Art organizations and Social Media: a look at America

What is the situation of a cultural organization from the point of view of the digital age? What do they do in social media era? What digital instruments do they use for art marketing?

These and more questions can be answered by a recent survey, made by Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, that has investigated the situation of cultural organizations in the digital side.

The survey results reported here are based on a non-probability sample of 1,258 arts organizations that received funding from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) in the years 2007-2011.

According to this research, technology use permeates art organizations, their marketing and education efforts, and even their performance offerings. Moreover, many organizations are using internet and social media to expand the number of online performances and exhibits, grow their audience, sell tickets, and raise funds online, while allowing patrons to share content, leave comments, and even post their own content on organizations’ sites.

Here are some data


But what is the social media penetration among American cultural consumers?

  • 44% of all adults had attended a live music, dance, or theater performance in the 12 months prior to the survey; among those who follow a music/dance/theatrical group or venue on a social networking site, the figure climbs to 77%;
  • 35% of all adults had visited a museum in the last 12 months; among those who follow a museum on a social networking site, the figure is more than double at 82%;
  • 35% of all adults had attended an arts, craft or music festival in the last 12 months; the figure is 55% when looking just at those who follow individual artists, musicians or performers on a social networking site;
  • Finally, 29% of all adults had visited an art gallery, show, or exhibit in the last 12 months. The figure is almost three times as high (82%) among those who follow an art gallery or other visual organization on a social networking site.

These data suggests that adults that connect to arts and cultural organizations through social media are much more likely to attend events and exhibits than those who do not. Presumably, many adults who follow these institutions on social media do so because they are already patrons. Yet given their power to “hook” patrons and expand audience through these platforms, arts organizations may see tremendous dividends in social media properties that are informative, engaging, and relevant to their audience.

Indeed a surprising fact is that an organization discovered that about 70-80% of the people who regularly like, comment on, or repost its content were donors. Social media provides an additional vehicle for them to engage with – and support – their work.

From this survey we can find that the use of social media in American art organizations is mature and aware. From normal firms goals are a bit different. They include to increase attendance at events, ticket sales and public awareness of the organization, but also they include to create a place of sharing content, comparison of experiences and listen to client/patrons.


Francesco Zanibellato



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