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How Strong Is Your Social Net? Survey Overview

This is the question we asked arts groups across the country in Fall 2013, refreshing our national landmark survey of 2011.  With the digital communications landscape evolving at light speed we wanted to track challenges, leadership attitudes, measurement strategies and 2014 investment plans to update our study of practice and perceptions of the effectiveness of digital communications in the arts field.  For arts organizations social media can be a highly effective, not-so-secret weapon to share content with the public, build audiences, fundraise and create community – especially with younger constituents.  Trudel | MacPherson, in partnership with Neuer Media, devised a comprehensive survey to benchmark current social media investment, attitudes and evaluation by arts organizations of all sizes and across all disciplines. Arts practitioners from all across the country completed our survey. Responses show broad adoption and rising confidence and sophisticated use of online and social tools.  Survey respondents demonstrate heightened appreciation of the value of digital communications and dynamic social media interactions with audiences, followers and fans.  Several interesting patterns emerged:

Arts Organizations Have Become Social Media Native Speakers

Digital outreach is more fully integrated into communications outreach at the majority of organizations surveyed.  Only 7% of respondents see resistance to devoting staff time and communications budgets to social media and most groups plan to spend the same or more on digital communications in 2014. Management excitement remains high at 70% and most groups – 84% — believe their efforts are effective.  This is a solid improvement over our 2011 findings.  Online communities are thriving, live events are successfully connecting in-person and online activities and more than 40% of groups report progress with ticket sales via social media. Mobile technology is becoming mainstream with more than 54% of groups reporting use of mobile options for ticket sales and more than 70% using social check-in tools.  And audiences are responding!!!  More than 95% of groups report positive responses to social media outreach – up from 85% in 2011.

Tried and True Platforms

Our research shows a robust embrace of social media’s classic platforms like Facebook (used regularly by more than 92% of respondents,) Twitter (@55%) and YouTube (@40%).  There’s a great deal of buzz around Instagram and Pinterest but only 19% use Instagram regularly and only 12% use Pinterest.  Tumblr and Google+ remain niche networks.  Email is ubiquitous as are social components on organization’s websites.

Management attitudes

Management attitudes remain positive with 70% of respondents excited about using social media but many report outside pressure with more than 50% noting “our audience expects it of us.” More than 25% remain “daunted by the technical aspects” of managing digital communications across various platforms. Efforts to refocus goals and determine which platforms deliver the best return will be crucial to overcome this challenge. Management comfort levels have been rising and fully 75% of organizations now encourage staff to use digital and social media on their own to promote their organizations.  Trust is trumping control with more than 85% of groups agreeing to relax management control over social media content vs 73% in 2011. Responsibility is centered in marketing/communications at more than 80% of groups, up from just 62% in 2011.  However, internal policies are lagging behind effective social media practice, with only 35% of groups agreeing or strongly agreeing about having consistent policies.

Future Investment Plans

Only 2% of arts groups plan to spend less on social media and digital communications in 2014.  More than 57% plan to spend more and 41% plan to keep spending level. We believe this is strong indication that social media will remain a fixture in the marketing toolkit of arts organization nationwide. To build management appetite for increased investment, we recommend arts organizations follow the advice in the Networked Nonprofit with Do-It-Yourself social media experiments to test new ideas.  Making small “bets” and urging funding for those that work is a winning strategy. 

Greatest Challenges

Time remains a challenge for more than 80% of respondents.  It appears to be an even greater hurdle to adoption than expertise (only 50% reported lack of expertise as a problem) or budget (reported at 52%).  On a positive note, fewer than 10% of arts organizations report issues with management buy-in or trust. Only 6% of groups reported management thinks social media is overpromising and under-delivering. Though marketers are reporting growing management trust in staff digital outreach, we continue to see a tug of war between promotion and engagement played out in social media.  As noted in the Networked Nonprofit, social media should be a conversation – not a sales pitch — groups should focus less on growing themselves and more on cultivating their networks.  Successful arts groups will concentrate on building community, developing followers and fans, and turning them into advocates and patrons.

Social Media is Becoming a Two Way Street and Experimentation is Flourishing

Encouragingly, 60% of groups report making changes based on audience feedback up from less than half in 2011. Outreach targets have narrowed.  Local adults continue to dominate as primary targets of more than 80% of groups.  Donors are primary targets at more than two thirds of groups and tourists are being targeted slighted more than in 2011. Digital communications are up overall by more than 10% across all categories. Previews of upcoming programming are making the most noise with 98% of groups.  Other hot social media topics are social in-person opportunities to engage at 79% — up from only 63% in 2011.  Background on programming is the third most popular communique at 77%, followed by giving opportunities at 71%. Emerging topics and experiments abound with sweepstakes, contests and giveaways being tested by more than 48% of organizations responding.

More Nuanced Measures are Evolving

Qualitative measures—web analytics, fan/follower counts and email tracking —  are ubiquitous and virtually unchanged from 2011.  More groups are probing engagement as well as visitations – with tracking of online surveys, coded offers and viral sharing up slightly. However, tracking of brand mentions is only at 17% and conversion tracking scores are also surprisingly low at 19%.  Groups are missing chances to track which channels convert best to optimize outreach, content and platform choices.

The Bottom Line: Overall Results are Up Across the Board

Groups are reporting improved results across all outreach categories: ticket sales, fundraising, developing online communities and building participation in live events success measures are up 5-10% from 2011 numbers.  And many more groups report social media have delivered major results or have become mission critical to their efforts:

  • Ticket sales – 15%
  • Fundraising – 6%
  • Developing online communities – 20%
  • Building participation at live events –16%

Crowdsourcing and crowdfunding which were outliers in 2011 have developed strong followings.  More than 45% of groups report positive results with crowdsourcing.  And almost 30% say crowdfunding experiments are delivering for them.

We Welcome You Into the Discussion

Our 2013/14 study shows that social media has become essential to effective arts marketing. Please give us your thoughts on any of the findings of our research in the comment section below or contact us by email.

Download our summary presentation.

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Aging Audiences or Out of date Ideas: New Crowd-Sourcing Concepts Attract Elusive 18-to-30 Year Old Fans

Virtual Choir title screenTrudel | MacPherson has listened to complaints about disappearing audiences for classical music and we suggest learning from the amazing work of our favorite crowd-sourcing pioneer, Eric Whitacre. Already the most popular choral composer working today, Whitacre has pushed the classical music envelope by inviting thousands of choristers from all over the world to join his virtual choir – splicing individually recorded parts into one video. Check out the results out on one of YouTube’s most popular posts http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7o7BrlbaDs

Virtual Choir screen captureWhitacre has inspired millions via his new approaches to audience engagement, making audiences participants in the creative process. We’re studying the key aspects of effective crowdsourcing and suggest an approach that engages by making the engagement matter. Our new crowdsourcing framework – Making It Matter—focuses on three basic rules:

  1. Make it Matter

  2. Make it Easy

  3. Make it Fun

We suggest encouraging visitors to an organization’s website to help make a difference and serve the common good, while enjoying the competitive/collaborative process of participating. Here are a few examples we think are interesting and effective:

The New York Public Library (NYPL) which boasts more than one million social media followers invited visitors to transcribe more than one million dishes from 15,000 historic menus, engaging followers in a task that could only be accomplished by a crowd of concerned foodies http://menus.nypl.org

Another NYPL project celebrates national poetry month with the first national poetry content on Twitter eager poets will have the thrill of having chosen offerings become part of an official NYPL poetry ebook http://www.nypl.org/media-center/national-poetry-contest

UMS (University Musical Society) encourages audiences to curate its virtual lobby – an online companion to the center’s actual lobby where visitors can comment on performances and connect with other fans and critics http://www.umslobby.org/.

The Seattle Opera makes new opera goers feel comfortable via its First Timers Opera Blog, inviting a neophyte to report on her experiences and suggest new ways the art form can be more welcoming http://seattleopera.org/tickets/ring/ring_2009/confessions/

What all these projects have in common is sensitivity to audiences’ passionate interests and short attention spans. The workflow demands are easy, the process is so engaging it can become additive and the bottom line is fans leave behind a meaningful “product” for other viewers to enjoy.

 Tell us what you think and how crowd-sourcing is working for you.

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Trudel | MacPherson presents Making Social Media Mission-Critical session at APAP Idea Lounge

Trudel | MacPherson principals, Mary Trudel and Rory MacPherson, kicked off the New Year with a presentation at the prestigious Association of Performing Arts Presenters annual conference in New York City on January 14. Building on our landmark 2011 study, How Strong Is Your Social Net? we focused on effective uses of online communications and social media in the areas of marketing, fundraising and constituency engagement.

Joined by Stephen Litner, Director of Digital Media at BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music), we reviewed effective practices from presenters across the country and engaged attendees with strategic questions about channel selection, balancing engagement with promotion, translating content to new mediums and building short and long term fan and financial support. Review the full presentation which can be downloaded here.

Date City Venue
January 14, 2013 New York City APAP/NYC
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Organizations with a formal policy find social media outreach less difficult and more rewarding

Trudel | MacPherson has found that organizations which institute a formal policy find social media outreach less difficult and more rewarding for everyone involved. UMS (University Musical Society) at University of Michigan/Ann Arbor created staff participation guidelines to enable a wider range of staff to engage more continuously with patrons and fans. UMS also created community guidelines to manage fan interaction on its UMS Lobby — http://www.umsLOBBY.org — a virtual venue for comments and conversation. Check out the guidelines here: http://www.arts-hive.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Community-Commenting-Guidelines-for-UMS-Lobby.pdf and http://www.arts-hive.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Staff-Commenting-Guidelines-for-UMS-Lobby.pdf

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Mary Trudel and Rory MacPherson led a workshop at PAE 2012 in Miami

Fundraising Strategies: Making Social Media Mission Critical

Professional Development Workshop at the Performing Arts Exchange 2012 Miami, Florida

Trudel | MacPherson principals, Rory MacPherson and Mary Trudel headlined at South Arts’ annual booking conference for East Coast presenters. Drawing on data from our national How Strong Is Your Social Net national survey, and hundreds of practitioner interviews, we explored best practices in using social media to generate contributed income. Skills and tactics highlighted ranged from crowd-funding to donor cultivation to sponsorship trades and eyeball farming.

 The PowerPoint presentation of our workshop is available here. A few highlights:

Nationally only 5% of arts groups report use of social media has delivered mission critical or major results. 70% of survey respondents report achieving either good or some results but a significant percentage – 24% — report no results.

Our workshop highlighted the importance of treating fundraising as part of a continuum of audience engagement. Noting that “You can’t ask someone to marry you on the first date,” Mary described a cultivation approach which rewards and engages prospects at every level of interest. Major donors expect tangible rewards and recognition such as building naming rights and personal attention. We suggested that every level of engagement requires a “What’s in it for me?” response. Prospects, casual donors, subscribers, regular attendees and increasingly loyal donors can be cultivated by creative use of access and prominence, moving audiences to become fans, donors and evangelists for your organization.

We discussed effective use of social media is building engagement on steroids! The best organizations understand that their greatest assets are — to use a Facebook word – their friend relationships with audiences, visitors, fans and patrons. These groups can be mobilized to help but you CANNOT make those friends in a crisis.

Friends are made on the frontlines through individual experiences that bring fans closer or push them away. We’ve reviewed 8 important elements of effective engagement which can solidify engagement and make social media mission critical for your fundraising:

1. It’s Not One Size Fits All

2. Make it Personal + Concrete + Time Sensitive

3. Connect with Values and Value Connections

4. Listen and Respond

5. Cultivate Productive Partnerships

6. Eyeball Farming Only Works with Friends

7. Measure What Matters

8. Involve the Whole Organization

We’d love to hear about your experiences making social media mission critical in fundraising. Do be in touch.

Date City Venue
September 21, 2012 Miami South Arts Performing Arts Exchange
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Mary Trudel and Jai Sen addressed the Communicating The Museum Conference

As part of the global Communicating The Museum Conference at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Trudel | MacPherson and Sen Associates presented back to back Strengthening Your Social Net: Adapting to a Connected Future workshops on June 28th

Mary Trudel and Jai Sen addressed delegates at the international Communicating The Museum Conference held at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Noting that, “Adopting digital and social media is no longer optional,” Mary and Jai reviewed the larger, long-term technology issues affecting visual arts organizations and museums.

Based on our landmark How Strong Is Your Social Net? study of digital and social media adoption and usage among arts organizations, we presented an overview of digital media attitudes, successes, and challenges facing visual arts organizations and museums specifically. Looking at the issue from a macro view gave participants an opportunity to compare their experiences with others’ and shape their strategies by making more informed decisions about which technologies to adopt.

Participants completed a brief questionnaire during the session comparing their results and institutional attitudes with the national sample. Respondents indicated minimal resistance to adopting digital and social platforms with only 30% reporting “some resistance” and 35% describing resistance as “only a little.” Most respondents reported solid results from their social media efforts – especially increased website traffic and positive audience feedback — with only 10% noting audience response as “indifferent.”

A majority of respondents reported adding video/audio/mobile content and scannable codes with a smaller percentage mentioning games, contests and interactive exhibits. Most respondents measure results via website analytics with more than half also tracing influence and press/media coverage.

Full results of the live survey follow:

1. To what extent have you encountered resistance within your organization around adopting digital and social platforms?
• Only a little (35%)
• Some (30%)
• None (26%)
• A lot (9%)
________________________________________
2. How have your audiences responded to your technology programs?
• Positively (62%)
• Mixed (29%)
• Indifferently (10%)
• Negatively (0%)
________________________________________
3. Do you consider your organization to be well-suited for enhancements of the museum experience through the implementation or expansion of any or all of the following technologies?
• Video content (41%)
• All of the above (35%)
• Audio tours or content for mobile devices (29%
• Interactive experiences around exhibits (29%)
• None of the above (12%)
• Virtual tours (12%)

________________________________________

4. What types of technology-based programs have you implemented at your institution?
• Video content (56%)
• Enhanced content (38%)
• Scannable codes (for example, QR codes) (38%)
• Games or contests (25%)
• Virtual or interactive exhibits (25%)
• Other (19%)
• Virtual tours (19%)
• Augmented reality (6%)
• None of the above (6%)
• Way-finding and location awareness (0%)
________________________________________
5. In what areas have you seen the best results using social media and digital communications?
• Increased website traffic (75%)
• Positive audience feedback (63%)
• Increased social media influence (63%)
• Partnerships with peer organizations or businesses (31%)
• Increased admissions (25%)
• Press or media exposure (19%)
• Stronger sponsorships or funding (6%)
• Other (6%)
• None of the above (0%)
________________________________________
6. How are you measuring your results?
• Website analytics (94%)
• Social media monitoring and influence measurement tools (56%)
• Press or media coverage (56%)
• Tracking fan activity in online communities (25%)
• Online surveys or feedback via your website (25%)
• Coded offers (19%)
• Staff time spent (6%)
• Revenues (including donations and grants) (6%)
• Other (6%)
• Increased revenues (0%)

Date City Venue
June 28, 2012 New York CommunicatingTheMuseum
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NJ Thrive Arts Conference

Trudel | MacPherson Principals Mary and Rory Lead Workshop at NJ Thrive Arts Conference 2012

Photo credit: Laura Pedrick Photography

Hosted by Art Pride New Jersey and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, the conference brought together more than 100 New Jersey arts organizations from all across the state. The conference theme reflected the importance of seamlessly integrating marketing, development and advocacy into all aspects of daily business. T|M was invited to review findings from our national How Strong Is Your Social Net? Research project and compare responses from the more than 35 NJ arts groups who took the survey with national data. We also moderated an interactive workshop designed to improve and integrate organizations’ communications strategies and audience engagement plans.

Date City Venue
June 13, 2012 Princeton Thrive! Arts Conference 2012
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Rory MacPherson to co-lead Engaging Dance Audiences Learning Exchange

Trudel | MacPherson principal, Rory MacPherson, is participating as a co-designer and facilitator of Learning Exchange meetings that are part of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation-funded Engaging Dance Audiences Initiative (EDA).

The first of these meetings will take place at the Gibney Dance Center in New York City on Sunday, May 13, 2012 from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.  At this gathering representatives of EDA grantee organizations and other dance professionals will share ideas and information about audience engagement.  The Learning Exchanges are open to all, and are suitable for artists, managers, marketing staff, agents, and educators.  For more information please visit the Dance/USA website: http://www.danceusa.org/edalearningexchanges.

Rory will also be helping to lead a subsequent EDA Learning Exchange that will take place in San Francisco on Wednesday, June 27, 2012 in conjunction with the Dance/USA 2012 Annual Conference.

Rory MacPherson speaking at a recent conference

 

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Trudel | MacPherson and Sen Associates kick off the Montana Arts Council’s Leadership Institute 2012 webinar series on March 20th at 12 noon CDT

As reported in the the Montana Arts Council’s (MAC) March newsletter, the Trudel | MacPherson/Sen Associates team will be presenting results of its How Strong Is Your Social Net? 2011 landmark study of arts organizations’ usage and perceptions of digital and social media.  Montana organizations comprise a large portion of the study and data on how those groups’ social media practices differ from national trends will be featured in the presentation.  More than 35 Montana groups have signed on for the webinar which will feature case studies of successful practices as well as interesting national insights about social media adoption and efficacy.

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Celebrating Leap Year in New Orleans

T|M principals Rory and Mary presented the results of our How Strong Is Your Social Net? at a February 29th meeting being organized by the Arts Council of New Orleans and the University of New Orleans.

In order to have the greatest relevance for the representatives of arts organizations who attend, we re-opened the online survey and make it available to groups in the greater New Orleans area. More than two dozen groups took the survey and we analyzed these results to draw comparisons to our national findings at the meeting.

Date City Venue
February 29, 2012 New Orleans Graduate Program in Arts Administration, UNO
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