Coming Full Circle With Hashtags:From the Museum to Instagram and Back

The Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh accompanies its exhibition Strength in Numbers: Photography in Groups with a social media campaign asking visitors to share photos of their “real day” on Instagram: No filters, no best days, no fakeness.

Coming full circle, the entries can be viewed on a device at the museum, the best posts will become part of a musical experiment at the end of the exhibition.

Facts #CMOArealday
Customer: Carnegie Museum of Art
Website: www.cmoa.org/realday
Social Media Wall: walls.io/cmoa
Campaign Duration: July 2016 to January 2017
Channels connected: Instagram
Main hashtag: #cmoarealday

The Carnegie Museum of Art was one of the first museums in the United States with a focus on contemporary art, with approximately 1,800 pieces of art on display at any given time. The CMOA is also one of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, originally founded by Pittsburgh industrialist Andrew Carnegie.

An unfiltered perspective on real life

The CMOA’s exhibit Strength in Numbers: Photography in Groups explores the power of stories told via multiple photographs examining a subject. The collection is organised around three themes: People, Place, and Perspective.

Strength in Numbers exhibition at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh. Photo by Bryan Conley
The Strength in Numbers exhibition at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh. (Photo: Bryan Conley)

Rounding out the exhibit is the CMOA’s social media campaign asking visitors to share their perspective on life on Instagram. #cmoarealday is about sharing how photographs can tell a bigger story. But the CMOA doesn’t care about styled shots, they want the real thing.

The hashtag campaign has only one rule, according to the #cmoarealday website: “If something is ‘on fleek,’ we don’t want to see it. Keep your sunsets, magazine-quality food shots, and perfectly styled selfies. We want to see the reality of your world, good, bad, and meh.”

From art to Instagram to music

Instagram posts using the hashtag #cmoarealday are posted to the CMOA’s social wall on Walls.io. The wall is also embedded on cmoa.org/realday and will be on display in the exhibition gallery. At the end of the exhibition in January 2017, the #cmoarealday submissions will be used as inspiration for songs written by local Pittsburgh musicians.

We had a quick chat with Brad Stephenson, Director of Marketing at the Carnegie Museum of Art about their #cmoarealday hashtag campaign.

Is this your first hashtag campaign?

No, but it’s the first one we’ve promoted in such a strategic way.

Why did you choose Walls.io for it?

We were seeking an affordable solution to social content aggregation because our marketing budget for the exhibition is limited. After a demo of Walls.io, it seemed to offer the flexibility and branding capability to help us achieve our goals.

How did you utilise Walls.io for your hashtag campaign?

We’re using it to display images posted to Instagram using #cmoarealday. The wall will be shared online, and it will also be displayed in the exhibition space at the museum on an iPad with a wall label explaining the campaign and encouraging participation. When the campaign is over, we will host an event that invites local singer/songwriters to create musical works based on their favourite images from the campaign.

How did you come up with your campaign?

Strength in Numbers: Photography in Groups draws on the collections of all four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh to explore the combined power of multiple photographs. Photographers often make groups of photographs to create narratives or examine subjects in greater detail. In many instances, a single picture is not enough to tell the complete story. We wanted to leverage the current way people use photography to tell their daily stories — through social media. But we wanted to add a light touch so we decided to ask people to give us real images and not those they’ve heavily filtered or curated.

Which hashtags did you pick for your campaign and why?

#cmoarealday — it includes the museum CMOA brand, was not used previously, and says exactly what we’re seeking.

How are you incentivising users?

We’re incentivizing by sharing their images both online and in the museum. We’ll also be hosting a live event recognising some of our favourite submissions.

What do you want to achieve with your hashtag campaign?

We would love to have more than 5,000 images collected at the hashtag by the end of the campaign, and we’d like awareness of the exhibition to be increased as a result of the campaign.

How and where are you promoting the hashtag and the social media wall?

We’ll be promoting the hashtag on our social media channels, in an email to subscribers, and in the exhibition gallery.

Where are you embedding Walls.io?

We’re embedding Walls.io on the campaign page and on an iPad in the exhibition space.

What were the highlights of the user-generated content so far?

We’ve only recently launched, but we’ve received nearly 500 images. Here are two of our early favourites:

my handsome boyfriend reads a story to my elderly dog #cmoarealday

A photo posted by Allyson Knights (@allysonknights) on

Summer in my neighborhood means playing gunshots or fireworks. #cmoarealday

A photo posted by Patrick Dexter (@pizzadick) on

Art and social media coming full circle

The CMOA’s “real day” campaign is an excellent example for how social media, art and real life intersect. The project easily crosses the borders between the local and global spheres of action, taking it from Pittsburgh to the whole of the internet and back to Pittsburgh.

I like the idea that a museum visitor coming to see the photography exhibition will be inspired by the art to go out and take photos documenting their own real life. Those photos will find their way onto Instagram, where Walls.io will fetch them via their hashtag and display them on a social media wall.

CMOArealday promotion at the Museum, Photo by Bryan Conley
A note at the museum invites visitors to interact with the #cmoarealday hashtag. The resulting social wall is shown on a small screen next to it. (Photo: Bryan Conley)

And, taking it back to the local level, the social wall will be displayed at the museum again, by embedding it on an iPad. Once the exhibition is over, local musicians will come and create something based on the best of those social media posts.

Walls.io Tip:
Reward your fans for using your hashtag! Don’t worry, you don’t always have to go big as the CMOA does and have artists create songs based on the posts. But a little recognition goes a long way.

The project shows that hashtag campaigns don’t always have to be big and global, but that you can use globally available tools like Walls.io for a project that is important to your local community.

Bring your own hashtag campaign to life with Walls.io — The Social Wall for Everyone!