Technology Driving Arts Attendance, Engagement, & Fundraising

Posted by John Eger On January - 8 - 2013

John Eger

In the last decade alone, any business without a web presence—without an online, interactive website—was simply, not in business. Or wouldn’t be for long. The government and nonprofit sector soon learned their way around the internet too.

Now the Pew Charitable Trusts, specifically the Pew Internet and American Life Project, in a major survey covering 2007–2011 and involving 1,256 arts organizations, reported that: “The internet and social media are integral to the arts in America.”

The survey found:

  • 81 percent of the organizations in this survey say the internet and digital technologies are “very important” for promoting the arts.
  • 78 percent say these technologies are “very important” for increasing audience engagement.
  • 65 percent say digital technologies are “very important” for fundraising.

There seemed no question that web presence was “important” or “very important” although not everyone is persuaded—yet—that an internet strategy is a priority. Those reporting also felt that such technologies “disrupted much of the traditional art world” by changing “audience expectations, put[ting] more pressure on the arts groups to participate actively in social media and in some circumstances, undercut[ting] organizations’ mission and revenue streams.” In fact, 40 percent believe that “attention spans for live performances” are being negatively impacted. Read the rest of this entry »

Testing, 1, 2, 3: Measuring and Improving Your ROI

Posted by Katryn Geane On November - 15 - 2012

Katryn Geane

While sitting in the second row of seats looking at heat and confetti maps of sample websites, I was reminded of the number one reason I love attending the National Arts Marketing Project Conference (NAMPC): all these smart people are sharing information that I get to go home and use, and everyone else will think I’m a genius.

OK, maybe not that last part, but how lucky can we get with colleagues who are willing to help us out like this? I’m as much of an internet nerd as the next new media manager, but it seems that there’s a new resource or tool every week that promises to track, update, monitor, and help you do something with your website, and I can’t be the only one who doesn’t have oodles of extra time to be cruising the internet testing new tools.

In the measuring and improving your ROI session, Caleb Custer and Dan Leatherman presented a metrics-driven and scientific method-inspired “try, learn, think” cycle for testing and implementing changes to an organization’s website.

By using tools they introduced as well as now old standards like Google Analytics, they urged us to “prove the user’s expectations right and they will feel more in control” (paraphrased from Jakob Nielson) and therefore happier with their experience with your site.

Plunk, Clue, Crazy Egg, and others were offered as options for testing user interface, and there were resources for tracking links, segmenting visitors, optimizing landing pages, and then even more about email layout and design, A/B testing…and so on, and so on…and more. Read the rest of this entry »

#NAMPC Takeaways

Posted by Shoshana Fanizza On November - 15 - 2012

Shoshana Fanizza

I wanted to start out by giving you the link to my Storify—My #NAMPC experience via Twitter. I ended up winning the Most Tweets Award [at the National Arts Marketing Project Conference (NAMPC)] and I received a fun t-shirt!

I also won by connecting with more people on Twitter and getting to meet some of these people during the conference. It has been a fun and educational experience for me. If you had to miss the conference they promised to archive the keynote presentations soon.

NAMPC had its ups and downs, but mostly ups. However, through the entire conference, this year, like last year, there were some common themes running through most of the presentations.

Instead of a complete play-by-play like I did last year, I would like to leave you with the my most impressionable takeaways and some of my own thoughts (in no particular order):

  • You gotta have passion—if you don’t, people will not be attracted to your mission, cause, project, program…Without passion, what is the point?
  • Be weird and silly—or in other terms, be true to your own particular self. It’s not about being similar—it’s about standing out.
  • Adding your own personality will increase your likeability.
  • Have fun! What makes people want to join? Fun! If it is not enjoyable to you, it probably won’t be to your audiences.
  • Everyone is diverse in one way or another. These are my personal thoughts: We can learn to reach out to others after we discover our own sense of diversity and understand personally what it feels like to be stereotyped and discounted.
  • Keep ego out of the organization.
  • Visual impact is necessary! There is so much blah, blah, blah, and not enough “language” of our arts. If you are a music organization, it would be good to have clips and videos of performances and music. If you are an artist, make viewing your art an experience. If you are theater and dance, videos are a must. How can people figure out if your art is for them if they can’t “see” it and feel it? Read the rest of this entry »

Giving PBS the Bird

Posted by Tim Mikulski On October - 4 - 2012

Photo via Prince.org

Well, you had to have known this post was coming after seeing the debate last night, reading about it, or catching the highlights on the news.

Also, I can’t believe I’m blogging about Sesame Street for the second time in six weeks.

As a political scientist by schooling, I had to wonder who on the campaign decided it would be funny, smart, or a good idea to throw in something quippy about firing Big Bird or Jim Lehrer when once again referring to a policy of not borrowing money from China to pay for PBS (or the National Endowment for the Arts as was mentioned in a magazine article a few months ago).

First, you automatically make a ton of enemies by putting the image of Big Bird being evicted out of his Sesame Street nest in people’s heads.

Second, you are simply catering to hardcore fiscal conservatives who don’t seem to understand that public television was only allocated $75 million from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in the FY 2012 budget (plus about $222 million in direct grants to individual public television stations)—that’s it. Guess how much was spent on national defense ($716 billion), health ($361 billion), and energy ($23 billion).

Some would argue that PBS stations should start airing commercials to generate more revenue or that there could be stations that cover more than one city or combine into regional networks. Okay, I can give you that, but that still doesn’t take away from the fact that the small amount of federal spending goes such a long way to help PBS leverage those pledge drive (without quality programs partially funded by the government would people still pay?) or corporate dollars.

Others say we should just privatize all PBS stations. You might want to ask folks in New Jersey if they feel their NJTV lives up to the formerly state-run NJN when it comes to covering the affairs of a state trapped between two giant media markets with no other statewide network.

Oh and then there’s Kansas. Remember when someone tried to privatize the state arts agency claiming that it could and should run without government support? That didn’t turn out so well. Read the rest of this entry »

Arts Technology: How Do We Know We Should Add The Next Best Thing?

Posted by Ron Evans On October - 3 - 2012

Ron Evans

2012 has been an awesome year so far.

It seems to be the year that the majority of arts groups have hit the tipping point on understanding online marketing, where they now feel really comfortable experimenting. Or perhaps executive directors are feeling more comfortable giving the ok for experimentation.

Either way, the collective knowledge level has risen substantially, and that is allowing us to have deeper, higher-level conversations as a sector. It’s a wonderful thing!

There is a dark side to this experimentation that I am seeing pop up more and more—organizations will launch a new marketing channel, get busy with other things, and then forget about them. But these new, forgotten channels still pop up on search engines, patrons go to them, and then are disappointed to find no recent updates. That can easily send the wrong message to your patrons.

I’m all for experimentation—it’s ok to try out something new, and you should be—but in the case where a new channel is abandoned, it can really dilute the brand. I recently worked with an arts organization that had twelve—count ‘em TWELVE—Facebook pages. And they only knew about seven of them.

Most of them were set up by well-meaning volunteers, or now ex-employees, and if you did a search on Facebook for this organization, you wouldn’t know which page was the “real” page. We heard reports from audience members who were very confused about which one to connect to.

Starting a new marketing channel is like owning a new puppy. Photo by Indiana Adams.

I like to think that a new marketing channel is like getting a new puppy. That puppy needs attention—it needs to fed, watered, played with, and cleaned up after. It’s a big responsibility, and you should really know you want one before you get one.

To continue this metaphor, you may want to borrow a friend’s puppy first to get to know the lay of the land before deciding if that new puppy is the best for you.

It is easy to be attracted to the “newest, greatest thing” in regards to social media or other online marketing channels. And if you’ve got the time, set up a new account and play around. Read the rest of this entry »

Is the Infographic Dead – Already?

Posted by Laura Kakolewski On October - 2 - 2012

Laura Kakolewski

There is no question that infographics have tumbled into the world of marketing.

Infographics serve as visual narratives that arrange patterns, relationships, or trends in a creative and visually appealing way. The ideal infographic organizes large amounts of data with art and design finesse, and in the end, a story materializes.

And thanks to social media, infographics have become a popular form of shareable content for brands, serving as an engagement tool for online audiences.

When it comes to the evolution of the infographic, in the past two years, infographics have grown bigger, brighter, and richer in content. For example, compare both the size and amount of data illustrated on this 2011 infographic to that found on the average size of a 2012 infographic.

In my work as an arts marketer, I have experienced this growth first-hand. In designing our e-book, 13 Social Media Infographics Every Marketer Needs to See Volume 2, our primary challenge was fitting the volume of content so that it would match the customary dimensions of the publications our e-book library.

The rise of infographics has also been seen through the development of user-friendly websites such as visual.ly, which has raised $2 million dollars to allow you to create, customize, and share your own infographics easily and for free.

However, a recent Huffington Post article discusses the notion that as content creators, it is a constant uphill battle to create fresh and engaging content that will grab the attention of our online audience. The author argues that “the time has come to take the world of infographics to the next level: video.”

According to the article, content that is in the form of the infographic, a trend that has undeniably been on the rise, will soon be replaced by explainer videos, or “short, actionable and instructive videos that businesses use to quickly explain what it is they do, and how they can solve their customer’s biggest problems.” Read the rest of this entry »

Monetizing Engagement: Taking Friends to the Bank?

Posted by Mary Trudel On October - 2 - 2012

Mary Trudel

Everything we ever knew about the value of authentic engagement is louder, faster, and more challenging.

My partner, Rory MacPherson, and I spend a lot of time interviewing arts organizations about their use of social media to seek out best practices and learn from field exemplars. What I come away with after hundreds of interviews is that effective use of social media is building engagement on steroids!

The best organizations understand that your greatest assets are—to use a Facebook word—your friend relationships with audiences, visitors, fans, and patrons. You can mobilize these groups to help but you CANNOT make those friends in a crisis.

Friends are made on the frontlines through individual experiences that bring fans closer or push them away. We’ve noted 7 important elements of effective engagement which can solidify engagement and make social media mission critical for your fundraising:

  1. Make it Personal + Concrete + Time Sensitive
  2. Connect with Values and Value Connections
  3. Listen and Respond
  4. Answer the Audience’s Question: What’s in It for Me?
  5. Cultivate Productive Partnerships
  6. Measure What Matters
  7. Involve the Whole Organization

Two outstanding examples:

  • Georgia Shakespeare was facing a perfect storm of funding, facing possible closure. The managing director made a personal appeal—not unusual—but what happened next was explosive and exponential. A New York actor who got his start at Georgia Shakespeare sent out a birthday wish—“Don’t buy me a beer for my birthday, donate the price of one to my theatrical ‘birthplace.’” And donations flowed in—$325,000 in 2 weeks from more than 1000 people across the U.S. Read the rest of this entry »

Join Our Common Core Twitter Chat

Posted by Kristen Engebretsen On September - 12 - 2012

Kristen Engebretsen

Based on a survey Americans for the Arts completed last year, 46% of respondents said that they would be interested in arts education programming that related to broader education reform issues, such Common Core State Standards, No Child Left Behind, the achievement gap, student engagement, and state or federal policy.

This week, we have 15-20 arts and education leaders from across the country discussing the intersection of the arts and common core here on ARTSblog.

To accompany our blog salon, we will also be hosting a Twitter chat today (Wednesday, September 12) from 6:00– 7:00 p.m. ET. All you need to participate is a Twitter account (or simply follow along without one). Don’t have one? Sign up for free! If you’ve never participated in a chat on Twitter before, here are some tips on how to participate:

Twitter Basics

Here are some of the basic Twitter functions to get you started, adapted from Allison Boyer’s article on Blog World:

  • @ Reply: If you see an @ symbol followed by someone’s screen name (or their “handle”), it’s a way to hold a public conversation with that person.
  • DM: DM stands for direct message. It’s a way to hold a private conversation with another Twitter user, but you can only DM people who are already following you.
  • RT: RT stands for retweet. If you like what someone says on twitter, you can retweet it to spread the message to your followers as well.
  • MT: MT stand for modified tweet. It’s just like an RT, but you might have had to change a piece of it in order to RT something and still fit it in under 140 characters
  • Hashtag (#): If you see the pound symbol (#) before a word or phrase, it is essentially a keyword tag for the tweet so that others can find it more easily. On Twitter, this is called a hashtag, and they can help people search for your tweet. Basically, it’s a way to follow the stream of everyone talking about a specific subject.
  • Twitter Chat: A Twitter chat happens when several people get on Twitter at once to share ideas with one another. They do this by using a specific hashtag. Read the rest of this entry »

Private Sector Funding in the New Normal: Working All the Angles!

Posted by Valerie Beaman On June - 13 - 2012
Valerie Beaman

Valerie Beaman

Suzan Jenkins, CEO of the Arts & Humanities Council of Montgomery County, moderated a convention panel on creative methods for growing new funding born out of the experiences of the recession. The rise of online funding campaigns, emphasis on creating partnerships with businesses and, more radically, treat all philanthropic support as start-up funding and don’t rely on it for core operating income were some of the ideas explored. The consensus was to, remain flexible but, above all, stay true to your mission.

Maud Lyon, executive director of the Cultural Alliance of Southeastern Michigan, used the Community Foundation Challenge in Detroit as an example of the challenges and best practices for online giving/day of arts giving campaigns. A major goal of the Challenge was to raise awareness for the arts and culture sector.

Referencing it as “Glitches to Riches,”  Maud said the Challenge program raised $4,992,000 million for 75 organizations in one day. While the larger organizations raised higher dollar amounts, smaller organizations raised a higher proportion of their budget size. Existing donors were the mainstay of the Challenge (59 percent), but the Challenge brought in a significant number of new donors as well (28 percent).

Lessons learned by the arts community include: the importance of being prepared with technology and social networking in order to be able to respond quickly to challenge opportunities; the future of online giving is with younger donors; and, convenience, ease, flexibility and lack of pressure are the appeals of online commerce.

Maud emphasized the necessity of a good donor database and an excellent donor stewardship program. She personally donated to twelve different organizations during the Challenge, received very few thank you letters, and only three of the twelve followed up the following year for new donations. Lost opportunities! Read the rest of this entry »

Hurry Up…and Wait: Trying to Keep a Lid on AEP IV

Posted by Catherine Brandt On June - 9 - 2012

Catherine Brandt & Graham Dunstan are frazzled after trying to keep a lid on the AEP IV story for so long before Convention.

As everyone who reads ARTSblog should know by now, the Arts & Economic Prosperity IV study (AEP IV) was released yesterday at the Americans for the Arts Annual Convention in San Antonio.

With 182 participating communities and more than 150,000 audience-intercept surveys, this economic impact study of the arts is the largest and most comprehensive ever conducted. As the study launched before 800 attendees and countless others who saw the announcement live on the web, there was a collective sigh of relief at Americans for Arts.

The story we had held on to for more than six weeks was finally able to fly free.

Embargoed press releases. Pre-written tweets and Facebook updates. Scripted talking points. There were a dozen different ways that the big story of the $135 billion impact of the arts in our country could have been “spoiled” early.

Multiply those communications tools by the number of participating organizations and other partners and members of the press who had this information for the last few weeks and it’s nearly a miracle that barely anyone spilled the beans.

When we released the previous study (AEP III) at the 2007 Annual Convention, social media wasn’t the cultural and communication force it is now. Twitter wasn’t even a year old. And while Facebook was a staple at universities and colleges, its use by nonprofits wasn’t nearly as ubiquitous as today. Very simply: in 2007 it was easier to keep a secret.  Read the rest of this entry »

The Curtain Rises on 2012 Annual Convention

Posted by Tim Mikulski On June - 7 - 2012

A nice welcome sign at the San Antonio airport.

Although some of our staff members were delayed due to weather on route to San Antonio, everyone made it from out our New York and D.C. offices yesterday in preparation for the beginning of our 2012 Americans for the Arts Annual Convention this morning.

Today’s lineup includes the start of our preconferences—Public Art and Emerging Leaders—as well as several meetings of our peer network leadership councils and partners from our Arts & Economic Prosperity IV Study (which will be unveiled live in-person and via webcast on Friday, June 8 at 1:00 p.m. EDT/Noon CDT).

Registration for the main convention officially opens this evening (5:00 p.m. CDT) at the Grand Hyatt San Antonio before we move into the full slate of peer networking, professional development, innovator, and discussion sessions tomorrow morning.

We look forward to the opportunities that our annual meetings bring for our staff and attendees and we hope you’ll join us even if you aren’t in San Antonio via our webcast on Friday and Convention On-Demand (featuring over 30 hours of recorded sessions) which will be available after we depart Texas.

If you are joining us in person, thank you for making the trip and make sure you share your experience with us via comments on new blog posts throughout the weekend (and into next week), tweets (#AFTA12 is our hashtag), Facebook posts, and photos on Flickr.

Top Contenders (Pretenders?) to be the Next Facebook

Posted by Tim Mikulski On May - 30 - 2012

Tim Mikulski

CNN’s What’s Next blog recently published a list of current social media outlets/apps that could take over as the “next Facebook” if everything falls into place.

While there has been wild speculation in the past that other products would have replaced the big blue ‘F’ by now, it hasn’t happened; however, I’m pretty sure that I never thought MySpace would be replaced either (p.s. have you checked out what Friendster has become?).

So, here’s a quick rundown that CNN provided with links and my added commentary in bold after each description:

Highlight (number of users unpublished): This “social discovery” app was the buzz at this year’s South by Southwest Interactive, a conference in Austin, TX, that makes or breaks many tech start-ups. Essentially, the app aims to give people real-time information about the people all around them. “San Francisco is a city of 800,000 strangers,” Highlight founder Paul Davison told Time. “You sit on the bus next to each other. You stand in line next to each other. You go to bars and meetups to meet each other. You walk by each other on the street. And you don’t know anything about anyone you see.” This app seems move intrusive than Foursquare, so I’m not sure people will give it a shot.

Path (3 million users) Founded by ex-Facebooker Dave Morin, Path has a couple things going for it that Facebook doesn’t: It’s mobile-first, which is important in a world where people tend to network on their phones more and more than on their desktop computers; and it’s intimate. Path caps users’ friend lists at 50 people, ensuring that you’re actually communicating as the real you with people who you really know in real life. An app redesign won Path a new wave of support from the early-adopting tech public, but a privacy snafu in February, during which it was revealed that Path stored users’ phone contact lists, may have eroded the trust of some people. Morin apologized for that data slip, saying it was accidental and had been remedied. Privacy concerns aside, it seems like it’s what everyone intended Facebook to be—a more limited circle—and that could prove to be a draw for people like me who had to friend his entire high school class for reunion planning purposes. Also, there is an Instagram-like photo feature with Path that adds some value. This might be my pick as the next potential Facebook. Read the rest of this entry »

Have you ever wondered if it’s worth your time to start that Pinterest page for your organization or business? Is it important that you know what Digg is?

Thankfully, OnlineMBA.com has pulled together a fantastic infographic that will help you determine if Facebook is better for your message or if you should hurry up and start that Twitter account.

By gathering social media demographic info and putting it together in an arts-friendly way (a solar system of social media info), you can take a quick look at the social media universe and then decide if you’re on the right path or if you should be heading toward another orbit.

Here are some facts I gleaned from the resource (as posted on Mashable):

  • FACT: Facebook users visit the site 40 times per month and average over 23 minutes on the site per session.
  • OPPORTUNITY: That creates an opportunity to really engage with Facebook users. If you can get an article or link to your site on a Facebook user’s newsfeed at the right time, you will have them hooked…for at least that day. A study covering 2007-2010 Facebook use says that the peak use time is Wednesday at 3:00 p.m. ET and daily it is at 11:00 a.m., 3:00 p.m., and 8:00 p.m. ET.
  • FACT: 82 percent of Pinterest users are female.
  • OPPORTUNITY: The arts are already female-skewing, but if you want to reach out further into the demo, you’ll want to sign up for an account and try it out soon.
  • FACT: 71 percent of Google+ users are male and 43 percent are single men.
  • OPPORTUNITY: The arts are already female-skewing, but if you want to reach out to older, single men who may bring dates, girlfriends, and/or mothers to your gallery or performing arts center, you might want to dabble and see where Google+ takes you. Read the rest of this entry »

Making a Difference Online and Off

Posted by Marc Vogl On May - 4 - 2012

Marc Vogl

There are several particularly interesting things about The Awesome Foundation.

First, it’s not a Foundation. It’s 30+ self-organized chapters around the world of individuals kicking in $100/month to get behind ideas they think are cool.

Second, the grants that Awesome Foundation recipients get are $1000.

And for all the variety to be found in the funded  projects a common denominator is that $1000 made a difference.  In other words, a principle of the Awesome Foundation’s philanthropy (as decentralized and informal as it is) is that proposals are ‘right-sized’ if they can make the case that $1000 will tip the project into being successful.

As a former arts program officer at a major foundation I think that’s beautiful and also a simple concept to hang on to as one contemplates increasingly complex (and confusing) methodologies for understanding the impact the arts make.

The topic is definitely hot, and there has been really interesting work from those seeking to measure arts’ intrinsic impact  This includes the work from Theatre Bay Area  and others adding to the catalog of studies on arts’ instrumental impact. Read the rest of this entry »

Public Art & Storytelling in the Social Media Age

Posted by Katherine Gressel On May - 3 - 2012

Katherine Gressel

“How [can we] merge our ‘evaluation’ with life’s activities?”

This is an especially provocative question posed by Marc Maxson earlier in the Blog Salon

He suggests, “If you want quantitative data about people and social change, it’s probably more practical to transform our evaluation tools into a regular part of daily life—like Facebook or Google—so that we’re constantly looking at tens of thousands of bits of knowledge instead of just a few hundred.”

Maxson discusses Global Giving’s collection of tens of thousands of anecdotal stories throughout communities served by the organization.

This and many of the other entries suggest that when it comes to evaluation and the arts, surveys and statistics are out; stories and experiences are in. Also, social media platforms, like the ones cited above, have opened doors for the often unsolicited, ongoing collection of such stories and experiences.

In my first post, I wrote about the challenges of evaluating the impact of public art, especially on audiences and communities, by traditional quantitative data collection. Instead, what types of “stories” and “experiences” with public art could be recorded or collected, and how?

In her summary of Fairmount Park Association’s Museum Without Walls: AUDIO program, Penny Balkin Bach describes using storytelling to deepen each artwork’s engagement with a general public. Rachel Engh describes a feature allowing users to record their own stories about experiencing art in public spaces.

I do believe that new online and mobile technologies such as these are making it more and more feasible to collect and document a much greater archive of anecdotal evidence of people interacting with public art, “liking” public art, and discussing the issues behind it. Read the rest of this entry »

ARTSblog holds week-long Blog Salons, a series of posts by guest bloggers, that focus on an overarching theme within a core area of Americans for the Arts' work. Here are links to the most recent Salons:

Arts Education

Teaching Artists

Early Arts Education

Common Core Standards

Quality, Engagement & Partnerships

Emerging Leaders

Charting the Future of the Arts

Taking Communities to the Next Level

New Methods & Models

Public Art

Best Practices

Evaluation

Arts Marketing

Audience Engagement

Winning Audiences

Powered by Community

Animating Democracy

Arts & the Military

Scaling Up Programs & Projects

Social Impact & Evaluation

Humor & Social Change

Private Sector Initatives

Arts & Business Partnerships

Business Models in the Arts

Local Arts Agencies

Cultural Districts

Economic Development

Trends, Collaborations & Audiences

Art in Rural Communities

Alec Baldwin and Nigel Lythgoe talk about the state of the arts in America at Arts Advocacy Day 2012. The acclaimed actor and famed producer discuss arts education and what inspires them.