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We surveyed over 50 arts organizations across the US to devise benchmarks about how the industry uses digital advertising, social media, web analytics, emails and more. Facebook has launched three powerful new tools in their advertising arsenal that all arts organizations should be taking advantage of: Conversion tracking, Audiences, and Lookalike Audiences. Though the most popular social media are less than a decade old, they have transformed arts organizations’ outreach and engagement with their audiences. While Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are the most popular social media sites in which these arts organizations engage, participation was not limited to these three. Although these social media platforms are usually free to join and to use, there are other costs to using them, including dedicating staff time and resources to keeping these profiles fresh, relevant, and active. The survey asked respondents who use social media if there are specific staff members in their organization tasked with managing social media sites. Even with a large percentage of these arts organizations using paid staff to manage their social media profiles, it seems this task is often added on to existing work.
Arts organizations in the survey that report using social media were also asked about the frequency of their posts: almost half (45%) say they are posting to social networks daily, including 25% who post several times a day. The arts organizations that use social media say they are using these applications for a range of activities. Survey respondents were asked about the perceived impact that social media have on their organization. Survey participants were asked to recount any specific major impacts that social media have had on their organization’s work.
Social media has helped us define our brand more clearly to broad audience that wants to engage, rather than just visit a webpage.
Social media deepens our relationships – about 70-80% of the people who regularly like, comment on, or repost our content are donors.
For event attendance, we find that approximately 50% of people who respond ‘yes’ via Facebook do not actually attend the event. Aside from face-to-face, Facebook has been the best way for us to communicate with our teenage students.
Utilizing social media and the internet as a communications tool has allowed our organization to reduce the amount of printed promotional materials needed. Employee engagement with the organization through social platforms in real life has created a morale boost.
It has forced staff, especially those age 40 plus, to recognize that the museum and library world is changing and they must adjust to greater demands by audiences and learn new approaches or be left behind. Several times our organization has made social media special ticket offers that have resulted in increased attendance at performances. Social media allows us to interact with our patrons in a way we haven’t been able to before. Social media, and in this case YouTube, has helped us tremendously to get our message out to the world beyond our four walls. Engaging audiences in fun conversations is positive and helps build affinity for an organization.
We have received many positive comments through our blog and Yelp – which we have used for promotional purposes as well as grant applications. A recent grant opportunity only came about because the funder was impressed by the size of our social media following and its level of engagement with us on our Facebook page. The utter joy of our organization around one of our commissioned operas winning a Pulitzer was borne throughout the internet by Twitter and Facebook, allowing all of our patrons and fans to celebrate with us at such an achievement. Many organizations mentioned instances where patrons had posted critical comments on Facebook or Twitter.
While most of negative comments on social media are relatively manageable, some organizations described instances where comments led to larger issues. People who didn’t get tickets for one of our popular performances took to Facebook to express their displeasure with us, which created an outlet for dissatisfied customers to bash us. Because we do a lot of work in rural areas, with senior citizens, and low income areas, social media only works for a portion of our audience.
The use of social media is so prevalent to everyone these days, sometimes it is hard to keep confidential matters confidential – especially on a film shoot.

Before we put policies in place, one of our employees, who was a great social media user, kind of merged his own identity on Facebook with that of our organization. Overall, responses to these open-ended questions suggest that social media’s benefits outweigh the drawbacks for most organizations.
Survey respondents were asked to gauge the value of social media based to their organization in a series of statements about the potential impact of these tools.
Less than 4% of the organizations responding to the survey are not currently using social media. The sentiments expressed in this survey about the use and impact of social media suggest that arts organizations have quickly embraced these new platforms, with 97% of responding organizations using at least one social media platform. Newspapers and traditional media use is on the decline as internet use continues to increase. Create a strategy & goals for using social media Think beyond which sites to use for your new media communications. We analyzed over 80 campaigns to provide a comprehensive look at digital advertising performance for the performing arts. Ninety-seven percent of those surveyed here say that their organization has a profile or page on a social media site such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, or Flickr.
Of the 30 social media sites listed, Facebook is the most common response among the organizations that use social media, with 99% of the arts organizations responding to this question saying that they have a profile on this site. In fact, the majority of arts organizations that use social media — 56% — have a profile on between four and nine social media sites. An earlier open-ended question revealed that arts organizations recognize the potential and reach of these social sites, but also are concerned that social media require constant tending, proper staff training, and management to make them effective.
Just over one-quarter (28%) post content “several times a week,” while another 16% post “once a week.” The remaining 11% of social-media using organizations post less frequently. Responses to additional questions in the survey underscore how integral social media has become for organizations that host events; social media help with audience awareness of and reminders about upcoming events, as well as marketing and promotion.
Fifty-six percent of the social-media-using organizations say it has a “major impact” on boosting their organization’s public profile, while 53% say it has a “major impact” on their engagement with the public. Social media provides an additional vehicle for them to engage with – and support – our work.
Social media has given us the marketing agility we’ve long required to communicate with audiences about comings and goings and it has transformed audience numbers for us. When SB1079 passed in Arizona, our organization (who specializes in Mexican music and dance), in the matter of days, was able to write, record and make a video of a song that directly addressed the issue. We were proud that we did not have to, in any way, defend our value to the community, our audience did this for us.
This has resulted in several new sponsors coming on board who have indicated that they learned about opportunities through our social media platforms. I was thrilled to learn that dance teachers were using these tweets as eeds for developing curriculum, as opportunities to engage reluctant learners and to teach life skills to students with special needs. Social media has allowed us to become more connected with our fans, so even when they have a problem and are discussing it online, we are presented with an opportunity to show exemplary customer service and address the problem directly… I much prefer our doing this than our never knowing of the issue and allowing it to fester. But by building and engaging with a group of brand advocates on social media, when we do experience negative feedback, it is often answered by peers as opposed to the institution. On her own Facebook she wrote disparaging things about us, and though she did not identify us by name, it was not disguised either. For 58% of organizations that use social media, the phrase “Social media is worth the time our organization spends on it” is “very true,” while another 33% thought it is “somewhat true.” There is also broad consensus around the statements that social media helps organizations reach new, broader audiences, and that it helps audiences feel more invested in arts organizations.
Seventy-four percent of these organizations thought it is “very true” or “somewhat true” that they do not have the staff or resources to use social media effectively, a sentiment that is reflected throughout the survey, while other organizations commented on the generational differences amongst staff members regarding use.
For these non-participants, “reliable access to resources” and “a lack of a trained staff” are the primary reasons they have not yet engaged these tools.
Posting content weekly or daily, arts organizations are using these platforms to engage with audiences, promote events, raise (and monitor) their organizational profile, communicate with patrons, streamline their workflow, and reduce marketing costs. It conducts public opinion polling, demographic research, media content analysis and other empirical social science research.
From Wikipedia: At its most basic sense, social media is a shift in how people discover, read and share news, information and content.

Breaks down geographical barriers by being able to create relationships with people all over the world who identify with an organization. Consider the techniques and ideas that will be useful for connecting with your target audience. Philadelphia Orchestra promotes EZSeatU for open season tickets to college students on Facebook, MySpace and Twitter.
In addition, 69% of these organizations say that individual employees have professional social media profiles that they use in their capacity as a representative of the organization. Some 10% of the arts organizations surveyed that use social media noted they are active on 10 or more platforms. However, this question allowed for multiple responses, and 13% say their social media profiles are managed by a combination of full-time and part-time staffers, while 13 organizations (1%) are using a combination of staff, outside contractors and volunteers.
Even with staff capacity issues, these figures suggest that many arts organizations see social media activity as an important part of their workflow, and one that requires frequent tending to keep content up to date and relevant.
Social media also give organizations the ability to link directly to ticket sales, offer last minute discounts, or alert attendees about program changes. Social media are also seen by many organizations as helping them increase their website traffic, promote events, and build audiences. We’ve been able to form a couple of beneficial partnerships that grew directly from contacts made over social media. Facebook fans wrote in with lots of ideas, we picked our top favorites, and then released a poll so fans could vote on the name we ended up using. And, unlike in the past when such problems were managed one-on-one by staff via phone or email, social media displays these complaints for any reader to see. And he didn’t understand the need for separating these things out, keeping his personal life off of our public profile.
Interestingly, 85% of organizations say it is “not true at all” that “social media creates more risks than benefits” for their organization, reinforcing the idea that the arts field sees more positive than negative outcomes using and employing these new tools. However, for a few organizations – especially those that work with children, youth at risk, and immigrant populations — the use of social media may conflict with their effort to serve their constituencies. Identify how you will measure your efforts Review your outcomes and adjust your strategy as needed Do not enter blindly into using social media! But the pay-off for creating conversations with previously unreached audiences and building relationships with patrons can be very rewarding for the organization overall.
This section looks specifically at arts organizations’ social media use and its impact on their work.
Finally, social media do what traditional forms of marketing does not do; create a viral buzz through the sharable nature of information on social networks. These social platforms are more often described as having a “minor impact” on fundraising, product sales, and public education, among other things. So we exercised our social media tools to raise awareness, coordinate a panel discussion, and eventually a gathering at the city council meeting.
There are varying opinions about social media and right now the old, conservative guard are in control.
Arts organizations noted that social media exposes them to public criticism, has forced them to evaluate their employee conduct rules, and develop strategies that take their participation in these platforms into account. The Arts Council offers inexpensive, practical educational workshops to support artists and arts organizations in their work.
Overall, arts organizations agree that participating in social media is worth the time spent, but as with other technological endeavors, it takes time and planning to do it right.
Pennsylvania Ballet using YouTube for choreographer interviews, day in the life a dancer, chronicling state construction to introduce ballet to a younger audience.

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