The Tangled Web: Social Media and the Arts

I‘ve know and admired Devon Smith for the last couple of years. We met on Twitter. What I love about Devon is that she is a numbers gal: in this nebulous world of social media marketing for the arts, the buck stops at her. She is all about the metrics and proving ROI.

A few months back, Devon got commissioned by Theatre Bay Area to do a survey of a bunch of American Arts Organizations, and take a deep look into how they were using Social Media, and to what effect. The results of her findings can be read in this report: The Tangled Web, Social Media in the Arts. Devon looked at 207 non-profit arts and culture organizations, ranging from film and music festivals, museums, chorus organizations, dance companies, theatres, cultural centers, and arts service organizations. The organizations also ranged in size from having budgets of hundreds of thousands of dollars to tens of millions of dollars in budget. 39% were in the San Fransisco Bay Area, 54% from elsewhere in the States, and 7% came from outside of the United States.

The report is fascinating, and you should download and read it for yourself, but I’ll share with you the top findings.

  • The average arts organization studied is active on 3 social networks (Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube), uploads 66 pieces of content each month to a social network (status update, link, Flickr photo, YouTube video, etc.), and receives 162 user responses in return (Facebook likes, Twitter @mentions, Blog comments, Flickr & YouTube views, Yelp reviews, Foursquare check-ins).
  • Facebook is by far most popular social network, but arts organizations are spending considerable effort tweeting as well.
  • Facebook Pages that update multiple times a day, use a custom URL, and feature a Welcome tab have more fans and a higher rate of engagement than those who do not.
  • Twitter accounts that tweet more than 4x per day, and do not link to their Facebook feed, have more followers and a higher rate of engagement than those who tweet less often, or sync their Facebook posts to Twitter.
  • YouTube channel owners that upload new video more than 1x per week have more subscribers and views per video than those who upload less frequently.
  • Yelp and Foursquare venues that have been claimed by their owner have more user engagement than those that have not been claimed.
  • Most arts organizations using Flickr do so as an archival tool rather than a place for engagement.
  • Arts organizations blogging on a self-hosted platform, at least twice per week, have more subscribers and comments per post than those who post less frequently, or on a non-branded URL, but overall there is very little engagement.
  • Twenty other social networks were mentioned on arts organization’s websites, though none by more than 12% of study participants.

There are many take-aways here:

  • Own your name: claim your organization’s Facebook username, Twitter handle, YouTube Channel, etc. It really does help with branding.
  • DO NOT Autopost! So many organizations have their Facebook updates automatically post to Twitter, or vice-versa. Don’t do it. Take the extra 30 seconds to create slightly different posts for each. They are different audiences.
  • While I love blogging, I also get that it is a very big investment of time, and, it appears, that the return on that investment may not be great. The average, time-strapped organization may wish to focus their efforts on Facebook and Twitter, and a third social network that is most applicable to them.

I did a little interview with Devon about what she took away from this survey.

RC: What’s the #1 thing you want arts organizations to take away from the findings of this study?

DS: Given limited time and resources, you’re probably better off focusing on just 1 or 2 social networks instead of spreading yourself too thin. Especially given the impact frequency of posting seems to have on engagement rates.

RC: Were there any results that really surprised you about the study?

DS: YouTube’s two ends of the spectrum (posting less than monthly, or more than weekly) were unexpected. Also, that it’s essentially impossible to get YouTube subscribers in any substantial number unless you’re posting more than weekly was pretty interesting to me.

It didn’t turn out quite as pretty as I wanted, but the infographic on page 12 is kind of dear to me. It’s hard to vizualize how much of a difference it makes posting 2x/day rather than 1x/month.

RC: Thanks, Devon!!

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Rebecca Coleman

Social Media Marketing Strategist, Blogger, Author, Teacher, Trainer. Passionate foodie, mom to Michael, fueled by Americanos. I love my bike. Soon-to-be cookbook author. Localvore with a wanderlust.

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