New study: How arts orgs are using social media to engage audiences

Clayton Lord, ArtsJournal blog New Beans, 6/14/11

In an effort to provide guidance to the field, Theatre Bay Area commissioned "The Tangled Web: Social Media in the Arts". Ultimately, the report ended up looking at 207 arts and cultural organizations from all over the world.  This research, one of the most comprehensive surveys of social media use in arts organizations ever conducted, is fascinating in that it provides a valuable snapshot of how the arts and cultural center is using social media to engage artsgoing audiences across the country.  Top-level findings from the research include:

All told, the arts organizations in the study utilize over 20 networking platforms.
The average arts organization is active on three social networks (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube) and uploads 66 new pieces of content each month.
Facebook Pages updated multiple times per day, [with] a customized URL and [featuring] a custom Welcome tab have more fans, who interact more often, than those who do not.
Organizations that tweet more than 4 times per day and do not replicate Facebook content on their Twitter feed have more followers and a higher rate of engagement than others.
Venue pages on Yelp and Foursquare that have been claimed by an organization have more user engagement than those that have not.
Arts organizations [which] use a custom URL and a custom template for their blog have more engagement than those who do not, but overall blogs offer a very low rate of engagement regardless of format, structure or frequency.

What I find fascinating in these results (and let's be honest, they're really top-line, and don't (by design) go into much depth on the reasoning behind the decisions made by these organizations) is the various spectrums of depth vs. breadth depending on the organization. Some organizations attempt to juggle up to 9 social networks at any given time, while others focus on one or two. And what seems to be clear from the data is that depth is actually the stronger indicator of success in social media.  These results also reiterate to me the role of social media - it is simply not a direct line to further income. It's not really a way to directly sell tickets. It's a way to engage, to have conversations, to make people remember your organization. Over time, at least in theory, that repeat recognition of the company outside of those moments when the patron is not directly buying a ticket leads to more relative value being placed on your organization when the time comes to buy.

Commentary: The art of social media analytics

Amelia Northrup, Technology In The Arts blog, 6/14/11

Summer is the "off-season" for many of us in the arts world. Why not take this time to refresh your social media strategy?  This is part 3 of our 3-part series on social media analytics tools. Check out Part 1 and Part 2.  The last part of our series concerns making management decisions based on data. Once you have the data, what do you do with it? As we come up with more sophisticated methods to track social media sentiment and reach, it becomes possible to track more accurately how people are responding to social media. This is especially important because social media can be a valuable part of your market research. It is like a 24-hour focus group, answering many of the questions you may have about your audience as well as the questions you didn't think to ask.  Some examples of the measurements of success include:

  • Sentiment: Are users referring to my organization positively, negatively, or neutrally?
  • Conversions: How many and which fans are buying online (or offline)?
  • Spikes in activity or "buzz": How are social media users responding online to campaigns?
  • Impact: How many people is the message reaching and how much influence does the organization have? How many people are sharing posts?

One institution that has made a practice of using data to make decisions in social media (as well as investing in technology -- check out their web and new media strategy) is the Smithsonian. As one employee put it "why would you change anything without metrics and feedback?"  David Horgan, eMarketing Specialist for Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, experimented with linking ads to their Facebook page and their homepage. "We found that the ads that direct people to our Facebook page (rather than to our homepage) were about 3x more effective on a cost per click basis."  The National Museum of American History combined traditional survey techniques with data from analytics tools (Google Analytics and WebTrends data, click metrics from HootSuite, etc.), comparing the results of four closely-related surveys on each of four major communication channels (their blog, email newsletter, Facebook page, and Twitter feed). Although more complex, the results allowed Dana Allen-Greil to make decisions regarding how the [museum] communicated with patrons: "...we've long had a hunch that our Twitter feed should focus on conversational and educational content, rather than marketing in-person events. If our followers aren't local, do they really want to hear about events they can't come too? Click metrics from HootSuite plus data from a survey of our Twitter followers gave us solid footing to make the case against Twitter as a platform for driving foot traffic to the museum.  We discovered a similar trend with our Facebook fans and have altered our content strategy accordingly."  More info on Dana's Twitter content strategy can be found here.


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Commentary: How to optimize marketing copy for mobile

Ryan Matzner,, 6/14/11

[To complement this post, view the videocast "Mobile Content Delivery: Native App Vs. Web App".]

When writing copy for any medium, it's easy to drown in a sea of lead-ins, clever anecdotes and introductory sentences. There's hardly time for that on the web. Marketers don't have the luxury of leading up to anything. The only option is to be direct.  Website visitors typically won't read big blocks of copy -- they want to get in and out and move on to the next site. Think of copywriting for mobile as distilling down web copy even further. If web copy is skimming the cream off the top of the milk, mobile copy is skimming cream off of the cream. 

Be Goal-Oriented.  The best mobile content "cuts copy to a minimum and only spews the necessities -- what your target should see during those fateful two seconds that determine a click/tap."  Be laser-focused on a specific task.  Avoid going on tangents -- mobile users simply don't have time or interest.

Use Strong Headlines: Think Like You're Tweeting.  "Make it quick. Make it smart. Make it witty. And above all make it retweetable!"

Screen Sizes Vary Among Mobile Devices. 'It's important to get your brain to think within the confines of a small, mobile screen and avoid the tendency to think big and then just shrink it." Frontload Your Content.  Most of the time, people are only going to read headlines or the first couple lines of marketing content.  Put the most important content up front. Minimize the number of pages that readers have to click through. Try to keep content on a single page, if possible. But don't cram so much onto a page that the site takes a long time to load -- users will give up if they have to wait too long.

Test Your Content to See What Performs Better.  Use tools like Google Website Optimizer to try out two (or more) versions of your content. A/B testing tools allow marketers to pit two versions of the same content against each other. You should also use humans to test the content, as humans will be reading it. Nearly all mobile content is created on desktop computers with big screens, desktop browsers and a mouse. You should have a few people play around with the site on a real mobile device -- not simulators -- to provide feedback on usability and readability.

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