UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage


Increasing heritage engagement using social media

15 June 2023

How can heritage organisations increase engagement on social media? UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage in collaboration with Historic Environment Scotland have uncovered the top 5 types of Instagram post to maximise engagement.

Image of a phone with the screen displaying an instagram feed

Together with Data Science for Cultural Heritage MSc student Tian Cui, ISH academics Pakhee Kumar and Scott Orr published an open-access paper on ‘Connecting characteristics of social media activities of a heritage organisation to audience engagement’ in the journal Digital Applications in Archaeology and Cultural Heritage. The article uses posts and stories published on Historic Environment Scotland’s Instagram account @historicscotland between Feb 2018-Feb 2020.  

The research highlights that there are five types of posts that received an extraordinary number of comments:  

  1. Participatory posts - posts that invited users to engage with the post
  2. Storytelling posts - posts that describe events and stories related to a particular heritage site 
  3. Posts that shared other users’ content
  4. Posts relating heritage context to popular media
  5. Informative posts

Often these content types were used in combination. It was also noted the use of an informal conversational tone used in these posts helped to build an informal relationship with the users.

Stories on Instagram are photos and videos that disappear from the profile after 24 hours of posting. The sequential nature of stories adds complexity to how users engage with them. The findings suggest that regardless of the story length, the first and second slides receive more impressions, generally decreasing consistently after that.

These findings can help heritage organisations willing to engage with users on Instagram. 

This research was supported by a Memorandum of Understanding between Historic Environment Scotland and the UCL Institute for Sustainable Heritage with the aim to collaborate on data science applications, heritage science, and technologies for the historic environment.