There are a lot of social media platforms out there and cultural organizations aim to be as efficient and effective as possible – so which platform leads to the most engagement and conversions among the most likely guests?
It’s no secret by now: There’s no going back to the time before the pandemic. Elevated digital engagement is the “new normal” for cultural organizations, and a basic expectation among potential visitors. This heightened expectation is informing how potential visitors engage with online ticketing platforms, digital marketing efficacy, and most critically, how people interact with cultural organizations on social media.
But cultural organizations don’t have unlimited time and budgets. Given that social media engagement is even more important for an organization’s success than it was in 2019, it may be helpful for entities to know which social media channels will have the greatest impact in reaching audiences.
More people are engaging with cultural organizations online than before the pandemic
As of July 1, 2022, the second quarter was officially in our rearview mirror and the new research is in! The chart below derives from the National Awareness, Attitudes, and Usage Study and cumulatively contemplates visitor behavior and recall among 4,556 adult high-propensity visitors concerning their experiences with US cultural organizations ranging from museums and zoos to symphonies and theaters. At IMPACTS Experience, high-propensity visitors are folks who have an increased interest, inclination, or likelihood to attend cultural organizations – both those who actively attend and those with an interest in visiting who have not recently done so.
Compared to the pre-pandemic milestone:
- 43% more Americans have visited a cultural organization’s website in the last year
- 37% more Americans have followed an organization on social media in the last year
- 60% more Americans have liked a post by or about an organization on social media in the last year
- 89% more Americans have opened an email from a cultural organization in the last year
- 91% more Americans have subscribed to an organization’s newsletter in the last year
Cultural organizations no longer receive perceptual bonus points by being competent at digital engagement; people now expect competence as a baseline. Cultural entities will benefit by meeting people where they are.
They are online.
Which social media channels lead to the most engagement?
But where are high-propensity visitors online? Or rather, where are they most frequently engaging with cultural organizations by way of liking, sharing, or commenting on organization-related posts?
The chart below contemplates digital tracking by social media platform as of the end of the second quarter of 2022 (“Q2 2022”) and indicates the platforms in which potential visitors to cultural organizations are most actively engaged. In terms of high-propensity markers, this analysis contemplates exhibit-inclined and performance-inclined potential visitors alike. The research is presented in index value, which assigns proportionality around the mean of 100. An item with an index value of 100 is twice as impactful as an index value of 50, and anything with an index value over 100 is particularly worthy of note.
Below is a quantification of how our most likely visitors are actually interacting with cultural organizations’ messages and advertising on these respective platforms:
You can see that Instagram is 2.76 times more useful in activating engagement among likely visitors right now (by way of quantifying likes, shares, and comments) than the runner-up, Facebook. Instagram is an impressive five times more impactful at eliciting digital engagement than Twitter.
“But we’re on Pinterest. Where’s Pinterest?” (Or Snapchat, LinkedIn, etc.) The scope of this research was initially prioritized by a process called lexical analysis. We started this process by asking open-ended questions to a representative group and used those answers to populate the list above. If you’re interested in a social media channel that isn’t on this list, then it is not in the top four social media channels for engagement.
We observe that YouTube is a powerful platform in which potential guests also engage. However, audiences tend to consider YouTube to be more analogous to other web-based content providers than social media platforms. Although YouTube, Vimeo, and other video content providers are incredibly powerful platforms that can dramatically impact engagement, they are contemplated differently by our audiences for the purpose of these analyses.
Which social media channels lead to the most conversions?
But what about conversions? This measurement considers the platforms that lead to a behavior that benefits a sponsoring organization. This may include buying a ticket, registering for a lecture, joining a group, or signing up for a newsletter.
Instagram takes the lead again! Interestingly, Facebook and TikTok are nearly neck-and-neck when it comes to conversions among our high-propensity visitors. While Facebook is more impactful in terms of engagement (likes, comments, shares), TikTok makes up ground in its efficacy for inspiring conversions.
In sum, more people are engaging with cultural organizations digitally than before the pandemic. And if there’s one social media channel in which to prioritize engagement, it’s Instagram.
As a reminder, this research considers potential guests to cultural organizations on the whole. Thus, this information may provide a valuable framework for strategic consideration. Keep in mind that your own organization may have core audiences and sub-audiences that prefer different platforms. If that’s the case, we recommend that your entity conduct additional research for its unique user groups to supplement these broader findings. If you’re a music-based organization interested in SoundCloud, for instance, then it may be a valuable channel if your key audiences are familiar with and actively engaging with that platform.
This aggregate research provides general directional insight in terms of current digital behavior and preferences among likely visitors. Engaging on Instagram is a good idea – period. It’s where people are already engaging with like institutions, and it’s difficult for a single organization to singlehandedly alter audience behavior. This research doesn’t mean other platforms like Facebook aren’t important (they are), but it may offer some insights into better engaging audiences and how to leverage different platforms in an organization’s overall content strategy.
Cultural organizations are generally most effective when they meet audiences where they are in terms of platforms and content relevance, rather than “talking at” audiences to coax them to meeting the institution’s needs instead.
If there’s only one social media channel to prioritize right now, Instagram is where to be.
IMPACTS Experience provides data specific to organizations or markets through workshops, keynote presentations, webinars, and data services such as pricing recommendations, market potential analyses, concept testing, and Awareness, Attitude, and Usage studies. Learn more.
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