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The Whitney Museum's Winning Threads Strategy
Featuring an interview with Casey Betts, Senior Social Media Manager at the Whitney Museum of American Art.
The dust has settled from the initial Threads launch chaos.
Brands that were posting multiple times per day are now settling into a more realistic cadence.
For some, that means not posting at all and abandoning the platform altogether.
But a few brands have continued to really invest in Threads—building a loyal, engaged audience. The Whitney Museum of American Art is one of those brands. Their irreverent, meme-like posts regularly rack up over 1,000 likes—a number that’s impressively similar to their Instagram engagement.
Their strategy has been noticed by outlets like artnet and commenters will regularly say things like “Whitney is quick w the Threads content omg” and “You’re killing it on here, Whitney.”
For today’s newsletter I chatted with Casey Betts, Senior Social Media Manager at the Whitney, about taking on a more conversational tone on Threads, plotting collaborations with other museums, and using their vast art collection for content inspiration.
Rachel Karten: First can you tell me about your current role and any other previous social (or not!) roles you've had?
Casey Betts: Not sure if this is cringey or a flex, but I’ve worked in social media for museums for my entire career. I started in 2016 at a small museum in Texas—the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston—and later moved to the Menil Collection, also in Houston. In both cases I worked to beef up the museums’ online presences, essentially building their accounts from the ground up.
In January of 2020 I started as the social media manager at the Whitney here in NYC, and three and a half years later I’ve progressed to senior social media manager. I oversee all of our content creation across Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, Facebook, LinkedIn, and now, Threads, including copy writing and community management. I also create and execute a social media strategy, which includes everything from brand voice to emoji use.
RK: I want to mainly talk Threads with you! How soon after Threads launched did the Whitney join?
CB: Immediately! I’m lucky that the Whitney’s Chief Communications and Content Officer trusts my judgment, so I felt comfortable hopping on Threads right when the platform launched. As soon as the app became available, I spent a couple of hours trying to get a feel for its features and functionality on my personal account, then I started posting on the brand account. I really think early adoption was key to our success (if I may call it that!).
RK: Did you go in with a strategy or was it sort of a figure-it-out-as-we-go situation?
CB: Honestly, both. With a brand new social media platform there’s room to play. You can see that our tone on Threads is more casual and conversational than the other channels we’re on, but everything fits into a larger social media strategy.
RK: Now, three weeks in, how would you describe your strategy on the platform?
CB: There are a couple of objectives I’m thinking about when posting on Threads. The Whitney has a collection of some 30,000 objects. It’s impossible to have everything on display at once, so social media posts become an avenue through which to feature artworks from every corner of our collection.
By tapping into existing online chatter using relevant artworks, we get to expose the public to our collection in a way that hopefully feels approachable and authentic. At least for the time being, I’m conscious to not include any sort of CTA on our Threads—we’re really just here to be part of the conversation.
RK: How does your Threads strategy differ from your other platforms? Do you feel there's a distinct voice/tone on Threads?
CB: Yes, definitely! Threads is an opportunity to try something a little different, so we’re taking a more conversational approach than we would on, say, Instagram or Facebook. Given that it’s a platform built to encourage conversation, I think it’s important to have an approachable and casual voice on Threads.
RK: I love all of the museums interacting with each other. Is that something that happened organically?
CB: Mostly, yes! The social media manager at the Guggenheim and I are pals, so we roughly plotted a few collaborations, but a lot of the other interactions were totally unplanned.
It’s been such a joy interacting especially with museums outside of NYC that I don’t get to work with on a regular basis.
RK: What's a post you've done on Threads that you're proud of?
CB: Perhaps the obvious answer to this is when I said “Omg guys I’m not an intern,” which received a lot of attention. I was feeling fed up with all our replies referring to me as an intern. I imagine all social media managers can relate to this one!
I’m also proud of this Andy Warhol x Tomato Girl Summer thread. I really think Andy would’ve loved social media. The last thread I’ll mention is when I put out a call for artists to show us their work. The response was really heartwarming.
RK: Personally, are you hopeful for the future of Threads? Do you see it replacing Twitter?
CB: I’m cautiously hopeful. It’s too early to say whether it can serve as a replacement for other platforms, but there’s certainly an appetite for a less toxic space on the internet. I do think the fact that Thread users’ profiles are tied to their Instagram may foster more accountability, but I also wonder what might happen if (when!) ads and bots start to multiply on the platform.
RK: What advice or tips do you have for brands that haven't quite figured out their Threads strategy?
CB: Don’t overthink it, and don’t take your brand too seriously. Social media users increasingly value authenticity, so I try to keep that front of mind. Sometimes a calculated risk is worth it! Also, I’m not saying you should spend an ungodly amount of time on TikTok, but also I’m not gonna say it hasn’t helped me.
In this week’s Logged On post for paid subscribers we celebrated the social posts that never made it past the approval process. A content graveyard, if you will. You can read all the posts people submitted here.
As always, I have to bring up the Link in Bio Discord! It’s filled with over 400 social media professionals and is just so helpful. Conversations range from cringe brand posts to helpful tips for building a social media portfolio. You can learn more about joining here.