Connecting to the arts

This month, researcher Devon V. Smith released a report for the Theatre Bay Area on how 207 arts organizations around the world are using social media. It has a tremendous amount of information, some intuitive and some suggestive. I highly recommend a full read for anyone invested in helping arts organizations with their growth in this field.

As might be expected, most arts organizations are on three major platforms: Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, with only Facebook being used by the vast majority (91%). Other platforms, from Flickr to FourSquare, are represented, but in significantly fewer numbers.

Network sizes also remain tremendously small for most platforms. After Facebook (average of 1,609 likes) and Twitter (average of 726 followers), the next highest networks are minuscule in comparison, though YouTube material had a median of 853 views per video despite the low number of channel subscribers.

Among the takeaways from the study:

Frequency: The more frequently an arts organization participated in social media activities, the more they were rewarded with audience participation, stronger networks, and check-ins. Organizations on Facebook that posted multiple times per day got far more likes and comments per post. The largest arts organization in the study tweeted 20 or more times a day on average and had over 200,000 followers as a result. The key threshold for Twitter seemed to be 4 or more tweets per day. More frequent blog posts correlated positively to more subscribers.

Content is still king though, and the study discovered that there was a non-linear relationship for video uploads. The two strategies that seemed to work best was posting incredible videos less often or posting very often. The laser vs. shotgun approach of sorts.

Ownership: Taking advantage of vanity URLs on Facebook Pages, taking ownership of performance venues on Yelp and FourSquare, self-hosted blogs, and so forth, all had big payouts. Patrons seem to take their lead from the organizations in how serious they are about that particular platform. In the case of FourSquare, taking ownership of the venue was, in fact, far more significant even than any kind of special run through FourSquare. While that may indicate that venues haven’t found what works for them in creating activity through good

specials, it still underlines the importance of meeting audiences where they are and being interested and present in the social media platforms they enjoy.

Fundraising: There still seems to be no clear front-runner for fundraising services. As noted in the New York Times, giving sites are seen somewhat skeptically by donors as intermediaries have a stigma of diminishing one’s gift. Network for Good has shown in studies of their own that fundraising on the organization’s own branded pages was still most effective, and popular platforms like Kickstarter and IndieGoGo are designed for individual projects rather than ongoing support,

making this finding not surprising. It does make good content through social media that can drive audiences back to the art organization’s own site all the more important though. Blogs, well-designed welcome pages on Facebook, and easy links through Twitter and YouTube can make all the difference when moving audiences up the Loyalty Tree, turning engaged patrons into supporting donors.