The Cleveland Museum of Art invites visitors to explore, interact, and create their own content from the treasures inside it. It’s an inspiration for anyone in content marketing.

When we love a work of art, it doesn’t just settle on the surface. It seeps into our hearts, our minds, our spirit. We feel the colors of a painting become part of us; the notes of a beloved song resonate within us.

Art is an experience.

In that spirit, the Cleveland Museum of Art has crafted ArtLens, an award-winning interactive space that encourages visitors to immerse themselves in different forms of artwork through technology and share those experiences with their friends and family.

So, what does this art experience have to do with social media? A lot

At a recent session at a Content Marketing World conference, marketing expert Heidi Cohen urged marketers to attend the Cleveland Museum of Art to see how it does content: “Beyond its status as a gem of a museum, this AI-powered content experience underscores 2019’s seismic content marketing shift. ArtLens delivers a personalized experience across devices.”

After attending her session, I planned a visit to the Cleveland Art Museum—and am richer for it personally and professionally.

After all, at the heart of social media, we craft stories and engage our audience.

By looking closely at how ArtLens at the Cleveland Museum of Art engages its visitors and interacts with them, we can find inspiration for our own social media content and customer experience.

Related Post: Social Media Management 

1. Focus on making ONE [big thing] better for your audience.

In the case of the Cleveland Art Museum, its focus is on making art better for their audience through technology, such as facial recognition, gesture-sensing projections, and eye-tracking technology.

“The biggest discovery [in the museum’s data analysis] was that participants who spent time in ArtLens Gallery were able to report greater gains in art understanding and knowledge than those who did not,” according to Hannah Ridenour, Research Manager, Research and Evaluation, The Cleveland Museum of Art.

The museum makes art better for visitors.

Letting visitors physically and digitally experience the content, up close and personal

For example, in the ArtLens space, the Reveal and Zoom station features a huge screen that methodically flips through works of art to display. Visitors standing on the special carpet in front of the screen can move their bodies to stop and magnify certain areas of a specific piece of work.

When I visited the ArtLens space, an elderly woman in a wheelchair was being pushed gently along that floor space by a younger woman, who’d stop when prompted. Both young and old were able to experience the artwork and digitally dive deeper into it.

Educating visitors via different channels and in several ways

The Cleveland Museum of Art invites visitors to use its unique award-winning app.

download artlens app

Once this free app is uploaded onto a visitor’s cellphone, the visitor can begin accessing supplementary information about works of art with the “Scan” sign next to them.


Most impressively, the app enables visitors to create their own tour of the Cleveland Art Museum via its astounding 5 feet by 40 feet ArtLens Wall.

“The ArtLens Wall, a 40-foot interactive, multi-touch, MicroTile wall, displays, in real time, all works of art from the permanent collection currently on view in the galleries—between 4,200 and 4,500 artworks at any given time,” according to the museum.

“Visitors can save favorites to their iOS/Android device on ArtLens App from the Wall by placing their device on one of eight docking stations and connecting seamlessly using Bluetooth,” according to the museum.

“The visitor’s favoriting and sharing activity creates metrics that enable museum staff to understand what artworks visitors are engaging with, creating a feedback loop with the museum. Visitors can also queue curated themes to display on the ArtLens Wall, playing them like a jukebox that changes every 40 seconds.”

For social media managers, ask yourself: What content can I create that encourages my audience to immerse themselves in it and share it on their social media channels? What types of user experience can I craft for my different social channels?

2. Inspire user-generated content by encouraging your audience to take videos, write blog posts, and snap pics of their experience with you.

The museum encourages visitors to draw inspiration from the work around them and create their own artistic content.

In the ArtLens space, the Creative Studio offers four stations for visitors: Pottery Wheel, Collage Maker, Portrait Maker, and Paint Play.

ArtLens gallery visitors can spin virtual clay to form their own digital piece of pottery or move their hands through the air before a digital “canvas” that captures their portrait-making.

My favorite experience in the ArtLens space was making digital collages. I sat in front of a small digital screen that provides different works of art based on various categories, chose some pieces of art, and traced objects or people in the artwork then dragged that traced section of art to a bigger screen on the wall in front of me.

user generated content

my collage

In doing this, I spent time engrossed in the artwork, learned more about it, and made it my own. When I was done, I could review all the elements used in my collage.

collage for social content

Like most experiences, those shared are the most memorable. So, the museum encourages visitors to share images on its Tumblr site for its collage maker:

digital experience and social content example

For social media managers, ask yourself: Are you inviting your followers to create content? Are you providing content-inspiring moments (contests, photo opportunities, etc.)? Are you monitoring social media feeds to see what followers are creating so you can share it in your social media channels? (Agorapulse’s monitoring feature can help you listen to social chatter about your brand and see what UGC is being created.)

3. Equip your customers to take their newfound knowledge and/or experiences into their own spaces.

A far-reaching social media experience goes beyond the channel and into the everyday of followers. Such social content will encourage followers to participate in offline events, attend meet-ups, create content (see above section) for “real-world” examples of the brand in the wild, etc.

For example, at the MIX at CMA event invites museum visitors to interact with one another, experience artwork, enjoy soundscapes from eclectic DJs, and share their videos and pictures on social media channels.

For social media managers, ask yourself: What events and activities can my brand create to share on social media channels? How can I get content for my social media feeds from offline interactions with followers?


Did ArtLens Make a Positive Difference for Its Visitors?

The entire visitor (i.e., customer) experience that the Cleveland Museum of Art has carefully and intelligently crafted is a thorough one: from the visitor’s understanding of art (through scanning artwork and curating one’s own tour) to experiencing the art (through digital collages, pottery making, and painting) to sharing the art with each other (through time spent in the ArtLens gallery and such events as MIX).

Was the immense amount of time, effort, and money that the museum put into the creation of the ArtLens space worth it?

Yes. A thousand times, yes.

“One of the most intriguing findings across all ArtLens Gallery visitors was the differences between their pre-visit and post-visit survey responses around art comprehension,” according to the Art Museums and Technology Developing New Metrics to Measure Visitor Engagement whitepaper.

Museum visitors were asked to reflect on their experience and what they found meaningful. The results reported were that:

  • 76% of participants agreed that their overall museum experience encouraged them to look closely at art
  • 74% said they noticed new things
  • 73% said it increase their interest in the museum’s collection
  • 78% agreed that it increased their perception of the CMA as a welcoming place for a variety of visitors
  • 76% said they felt the CMA was forward-thinking and innovative

Also, to keep its content fresh and encourage repeat visitors, the masterpieces at ArtLens are rotated out every 18 months.

If you’re interested in experiencing ArtLens, visit the Cleveland Art Museum at 11150 East Blvd, Cleveland, OH 44106-1797 during these hours.

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