Potential visitors to cultural organizations go to digital platforms for information. But does this change by household income?
The fact that people go to digital platforms for information probably isn’t surprising at this point. After all, internet users are growing by more than one million every day and 28% of Americans say they are online “almost constantly.” The internet is at our fingertips – literally – with the growing use of mobile devices and 81% of Americans owning a smartphone. This means that we can look up the information we’d like to know within seconds – often without scouring a newspaper or book, waiting for a TV ad, or calling a phone line.
But what about potential museum visitors and performing arts attendees? Are they using the web at similar rates? If you’re a regular reader of this website, then you know that the answer is yes. (We even published an article that included this research last week.) That said, top sources of information for likely visitors to cultural organizations may be our most requested and most cut data set at IMPACTS.
“Yeah, but Baby Boomers don’t use the internet.” This is false.
“Maybe current visitors use the web, but people with interest who aren’t coming don’t.” False again.
“Not people in Florida. They don’t use social media. They much prefer print.” Still no. We’ve yet to cut this data for a state – or even a region – wherein digital sources of information did not emerge as the top source of information for likely visitors… by far.
But we understand the quest to uncover exceptions to the “we live in a connected world” rule.
Acknowledging the importance of web-based platforms still means big change for many cultural organizations. It means marketing reallocations, revisiting strategy, hiring new people, and new priorities. It’s no surprise that status quo bias hits us hard when presented with data on the importance of digital platforms. Integrating these changes is – and has been – hard work.
But does household income play a role in information source usage? (Pause.) I hadn’t considered this until I was asked the question during a recent keynote session. I didn’t know the answer and I wondered if, indeed, there may be an interesting trend when the findings are considered in this way. So I asked, unsure of what might arise. Here are the outcomes of that inquiry.
Where do potential visitors to cultural organizations go for information?
The research below shows the top sources of information for people who profile as likely visitors to cultural organizations. These are the folks in the US who have the demographic, psychographic, and behavioral characteristics that indicate increased likelihood to attend a museum or performing arts organization. It includes both people who actively do visit cultural organizations, and folks who have interest but do not (who also tend to be more diverse).
The data below is from the National Awareness, Attitudes, and Usage Study and is shown in index value. An index value is a way of assigning proportionality around a mean. In this case, the mean is 100. Values above 100 are particularly worthy of note, and those with values less than 100 are less so.
(Click on the chart for a larger image.)
Mobile web and web are similar insofar as they include webpages (other than social media and peer review websites), but “mobile web” is accessed on a mobile device. “WOM” stands for “word of mouth,” and “peer review web” includes websites such as Yelp and TripAdvisor.
The news here is… that there isn’t much. There isn’t much difference in information sources between likely visitors of different household incomes. Households with incomes over $200,000 are using similar information sources as households with incomes under $25,000. The ranking of the information sources also remains largely the same.
As a note: While this research should certainly inform your organization’s engagement strategy, it is not a direct apples-to-apples for allocation of marketing dollars. Strategic marketing contemplates how these sources work together, for what purpose and audience, and is also informed by this critical information.
What information sources do people use to inform their visit to a cultural organization?
But what sources of information do visitors actually use in relation to their visit before they come in the door? The answer to this question is shown in the chart below. Rather than index values, this chart shows the percentage of folks who report using each information source prior to their visit. The data is cut for people who had visited any cultural institution within the last 12 months – from an art museum, to a historic site, to a zoo, to an opera – as of the first quarter of 2019.
(Click on the chart for a larger image.)
Notice any similarities? Web, mobile web, and social media still take the cake. Again, interestingly, we don’t see major differences in pre-visit usage of information source by household income.
If you think these findings are boring, you may want to think again. The myth that’s busted here is this: We don’t have factual grounds to dismiss the importance of digital engagement by household income. Likely visitors to cultural organizations are digitally connected, and they are using online platforms to access information not only about the world, but also about our institutions.
To succeed, cultural organizations benefit by “meeting people where they are.”
Today, they’re online.
Subscribe here to get the most recent data and analysis on cultural organizations in your inbox.