click (sharing a cat from your collection on #InternationalCatDay), some will require more work. To have an idea of how big a trend is, click on its hashtag on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram to see who does it. Then, Google it. Are major media like Mashable or USA Today talking about it? It’s big, you can go for it – if it fits your image, of course.

Not every trend will allow you to highlight your collection, your staff, your events or even your visitors, so choose wisely and don’t pour a bucket of ice on your communications teams just yet. As James Doc from the Victoria & Albert Museum stated it in a presentation about adopting trends: Ask yourself if your organization has anything to say to the fad?

  1. Engage your staff all-year long

As those trends have a quite-short life time, you will want to create your content as fast as possible to make it impactful. As content like the Mannequin Challenge requires the involvement of museum curators and teams, you need to be able to make as little explaining as possible it you want to get the project going quickly. The museum staff will be more open to take part in a project that can seem like just a gimmick if they are aware of your long-term social media strategy… and if they are part of it with more serious content. Your Greek Antiquities curators may be easier to convince to stand still or to lipdub for a minute if they know who you are beforehand and knows that they will also do one or several videos in which they can share his work and passion with your fans and followers (or if you help them set up their own social media accounts!)

We do not know yet what trends 2017 will bring (will the post-it war come back? will we make human chain contests?), but we cannot wait to see how you and your teams will use them to shed light on your institution!



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