Adapting to change in the digital age means not only using social media, but paying for ads, too
by Larry Murray
Whether theatre, music or dance, you must attract a paying audience to survive and empty seats represent revenue lost forever. We all have them, and we all work to fill them. The ways to do that could fill that book I have never got around to writing, but if one thing is certain, the way you sell the public keeps changing with the times. I’m a pretty old guy, I began selling tickets in high school, when television was in its infancy, and just about every radio station and newspaper was locally owned and operated. In the days before conglomerates and mass marketing you were able to have a personal relationship with editors and writers, and doing publicity was pretty straightforward.
Today we don’t paste captions onto photographs and fold them over for the photo editor to choose from, though the availability of good images is still the most effective use of limited marketing dollars you can find. If you don’t have compelling images your online presence in blogs and social media is seriously handicapped. And to shrug off this tool as not important negates the intrinsic nature of the arts which are visually compelling.
So what are the trends for marketing the arts that are being employed today?
We are pleased to report the highlights of the 2014 Performing Arts Digital Marketing Benchmark Study by Erik Gensler of Capacity Interactive, released 5/19/15 Since (free) registration is required to download this report these are the highlights, and you can visit this site for the full particulars.
This is the organization’s third [annual] survey and more than 125 organizations took the time to share their information. As they write in their introduction, “While 125+ organizations do not make this data statistically significant, it does provide very strong indicators of where our industry is with digital marketing practices. I’d like to call out three trends from the data:
“Arts organizations are more social. 100% of organizations have Facebook accounts and 97% of organizations are paying for Facebook advertising. 81% of organizations now have an Instagram account and most are posting a few times a week. Instagram followers of arts organizations have more than doubled year over year, and Facebook and Twitter followers have also significantly increased across the board. Far more organizations are checking their social insights regularly and almost half of organizations are meeting at least once a month to discuss social results.
“Arts patrons are more mobile, although many organizations are not. 59% of surveyed organizations see at least a quarter of their website traffic coming from mobile devices (versus 24% just a year ago). However, only 61% of organizations have a mobile or mobile optimized site (many indicate they are planning to build one). While audiences are more mobile, only about half of organizations indicate that they are purchasing mobile advertising.
“Most arts organizations are spending more on digital efforts, but limited budgets driven by a lack of comprehensive strategy, leadership support, and internal skills are still a major problem for many. The good news is many organizations are more focused on digital marketing. About half are allocating at least 21% of paid media budgets to digital, up from one third of organizations in 2013. Many organizations are also investing more on their websites. Spending on major and minor website upgrades is up across almost all budget sizes.
“The bad news is that a lack of leadership support and internal knowledge is limiting progress for many organizations. For the third year in a row, respondents indicated that “not enough budget” is the biggest obstacle for digital marketing success. This is most likely a symptom of internal limitations. We saw a jump in organizations indicating that “not enough internal knowledge,” “no clear digital strategy” and “no leadership support” hurt digital efforts. The most disheartening was an increase from 18% to 25% in the number of organizations listing “no leadership support”.
“The only way arts organizations will thrive in the digital age is if our leaders recognize the importance of digital communications, fund the hiring and training of skilled employees, and invest in the infrastructure organizations need to succeed. The world is getting more digital every day, and I hope this survey can help inform and bolster the field’s digital strategy and investment.”
OTHER KEY FINDINGS FROM THE STUDY:
Paid Digital Media
- 44% of organizations spent at least 21% of their total paid media budgets on digital marketing, up from 10% in 2012 and 34% in 2013.
- 97% of arts organizations were investing in paid Facebook advertising. 66% were purchasing retargeting banners.
- Arts organizations still indicated lack of budget as the biggest obstacle for digital marketing success, with “determining ROI” as a close second.
- Facebook and Twitter continued to be the preferred social media platforms, followed by YouTube and Instagram.
- 80% posted at least once a day on Facebook, about 60% posted daily on Twitter.
- Most organizations saw Instagram followers double in the past year and 25% now post at least once a day.
- Across three years of data, Google Analytics remained the most popular web analytics tool, but 91% indicated they believed they were not using web analytics to its full potential.
- 41% of organizations had e-commerce tracking set up on analytics platforms.
- 53% of organizations reviewed web analytics reports at least once a month, but 37% never met to discuss web analytics results.
- 59% of organizations saw at least a quarter of their site traffic from mobile. About half purchased mobile advertising.
- 61% of arts organizations had mobile enabled sites in 2014 and 28% were planning on building one.
- 68% offered the ability to purchase tickets on their mobile site in 2014.
- On average, arts organizations sold 52% of their tickets online.
- 26% redesigned their websites within the past year, 75% within the past 3 years, and 24% were currently redesigning their website.
- 56% of arts organizations continued to indicate they did not have adequate budget to cover their website maintenance needs.
- Arts organizations were conservative on how often they emailed constituents. 65% still sent one email per week, or fewer, to their constituents.
- 90% of arts organizations reported that email collection was extremely important to their organizations.
- While both general and targeted emails saw an increase in open rates, targeted pre- show and post-show emails had the highest open rate of 49%.