Accelerated by the pandemic, Chinese museums have proactively embraced the rapidly-expanding livestream platforms. By late 2020, their user-base numbered 617 million people, accounting for more than 60% of total Internet users in the country.
Apart from dominant apps Douyin and Kuaishou, Alibaba is also forging into the market, not only through Taobao Live e-commerce livestreaming but also Fliggy, specialising in cultural & tourism live-streaming. In May 2020, Fliggy, one-stop travel app launched a campaign among international museums, namely “A Virtual Tour to European Museums”. Up to February 2021, participants include The Palace of Versailles, The British Museum, The Prado Museum, The Musee du Louvre, The Centre Pompidou, The Musée d’Orsay and The Natural History Museum (London). For the majority, it was their livestream debut in China! How was it? Here are our observations and thoughts!
New Audience Outreach
In August 2020, the V&A museum in London, aligned with Kuaishou, aired a two-hour long tour of the museum, attracting 3.8m viewers. Unlike Kuaishou, Fliggy live-streaming focuses solely on tourism and therefore total viewers were, in comparison, much lower. According to Fliggy, its target users are Internet-savvy, young Chinese, especially with a strong desire for outbound trips. For international museums, to collaborate with Fliggy might be a better choice to reach out to this new audience.
The British Museum livestream achieved the greatest number of viewers (and likes), attributable perhaps to the institution’s high brand awareness in China through touring exhibitions and product licensing, etc. More importantly, the British Museum is always a ‘must-see destination’ for Chinese travellers to the UK.
It’s also worth noting, apart from The Prado and The Natural History Museum, the remaining Fliggy participants had already established visibility on Chinese social media – Weibo or WeChat. (The Musée d’Orsay suspended its Weibo account in 2018).
It is common to use “gifts” to reduce audience ‘churn’ during live-streaming. The British Museum, the Prado and The Louvre all used gifts to increase audience engagement.
Experiences on tackling the language barriers
The nature of livestream has amplified the language barriers between Chinese audience and international museums.
3 of the 7 museums chose consecutive interpretation, such as the British Museum and the Natural History Museum. Although consecutive interpretation can create a strong atmosphere of being live, the prolonged experiences will increase the risk of losing the audience. For example, when livestreamed in the photography exhibition at Natural History Museum, the host took 16 seconds to make an initial introduction, while the translator took similar amount of time to complete the translation. However, the camera failed to use visual language to make up the prolonged experience, but just filmed the host waiting for the completion of the translation.
2 of the 7 museums chose simultaneous interpretation, such as Palace of Versailles and the Louvre Museum. Three museums in France- Palace of Versailles, the Louvre Museum and Musée d’Orsay, appointed the same French interpreter to deliver the Mandarin translation simultaneously. Even though the simultaneous interpretation has much improved the prolonged translation experiences, the tone of translation restricts the full nature of livestream, which is casual, intimate, live communication.
2 of the 7 museums chose to livestream in Mandarin directly. During the Centre Pompidou livestream, the host, a Chinese Guide-conférencière from the museum, delivered a smooth and native introduction of the Pompidou collection in her mother tongue. The language has made the audience feel relatable immediately.
On average, each of the Fliggy livestream embedded 26 products. Apart from the British Museum having included some of their licensed products, the majority of the products were from the category of TOURISM related to the destination, such as visa service, e-tickets, flights booking, hotel booking, guided-tours, etc. Although people can tell what products were from Fliggy, what were from the museums, it’s unavoidable to make association between the listed products with the museum brands.
To our surprise, it is the first that we observed that ALCOHOL brands were promoted during a museum live-streaming. In the Musée d’Orsay livestream, Hennessy and Martell were on the top 2 in the product list. And Martell official Weibo reposted the Fliggy announcement of the livestream.
Keep the Audience Attention
1. Make sure you’ve got the right gadgets! You need video STABILIZER, you might need extra lighting, and you definitely need ultra-fast INTERNET!!! The technical quality of IMAGE is the KEY to a successful live-streaming. No one would stay to be tortured by the desperate “loading”. If the connection speed and quality is poor, then it is “DEAD-Streaming” rather than a “LIVE-Streaming”. 2. The quality of the SOUND is equally crucial, which means you’d better have professional MICROPHONES. Also, make sure there is no other disturbing background music to distract your long-distance viewers, who can’t contextualise the sound naturally from afar.
3. Lots of INTERACTION please. This is the main element differentiating live-streaming from a video. If there is no simultaneous interaction, it is a waste of people’s efforts to make such an online appointment happen. Two way communication, also read and respond to people’s comments and react. Lots of gifts please!!!
4. A HOOK, show something exclusively to the audience, such as behind the scene. For example, the Centre Pompidou showed a rooftop Paris sunrise, while the Natural History Museum included some object handling during the livestream to give the audience a more interactive experience.
Social Media : Before & After Livestream
The official Chinese social media accounts of international museums generally promote upcoming livestreams on their agenda. Without an official account, Natural History Museum livestream was promoted via other accounts of supporters or collaborators, such as the Weibo of The British Embassy in Beijing, British Consulate General Guangzhou, and a few tourism KOLs or influencers.
After the livestream, it is also important to use social media, including RED and others, to collect feedback and generate further discussion and interest among the existing followers and the newly-converted followers. Social media can also make the most use of the livestream. For example, The Louvre Museum re-edited the livestream video and posted on Weibo grouped into 4 different sections, which hit 1,158 reposts in total.
By Lanyi Jiang – Social media manager
Thank you for reading. Feel free to reach out if you need any advice and services in cross-cultural communication. ARTouch Consulting is a boutique cross-cultural PR and digital communication agency, specialising in arts, culture and luxury lifestyle, connecting brands with vibrant Chinese audiences and consumers. We provide A to Z PR and digital communication solutions.