March 11, 2021 / News & Blog

Learning through and about Social Media

This article is part of the “Forged in Fire: New Models” issue of Hand to Hand. Click here to read other articles in the issue.


On March 16, 2020, after PAPALOTE closed our venues in Chapultepec in Mexico City, Cuernavaca, and Monterrey to visitors to help stop the spread of COVID-19, we made quick decisions to remain present and in contact with our audiences: children, families, and teachers. Like everyone else, we thought this extraordinary situation would last only a few weeks.

Within ten days, we created a microsite called PAPALOTE en Casa (PAPALOTE@Home), with articles, activities, videos, and health department updates for a predominantly urban audience equipped with digital devices and internet connections. We disseminated this free content through different social networks (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter). Initially, our priority was to quickly generate useful content for families heading into confinement.

It soon became clear that our buildings would not reopen soon and that our primary audience contact would remain virtual indefinitely. We realized we needed to evaluate everything about the website, combining both quantitative and qualitative data to inform future directions.

A sampling of twenty weeks (March 26–September 15) of quantitative results revealed the following data about PAPALOTE@Home:

  • 2.2 million visits
  • More than 610,000 users
  • 30 percent of users were recurring
  • Average browsing per visit: two minutes.

Social networks participation broke down as follows:

  • 17 million users reached
  • More than 724 total clicks and interactions
  • More than 5.7 million views on Facebook.
  • Facebook: Increase of 40,000 followers compared to 2019 (+6.6%).
  • Instagram: Increase of 7,000 followers compared to 2019 (+22%).

The numbers tell a powerful story, but we wanted to know more than the quantity of clicks or views. We wanted feedback on content, but also to know what people were feeling. Conducting opinion polls with a rigorous methodology was not feasible due to limited time and resources, especially with closed venues. Instead, we decided to carefully review the comments left by our digital community on social networks.

As of November, we had surveyed 12,000 opinions expressed by our social media followers. More than 70 percent (8,390 responses) of the comments were positive. Most of them congratulated the museum for helping families during confinement with activities specifically developed to carry out at home. Teachers appreciated the information about health and wellness.

What Have We Learned?

Successfully engaging with virtual audiences involves a lot more than simply presenting a museum’s content online. Our digital visitors are different from our physical visitors. Among physical visitors, 50 percent were families with preschoolers. But visitor ages have broadened for our new online programs. Further, parents expressed interest in activities that children can do on their own, without parents’ help, because they are working from home. As a result, we now offer activities for kids ages zero to five that require parents’ help, as well as programs for kids six to ten and ten to twelve that they can do on their own.

With our virtual programming, PAPALOTE entered the privacy of our users’ homes, becoming present in their daily lives. Users prefer content that is related to what they are experiencing day-to-day. Social media has the power to reach people who cannot physically visit our museums, but digital content goes beyond a virtual visit to the facilities. For example, we have learned that characters work better on social media than straight museum content. The PAPALOTE’s Facebook Live stream features characters, like Santiago, who has thirty-five stories to tell. Our recipe: keep it simple and homely, not fancy.

Based on all that we have learned, we are designing the new version of PAPALOTE at Home 2.0. We are doing more with less. In some ways, PAPALOTE was a victim of the “sparkling effect”—everything at the museum was beautiful and shiny. Now, sizing down our programs without sacrificing quality, our team is looking at what we have done well, and what we have not. What topics should we address next?

Best case scenario, PAPALOTE’s Chapultepec museum will open in late 2021. Reopening dates for our facilities in Monterrey and Cuernavaca have not been determined yet. Even after we are fully reopened, the digital community we created is here to stay.

  • WEB:
  • FB: @PapaloteMuseo
  • IG: @Papalote_museo
  • Tw: @Papalote_museo