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Social Media for the Arts Industry

Written by Marliese Andexer 29 / 09 / 2012

We just finished our top tips for social media for business, but our friends at Impact asked us if we could look at what the Arts Industry should be doing.

1. Create vs. Participate in Discussions

There are two approaches to social media, the majority of users in the social media space go about it by trying to create a discussion about their business; they create Facebook fan pages, Twitter accounts and blogs. Their time would better be spent looking for discussions and adding value to them (see our Tip #1).

People however are much more likely to spread the word about a new festival, exhibition or event than they are about a company’s new product. This affords a great opportunity to actually create discussions and activity where there was none.

However if this is your first foray into social media then start by participating in discussions already in place:

  • Look for large groups of Facebook users in your space and join in the discussion
  • Look for forums with lots of comments
  • Look for influential bloggers and tweeters
  • Look for newsletters with good content

Participate in already successfully discussions, once you are comfortable you’ll have plenty more ideas about what people in your industry like and don’t like. You can then start your discussion or your group.

2. Beware of the Last Click Syndrome

The #2 tip we have for business is to define your goals. The ‘last click syndrome’ is even more hazardous in the arts industry. This is where you attribute the source of the customer to the last action they did before they purchased from you.

Think of the scenario:

  • You have been engaging on Twitter for a year
  • You Tweet out that you have a new exhibition coming up
  • One of your followers mentions this over lunch to a friend
  • They get back to their office, search for your organisation online and buy tickets

That sale will probably be incorrectly attributed to search engine traffic rather than Twitter. People also don’t always plan to ‘have fun’ they will often wake up at the weekend and think ‘what shall we do this weekend’. If your tweet is somewhere in the back of their mind they’ll have an increased chance that they’ll think “oh let’s check out what’s on at that venue”.

Unless the majority of your revenue comes from online ticket sales, then goals around the engagement of your users to your social efforts should be paramount to judging your success:

  • Unique visitors
  • Average time on your site
  • Number of pages viewed per visit
  • Number of followers
  • Number of comments
  • Number of incoming links to your site/blog
  • Number of re-tweets
  • Number of social bookmarks

Your goal is engagement, so you should measure your return on investment not on ticket sales, but on how much people like what you have created.

This isn’t to say you can ignore all commercials from the equation, but if your stick within the ethos of your organisation, target your work in the right way and aim for engagement you’ll have a good footing.

Then when needed you must put your ‘metal to the test’ by a promotion to your groups, such as a fund raising effort, a request for members or ticket offer. Whatever you decide, just don’t do it too often (we’re talking only a few times a year if you’re not giving away value just asking for help), measure the response, and then use this as your yardstick for the next time you do it and whether social media really is working for you against more traditional forms of media.

3. Think About Your Value and Promote That

Think about what value you can give away and how you can use social media to do it (rather than how you can use social media to increase sales).

If ticket sales are a source of revenue then an easy way of distributing value is to offer reductions through social media. CeciCreative highlights that the Philadelphia Orchestra draws in an extra 50-60 reduced price tickets to younger takers using Facebook to promote the tickets.

If you don’t have ticket revenue, or don’t want to discount, think about what you can give away. Excerpts of nearly any exhibition can be summarised online and given away, Flickr can be used to distribute images along with Facebook, YouTube can be used to distribute videos and audio.

Even if you can’t distribute anything from the event, you can still get a review written, or a comment and analysis and distribute that, or distribute existing reviews. It has to start from ‘how are you going to engage’ and then how are you going to convert the people you have engaged with into patrons.

4. Don’t Be Scared of ‘Haters’

Seth Godin talks of emotional labour; this is undertaking work that is hard because of the‘emotional labour’ you have to put into it. You put yourself and your opinions ‘on the line’ and allow people to comment on it and attack it.

If you just produce work that ‘fence sits’, at most people will be passé towards it. You want people to engage and have an opinion on your content. If no one ever tells you you’re wrong, then generally no one will ever tell you’re right.

The very best way your ‘emotional labour’ should work is, that you should write an opinion, publish it and let people attack it, and defend it. Don’t be afraid to get the ‘party started’ with pseudonym users to attack or defend what you have said, if you have a strong enough community you’ll find other people joining in and continuing the discussion.

Don’t be tempted to jump back in and defend the article as yourself though, otherwise you’re suggesting the article was too weak or lacked clarity to start with.

5. Keep Social Media in the Mind of Your Patrons

If someone is walking around your venue or exhibition is there anything to let them know to ‘spread the word’ digitally. You have someone who has hopefully just enjoyed themselves and has you in their mind. Even if you have a sign next to your comments box “enjoyed the event spread the love on twitter” or a discount code on their ticket they can email to you for a cut price future ticket. Encourage them to pick up their phone while they are with you and you’ll have more chance of them promoting you.

Check out Im in Ur Museeum Blogz – you need to encourage and foster comment and analysis not just once people have come and gone but while they are at your event.

Lucidica is the IT Department for Small Business, we run monthly digital marketing seminars at the British Library on topics such as email marketing, search engine optimisation and Google AdWords.

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