Social media has been greatly embraced in arts organizations. Since many involved in these fields are creative, they often want to be on the “cutting edge,” including technology. More organizations are seeing the value in having a social media presence and are embracing it as an essential marketing tool and platform that can reach wider audiences. Social media tools are often used by these organizations to promote artists, their works, along with the arts organization and mission.
In a study, “Arts Organizations and Digital Technologies,” published by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, it looked at way in which cultural organizations – theater companies, orchestras, museums, – are using the Internet, social media, and mobile apps to grow, promote, and enrich the things they do. This study focused on how new technologies are impacting contemporary arts organizations. An interview was conducted between Jeffrey Brown of PBS Newshour Art Beat and the project’s director, Lee Rainie, to discuss the study’s findings. Rainie acknowledged that new technologies have been embraced in the arts community, partly from necessity, and that there is a certain level of excitement within this community in using new technologies. In the survey, 97% of arts organizations use social media, which is significantly higher than the general population.
From this study, it was also discovered that people are talking back, ranging from discussions about what they think of a performance, about the organization or how many people feel art should be free. Because so many people are creators themselves, there has been concern that the definition of art can be diluted now. The definition has changed because of technology, but organizations still want people to respond to what they are seeing.
There has been argument in the technology world when it comes to what stage we are in. Some say we are in the toddler stage. meaning these technologies have only been part of these organizations for a few years and they are still trying to figure out what to do with them. Others say it’s in the adolescent stage since the Internet is 20 years old. According to Rainie, mobile apps are used by 24% of these organizations.
In another study, which was a year-long intensive workshop series, Leveraging Social Media, 207 arts and cultural organizations from all over the world were reviewed. These 207 arts organizations utilize over 20 networking platforms, with the average arts organization being active on three social networks: Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, and uploads 66 new pieces of content monthly. Another interesting finding is the arts organizations that tweet more than four times daily and do not replicate Facebook content on their Twitter feed have more followers and higher engagement rate than others. Blogs have an overall low rate of engagement, regardless of format, structure, or frequency.
At the minimum, arts organizations need to have a presence in Facebook and Twitter. YouTube is a great resource for any organization displaying visual arts or performance. With the increase of smartphone users, arts organizations need to have mobile apps. To generate buzz and excitement, there should be a push for location-based services like Foursquare, to reach users who are at events or on their way there. Since many arts organizations are nonprofit and rely on grants and donations, there seems to be a huge desire to utilize new technologies, but it can be slow for some to implement due to limited budgets. There is a shift in how the marketing budgets are allocated. It’s no longer about glossy fliers, mailers, and print ads. The arts organizations have taken to social media as a viable platform to reach their audiences.