Here’s how the top social media channels rank in terms of engagement with cultural entities – with the data organized both by age and exhibit vs. performance-based institutions.
In our last article, we shared research on the top social media channels on which Americans are engaging with cultural entities. We received some thoughtful follow-up questions from that article, and these two questions were the most popular:
How does engagement with these top social media channels differ by age group?
Is Instagram still the top social media channel for engagement when the research contemplates only performance-based entities such as theaters, ballets, and symphonies?
These are important considerations. Thankfully, we can immediately dive deeper into the research to answer these questions.
Is social media a top source of information for people who attend cultural entities?
The answer to this question is a resounding “yes,” and it’s the best place to start before we dive deeper into the individual social media channels. In fact, social media isn’t just a top information source for people who profile as likely visitors to cultural institutions. Social media, web, and mobile web are where most Americans go for information.
On the whole, we find that when folks want to know something, they go to their devices – desktop computers, laptops, phones, tablets – and access the vast array of knowledge available on the internet. Social media channels are particularly attractive sources of information since they are connective platforms that allow people to see what friends and family are doing; get recommendations and endorsements for their leisure time; and share information about their values and areas of interest.
The research below contemplates 2,882 likely visitors to exhibit-based organizations (zoos, aquariums, museums, gardens, etc.) and 1,770 likely visitors to performance-based organizations (theaters, symphonies, ballets, etc.) as of the end of the second quarter of 2022. The data are presented as index values, which assigns proportionality around the mean of 100. This means 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.
With impressive index values over 500, the “big three” (as we call them at IMPACTS Experience) of web, mobile web, and social media are the top sources of information for likely visitors to both exhibit and performance-based organizations.
“WOM” stands for “word of mouth,” and “peer review web” represents channels such as Yelp and TripAdvisor.
This chart is not intended to tell you how to distribute marketing resources. As leaders know, an effective marketing and communication strategy considers how these platforms work together. However, the key takeaway is clear: People are using the internet to obtain information, and social media is a top source of information for likely visitors to cultural organizations.
Which social media channels garner the most engagement (with exhibit and performance-based organizations considered separately)?
While we saw in tweets and comments that leaders of exhibit-based organizations were entirely unsurprised that Instagram is the top social media channel for engagement and conversions for cultural entities, we heard more skepticism from thoughtful leaders of performance-based organizations. “But are our audiences using that platform, when performing arts are considered separately?” It’s a good question – and it’s also one for which we have contemporary research.
The next chart contemplates 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. Specifically, this chart quantifies likes, shares, and comments on organization-related social media posts. It’s essentially drilling down into this chart in our most recent article.
Below is a quantification of how our most likely visitors are actually interacting with cultural organizations’ messages and advertising on these respective platforms:
With an index value over 100 for likely visitors (including both active and inactive visitors), Instagram is indeed the top platform for engagement for both exhibit- and performance-based organizations.
Like most processes with IMPACTS Experience, 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 a social media channel isn’t on this list (Snapchat, Pinterest, etc.), it is not in the top four social media channels for engagement. On a related note, we see that although YouTube is a powerful platform in which potential guests also engage, audiences tend to consider YouTube more of a content provider than a social media platform. Content providers such as YouTube or Vimeo are contemplated differently by our audiences for the purpose of these analyses.
How does engagement with these social media platforms differ by age group?
There are indeed some age differences regarding social media platform engagement for cultural organizations, folks! The charts below show the research segmented by age cohorts.
Let’s start with engagement regarding exhibit-based organizations (e.g., museums, zoos, aquariums, gardens, etc.), and then we’ll take a look at engagement concerning performance-based entities.
With index values reliably over 100 regardless of age cohort, Instagram is still the top platform overall. However, you can see that there’s some variation in how the others rank among age groups. For those over 35, the ranking is Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, and Twitter. For the under-35 crowd, TikTok and Facebook switch ranks. It’s no surprise to those under 35 (or people who know someone under 35) that TikTok is a popular platform right now. But TikTok is not only engaging the under-35 crowd! Even for older adults, it’s outperforming Twitter in terms of cultural organization engagement, although, notably, adults over 55 use TikTok and Twitter at much lower levels compared to the other age cohorts.
When we dive into performance-based organizations (e.g., theaters, symphonies, ballets, etc.) we see that Instagram remains the top social media channel. Remember that while these index values may be lower compared to exhibit-based organizations, social media on the whole is still a top source of information for potential patrons to performing arts organizations.
For likely patrons over 55, TikTok is in last place – and at 24.2, the index value is not particularly impressive. This differs from likely visitors to exhibit-based organizations where Twitter has the lowest index value (30.5) and TikTok is achieving more engagement among this cohort (34.0).
With an index value of 62.7 for individuals aged 18-34 on TikTok, and an index value of 66.0 for individuals aged 18-34 on Facebook, these platforms may be closer in terms of performance than some leaders might expect. This information is critical to watch if yours is an organization aiming to engage younger audiences – an imperative for the long-term viability of many symphonies and orchestras.
No doubt about it: social media is critical for engaging audiences, maintaining relevance, and inspiring attendance to exhibit and performance-bases organizations alike. Among all social media platforms, Instagram is inspiring the most engagement across all age cohorts.
We will continue to watch the evolution of TikTok engagement among all cohorts – and certainly don’t write off this powerful platform for younger audiences! It is in second place among the under-35 crowd for exhibit-based organizations right now. And though you may be hearing less about Facebook than you have in the last several years, it’s still an important platform!
There you have it, folks. This is where the people are engaging with cultural entities. Whether or not they actively engage with your own organization is often dependent upon the resources your organization is investing in the platform, how effectively your organization manages content on the platform, and how your organization prioritizes social engagement. Simply having an account for your symphony (for instance) does not necessarily an engaging social media channel make. If your organization isn’t getting engagement on a major platform, it may be time to ramp up your organization’s content strategy.
To all cultural organizations consistently navigating these platforms and others for their institutions, keep it up! Our audiences are online – and we need to be, too.
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