Study: 96 Percent of Arts Organizations Are Active On Social Media Networks

By Devon Glenn 

Arts organizations operate in a gift economy, which is why so many of them are slow to adopt new technology.  A new study shows that social media sites have given nonprofits an inexpensive way to reach out to patrons and new audiences – in April 2011, 96 percent of arts organizations were active on at least one site.

Theatre Bay Area commissioned this study of 207 nonprofit arts and cultural organizations in different regions. Researched and written by Devon Smith, “The Tangled Web: Social Media and the Arts” is a 30-page document detailing how these organizations, which represent a wide range of budgets and disciplines, have fared in their experiments with social media.

The study shows that social networking is a more effective way of engaging with audiences than just putting up a Website or blog. However, some platforms work better than others, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution for every organization.

From the study:

  • All told, the 207 arts organizations in the study utilize over twenty other social networking platforms.
  • The average arts organization is active on three social networks (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube) and uploads 66 new pieces of content each month.
  • Facebook Pages that are updated multiple times per day, use a customized URL and feature a custom Welcome tab have more fans, who interact with the page more often, than those who do not.
  • Arts and cultural organizations that tweet more than four times per day and do not replicate Facebook content on their Twitter feed have more followers and a higher rate of engagement than others.
  • Venue pages on Yelp and Foursquare that have been claimed by an organization have more user engagement than those that have not.
  • Arts organizations who use a custom URL and a custom template for their blog have more engagement than those who do not, but overall blogs offer a very low rate of engagement regardless of format, structure or frequency.

New York’s Lincoln Center had 3, 716 Facebook likes at the time of the study in 2011. Since then, the network has grown to 8,372 likes. The organization is also active on networks like Foursquare, Yelp, and Twitter. In “From the Green Room,” an interactive map powered by Broadcastr, Lincoln Center asked several artists who have graced the stage (and the kitchen) with their talents what it’s like to perform at the venue, immortalizing their thoughts in clickable soundbites.

If you work in the arts and need inspiration, Smith’s document is a must-read. Especially helpful is the spreadsheet that lists the names and Web presences, with links, of every participating arts organization in the study.

The work was commissioned as part of the Leveraging Social Media series of workshops and granting program, and funded by the Wallace Foundation, Grants for the Arts, The San Francisco Foundation, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the Koret Foundation.

Image by marekuliasz via Shutterstock.