Commentary: How social media can drive arts attendance

Colleen Dilenschneider, Know Your Own Bone blog, 7/11/12

There's a lot of conversation about the ROI of social media and confusion about how to explain its importance to executive leaders. Need help? Here's some data behind how social media drives attendance to visitor-serving organizations (VSOs) -- museums, theaters, etc:
1. Reputation is a major motivator of intent to visit: This data indicates the relative importance of select factors. "Schedule" is roughly 2x more influential in the decision-making process for a high-propensity visitor than cost. ("Schedule" summarizes not just your hours of operation, but how your offerings align with [attendees'] schedules.) But it is clear, for the overall US population and high-propensity visitors alike, how important "reputation" is to your market's overall decision-making process. In fact, only "schedule" rates higher in terms of influence on your market.

2. Social media drives reputation: So we know that reputation is a major driver of visitation. But what comprises your reputation? The answer is a little bit paid media (e.g. advertising) and a lot bit of reviews from trusted sources (particularly word of mouth and earned media - both of which are often facilitated or made entirely possible by social media). In fact, reviews from trusted resources are 12.85 times more influential in terms of your organization's reputation than advertising.

3. Thus, social media is a driver of visitation: Social media and online engagement positively contribute to your bottom line by enhancing your reputation, which is a significant driver of visitation. It is almost impossible for an organization to quickly and efficiently overcome negative reputation perceptions. So, not only do social media and other forms of online engagement help boost your bottom line, they are also wonderful risk mitigation tools that keep you connected to your audience.


Commentary: Find 5-10 'brand obsessions' to grow your social media audience

Alexis Madrigal, The Atlantic magazine, 7/13/12

Just treating a Twitter or Facebook feed like a marketing channel doesn't work. You have to build the channel itself first, and then you can market through it. Lifestyle brands need to treat their social media presence as a kind of retail space, where they include the 10 or so things that their brand is supposed to mean or be associated with. I will call these things (topics, ideas, hobbies, ideals) "brand obsessions." Take @pabstblueribbon. Scroll through that feed. You'll see not just references to beer but summer rooftops, bands, bikes, tattooed girls playing basketball, skateboards, mustaches, mullets, barbecuing, surfing, and breakfast burritos. Of course, you might say it's easy for PBR and this kind of engagement would be tougher for an upscale brand with an older target demographic. [But there is] an operational advantage of the brand obsession approach to social media. It's much easier to troll the Internet around 5 or 10 themes and then post the most interesting stuff from that work. It's almost a corporatist twist on Jay Rosen's idea of mindcasting on social media. He doesn't tweet what he had for breakfast but what he read over breakfast. And brands can do the same... imagining what it's like to "live the brand," which is ultimately what one's customers are doing, too. And then, once you've established this deep emotional connection with your ever-growing social media audience, you wryly, knowingly cram all the promotional stuff through the channel and hope people connect with it the same way they connect with your mindcasting. Welcome to the content game.


Commentary: 10 common mistakes arts organisations make when using Twitter

Jake Orr, A Younger Theater blog, 7/5/12

1. Re-Tweeting praise: We all like praise of our work, but we don't like someone shouting out that praise all the time. Create a Storify collating all those tweets about reviews or comments, and then send out the link to your followers. One tweet, no hassle, happy followers.
2. Mention someone:
By mentioning someone at the beginning of a tweet only those who follow both Twitter users will see the tweet. If you want everyone to see the tweet you must put something at the start of the tweet to break this. Something as simple as a dot or dash will work fine.

3. Hashtags: Only use hashtags for events lasting more than a week. Make it unique and brief. The mistake is using a hashtag when there really is no need to.

4. Show-specific Twitter accounts: I loathe Twitter accounts that are purely for a show UNLESS it is a huge commercial one on the West End or touring internationally. Why? It's all about engagement. Creating a show-specific Twitter account might be your way of building an online audience, but how do you a) keep those followers after it's ended, b) get active followers in the first place and c) seem like a human and not just a show? With difficulty.

5. "Pls RT": - If your tweet is good enough it will get RT'ed, don't force it. Don't beg for a re-tweet.

6. Communication Within: We hear about this more and more, a lack of communication between departments or people. We've seen press announcements made via Twitter before press releases are sent, we've even seen closure of whole shows announced on Twitter before the cast even knew.

7. Creative flair/voice: I have spoken about the need for creativity on our Twitter accounts. Tell stories, and feed off the creativity of your stages. Failing that, at least try to be human.

8. "Book Tickets Now!" Twitter doesn't sell tickets unless you have a star name [or a highly anticipated show]. We won't buy tickets when you tell us. Try different approaches such as email and online advertising.

9. Scheduling Tweets: If Twitter is about communication and engagement and you're scheduling tweets for 'out of office hours,' what happens when someone replies asking a question? Your active account is not replying despite a tweet being sent. [Also,] if more than one of you uses a Twitter account, be sure you know when tweets are scheduled. Nothing worse than several tweets about different topics at once.

10. Links: Linking to your website or content? Get the link right! Many organisations forget to put spaces between their tweet content and their link making the link unusable. Others forget links altogether, or use the wrong ones. The worst is when tweets link through to a Facebook account because they're on automatic link-up. Remember the purpose of Twitter, and use a service like to shorten them (whilst watching stats). If you're really up to speed on online engagement you'll include meta data in your links so you can follow users through your website.


Commentary: How to use Twitter as a 'concert experience force multiplier'

Drew McManus, Adaptistration blog, 7/13/12

There's a good article over at On An Overgrown Path that rails against arts organizations using Twitter in what might be best described as a myopic, self-serving, unidirectional messaging system. The article served as a discussion point during last Sunday's program. First, it reinforces the idea that one of the ways which Twitter works best is when it functions as a concert experience force multiplier; meaning, its ability to expand an experience to a larger group who isn't able to be there, and to do so in real-time. Next, the show's co-host, David MacDonald, had what I think is a genuinely great idea for someone with the time and skills (or funds to pay someone to do it) [to address] some of the immediate hurdles related to live tweets during concerts. The idea started off with co-host Nate Bilton suggesting smartphones have an operating mode that will adjust your phone settings automatically (like airplane mode) and from that, MacDonald came up with the why-didn't-anyone-think-of-this-earlier idea of creating a concert event Twitter client. You can follow the conversation starting at the 1:02:54 mark but here some basic ideas that came out of the discussion as elements for a successful orchestra twitter client:

  • Dark background, high contrast graphic themes that project minimal lighting but with controls that are still easy to see and operate.
  • Umlaut shortcut keys (some folks are sticklers about that sort of thing).
  • Classical music spell check
  • Client disables phone's camera flash and audio recording.
  • Client sets phone to mute and no vibrate

In the associated discussion about whether orchestras really need apps, this is a good example of where an app can provide far more added value than an optimized [mobile web] site in that it can (per user approval) adjust phone settings while in use.  

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