From trust in museums to onsite satisfaction by information source – here are some of our recent data updates in one place.
Happy Halloween! In celebration, let’s revisit some “ghosts” of data past and compare them with more recent data cuts so you can see some changes over time and get an insightful look at ongoing trend analysis from a market research perspective.
Each chart compares data from two KYOB articles published at different times – over a year apart. In each case, we’ve linked to both the original article and the more recent data update.
Are there some interesting items of note in the trends? Absolutely. Are all of the changes massively exciting and dramatic? They sure aren’t. No scary stories here! In fact, you’ll see that tracing trends also means seeing stability, as is the case in trust in museums thus far. That lack of drama in our sector is a good thing in an increasingly distrusting world.
A) Trustworthiness and credibility of cultural organizations
We’ve been tracking trust in cultural organizations for a while now, but we published our first article on the topic in April of 2017 when we noticed that visitor confidence declined in the months following the US presidential election. The second cut was published in March of 2019, but the data was pulled November 2018 so a data update could be included in AAM’s TrendsWatch 2019 by The Center For The Future Of Museums.
These scalar variable values are high. Cultural organizations are trusted – no doubt about it. The changes between April 2017 and November 2018 are not generally statistically significant for the cultural organizations included. However, changes are significant for trust in non-governmental organizations (NGOs), state agencies, and federal agencies. NGOs and federal agencies also took a big hit in perceived credibility over this time.
In this case, “no news is good news” for cultural organizations. Sure, it would be great to see massive increases in trust during this time (and maybe we’ll see something interesting in the 2020 data cut), you ambitious museum leaders! But note that museums are more trusted than daily newspapers. Trust is a superpower, and our metrics are high. They are high among both people who visit these organizations and also people who don’t.
We’ll update this chart in May 2020 to keep our published increments at approximately 1.5 years. I’m already excited about this one. Stay tuned!
B) Political agendas and recommending mission-based behaviors
April 2017 was also when organizations started reaching out to us with concern about tension surrounding the politicizing of their missions.
The validity of scientific fact? The act of representing community struggles through artwork? Climate change? Evolution? Conservation, even? There was concern these topics may be “claimed” by political parties and thus alienate and divide audiences that attend cultural institutions. So we looked into it. Here’s what we saw in April of 2017 compared to what we saw in November 2018.
In this data set, values over 64 demonstrate active agreement with the statement, and values under 62 begin to express active disagreement. With all values under 62 for cultural entities, it is clear people generally do not believe that cultural organizations have political agendas – but they think NGOs, state agencies, and federal agencies do!
People believe cultural organizations should recommend behaviors or ways for the general public to support their missions. The stability we’re seeing in this area in an increasingly polarized world is a relief, to say the least.
Remember, though, that while cultural entities are trusted and not believed to have political agendas, on the whole, specific entities might. There’s a line here. Being trusted to suggest ways to support your mission is a responsibility to the people we serve so that we may maintain that trust. Good things come to organizations that demonstrate integrity in supporting their missions. But this finding is not immunity and it’s not a free ticket to take up politics without consequence. We can lose this trust. Let’s not.
C) Pre-visit sources of information
What sources of information are folks using to inform their visits to cultural organizations? We’ve been monitoring this one for a long while, but we published our first article on this cut in April of 2017 with data pulled February 2017. We updated the data in March of 2019.
The most notable increases in pre-visit information sources are for mobile web, social media, and peer review sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor. This isn’t surprising. We know that people who have interest in visiting cultural organizations are super-connected, with access to the internet at home, at work, and on a mobile device. Not only that, inactive visitors (people with interest in visiting organizations but haven’t done so within two years) are even more connected via digital engagement platforms than current visitors!
Still not adequately investing in digital connection and online community management? Your organization might find itself haunted by fewer visitors.
D) Onsite sources of information
Personalization. It’s an important engagement trend, folks.
This information was also shared in the same articles in 2017 and 2019. The changes we’re seeing in onsite uses of information sources help underscore this general finding. This chart measures the percentage of people who actively used each information source while onsite visiting a cultural organization in a way that relates to their visit.
Today, nearly 60% of visitors to cultural organizations use social media onsite in a way that relates to their visit. Nearly 60%! And nearly half of visitors access the internet on a mobile device in a way that relates to their visit. These folks are using digital platforms to learn more about your content, endorse your organization, create a memorable moment by taking a selfie, and other things that allow them to personalize the experience and – in a way – be their own “curators” of their experience.
Don’t be spooked: Web is so low here because this is folks who brought their laptops to the cultural organization.
E) How much each source increases visitor satisfaction
We don’t just measure what sources of information folks are using in regard to their visit while they are onsite – we’re also measuring how those sources of information correlate with visitor satisfaction. Satisfaction is a critical metric for cultural organizations as it correlates with the likelihood to return and also to endorse a visit. Interestingly, we’ve found that guests who use certain information sources in relation to their visit have higher satisfaction scores.
In February 2017, people who used social media onsite in a way that relates to their visit had 6% higher satisfaction scores compared to people who did not report using social media onsite in relation to their visit. By March 2019, these onsite users of social media had 7% higher satisfaction scores than non-users.
What’s interesting about this chart not be the change from year to year, necessarily, but the take-away. It’s a meaningful one: Folks who can personalize their experiences in some way – from looking up more information on a mobile device to posting a selfie to having an interpersonal interaction with someone – have higher guest satisfaction rates.
Want more on this topic? Check out the Fast Facts video:
Most of the metrics that have been shared on this website are being actively tracked through the National Awareness, Attitudes, and Usage Study. Other metrics in which we’ve shared changes over time include the preference to stay home with a week or weekend off of work or school, millennials and their cause priorities, and what percentage of folks are visiting with families relative to other travel part constructs, to name a few. (If you have ghostly visitors, however, you’re on your own – we haven’t yet mastered paranormal data collection!)
We are careful not to share data updates too often unless there’s a clear reason to do so, as there has been for the metrics shown here. We cut metrics related to digital engagement because we live in an increasingly connected world, and trust in institutions has been a hot topic in the midst of political polarization. But you won’t see us updating every chart every month – or even every year in most cases. Why? Because trends occur over time and publishing the data too frequently can lead to misunderstanding or false leads.
But fear not! You can count on us to keep haunting these findings. We’ll continue to track trends, trace behaviors, and keep you posted on evolutions in perceptions and behaviors surrounding cultural organizations.
No tricks, just treats! Subscribe here to get the most recent data and analysis on cultural organizations in your inbox. Did some of the Halloween puns woven throughout this article make you laugh? Good! They came from the brain of our punny KYOB Coordinator, Bethany.