In my role at Theatre Bay Area, I commissioned Devon Smith of 24 Useable Hours (and now, of Threespot in Washington, DC) to conduct what she termed a Social Media Audit of the arts and cultural sector. In an effort to provide guidance to the field, Theatre Bay Area commissioned “The Tangled Web: Social Media in the Arts” in conjunction with a year-long intensive workshop series called Leveraging Social Media. This series, designed by noted social media expert Beth Kanter, provides Bay Area nonprofits with in-depth guidance on how to take advantage of social media with a limited amount of time, resources and staff. Ultimately, the report ended up looking at 207 arts and cultural organizations from all over the world.
I’m happy to say that we released the monograph yesterday. 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. The full research report is available at http://theatrebayarea.org/Programs/Theatre-Bay-Area-Datapoint.cfm.
Top-level findings from the research include:
• All told, the 207 arts organizations in the study utilize over twenty 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 that are updated multiple times per day, use a customized URL and feature a custom Welcome tab have more fans, who interact with the page more often, than those who do not.
• Arts and cultural organizations that tweet more than four 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 who 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.
The full research report is available for free at http://theatrebayarea.org/Programs/Theatre-Bay-Area-Datapoint.cfm, and the entire dataset compiled by Devon Smith can be found at http://bit.ly/ArtsBenchmark.