Social Media and the Arts: How Strong Is Your Social Net? | Beth's Blog

Social Media and the Arts: How Strong Is Your Social Net?

Research Studies

Note From Beth: Back in 2011, I had pleasure of facilitating a panel discussion Grantmakers in the Arts pre-conference on technology and media with Rory MacPherson  and Jai Sen from Sen Associates where I learned about research study they were conducting about social media use in the arts.   One of the study’s authors, Mary Trudel, wrote a guest post back in 2011 summarizing the results.    They are in the process of updating the study and have some preliminary results to share.

How Strong Is Your Social Net?  Guest Post by Mary Trudel

This is the question we’re asking arts groups across the country this month, refreshing our national landmark survey of 2011.  With the digital communications landscape evolving at light speed we wanted to track challenges, leadership attitudes, measurement strategies and 2014 investment plans.

For arts organizations social media can be a highly effective, not-so-secret weapon to share content with the public, build audiences, fundraise and create community – especially with younger constituents.  Trudel | MacPherson, in partnership with Neuer Media, has devised a comprehensive survey to benchmark current social media investment, attitudes and evaluation by arts organizations of all sizes and across all disciplines.  The survey is currently in the field but initial responses show broad adoption and rising confidence and sophisticated use of online and social tools.  Click here to participate in the study.

Tried and True Platforms

Early returns show robust embrace of social media’s tried and true platforms like Facebook (used regularly by more than 92% of respondents) Twitter (@55%) and YouTube (@40%).  There’s a great deal of buzz around Instagram and Pinterest but only 19% use Instagram regularly and only 12% use Pinterest.

Management attitudes


Management attitudes remain positive with 70% of responded excited about using social media but many report outside pressure with more than 50% noting “our audience expects it of us.” More than 25% remain “daunted by the technical aspects” of managing digital communications across various platforms. Efforts to refocus goals and determine which platforms deliver the best return will be crucial to overcome this challenge.

Future Investment Plans


Only 2% of arts groups plan to spend less on social media and digital communications in 2014.  More than 57% plan to spend more and 41% plan to

keep spending level. A strong signal that social media will remain a fixture in the marketing toolkit of arts organization nationwide. To build management appetite for increased investment, we recommend arts organizations follow the advice in the Networked Nonprofit with Do It Yourself social media experiments to test new ideas.  Making small “bets” and urging funding for those that work is a winning strategy.

Greatest Challenges


Time remains a challenge for more than 80% of respondents.  It appears to be an even greater hurdle to adoption than expertise (only 50% reported lack of expertise as a problem) or budget (reported at 52%).  On a positive note, fewer than 10% of arts organizations report issues with management buy-in or trust. Only 6% of groups reported management thinks social media is overpromising and under-delivering.

Though marketers are reporting growing management trust in staff digital outreach, we continue to see a tug of war between promotion and engagement played out in social media.  As noted in the Networked Nonprofit, social media should be a conversation – not a sales pitch — groups should focus less on growing themselves and more on cultivating their networks.  Successful arts groups will concentrate on building community, developing followers and fans, and turning them into advocates and patrons.

Click here to participate in the survey:

Full results will be published in early 2014 on the Trudel | MacPherson website

Mary Trudel

Mary Trudel is a creative, award winning marketing professional who brings more than 20 years of experience in strategic counsel, branding, reputation management, media relations and program management to Trudel | MacPherson to help arts organizations and collaboratives engage with constituents and audiences.


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