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Social, Arts & Mobile — Exploring Three Reports from the Past Three Months

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We read and research a lot here at TOKY — not just about the verticals we focus on (the arts, education, healthcare, et. al), but also about the print and digital worlds in which our work exists. 

Today, we’d like to share a few highlights from three reports that caught our eye during the past few months. Perhaps there’s a nugget or two in here that will help you in your work.



First up is the Pew Internet & American Life Project’s new “Arts Organizations and Digital Technologies” report, the results of a survey of more than 1,200 arts organizations across the country. We found no shockers here — a strong majority (81%) believe that digital technologies are “very important” for promoting the arts. We would hope so, and we’ve seen so. Digging into the full report, we did spot a few specific numbers that could serve as a comparative measure for you and your team:

  • 65% say digital technologies are “very important” for fundraising. This doesn’t mean PayPal integration on your website. At TOKY, we see really great potential with focused digital projects like microsites, which can be built for capital campaigns, new building projects, and the like. (We see nods from the Development Office.)
  • 50% maintain a blog
  • 81% post or stream videos of their performances or exhibits
  • 27% host podcasts (don’t forget about audio!)
  • 63% say digital technology is “very important” for helping them “use their organization’s resources more efficiently.” As with the first bullet, this affirms that strategic digital content can be an investment with a return.

It’s not all cheers for digital — the report notes how organizations have to tolerate (and, we hope, respond to) fault-finding Facebook comments, as well as visitors’ decreasing attention spans during live performances.

To close, though, I’ll circle back to a positive point that jumped out. The researchers asked the organizations to recount any major impacts that social media has had on their work. Among the themes that emerged, writes Pew: “Social media helps organizations clarify what they do.”

What that says to us is that it’s not just about be able to repeat the mission of the organization over and over online. Rather, by having to show up every day or so, and express who you are and what you stand for — in ways formal and informal, using words and pictures, engaging staff from all departments — you come to know who you are, and how to articulate it, better than ever. You’re continually working that identity muscle. (This brought to mind a comment the Walker Art Center’s Paul Schmelzer made at last summer’s National Museum Publishing Seminar: Publishing is a means of creating an identity.)

Last month, Nielsen and NM Incite released a study called “Social Media Report 2012.” The 15-slide report is headlined “Social Media Is Coming of Age,” and our eyes alighted on these findings:

  • In terms of the year-over-year growth of social media use, 63% of this growth was via mobile apps or the mobile web. That’s significant.
  • Pinterest use is surging. (Here’s TOKY’s sliver.) While Pinterest is not yet among the top three social media apps or sites used, its year-over-year growth was  1,047% on the desktop browser, 1,698% on the mobile app, and 4,225% on the mobile web.
  • “Social Care” — customer service via social media — is also growing. On average, 47% of social media users engage in it, and one in three prefer it to contacting a company by phone. For those arts institutions focused on the first report above, think about how you can use Twitter and Facebook to nourish your member and visitor relationships.
  • Lastly, in the “Frequency of Social Activities” section, the report concludes that 65% of users use social media to “learn more about brands/products/services” and 50% use it to “express concerns/complaints about brands/services.” As we encourage our clients to keep top of mind, social media is not just about talking. Keep your ears open, too.

Looking a bit further back on the calendar, one Fall 2012 report that caught our attention was the “Future of Mobile News,” authored by the Project for Excellence in Journalism (quick disclosure: my sister is the Acting Director) and The Economist. While this study focused specifically on the news business, the data about mobile and tablet use should be of interest to anyone attempting to communicate with an audience in the digital world. (That means you, everyone. Remember: You’re now partly in the publishing business.)

A few highlights for us:

  • The number of Americans who own a tablet has doubled in the last year. The number is 22%, and another 3% regularly use a tablet owned by someone else in their home. How does your current site look and operate on tablets?
  • A respectable number of mobile and tablet users will in fact read long-form pieces on those devices. From the report: “Many also are reading longer news stories — 73% of adults who consume news on their tablet read in-depth articles at least sometimes, including 19% who do so daily. Fully 61% of smartphone news consumers at least sometimes read longer stories, 11% regularly.” Skeptical that an iPad-using member of your museum will get through a curator’s 4,000-word essay about Caravaggio? You might be surprised.
  • Of course, “tablets” does not just mean iPads. From the report: “The advent of the new lower-priced tablets in late 2011 brought in a new crop of tablet owners. Now, just over half, 52%, of tablet owners report owning an iPad, compared with 81% a year ago. Nearly half, 48%, now own an Android-based device; about half of them, 21%, Kindle Fires.” Your latest digital project should be tested, pre-launch, across devices.
  • Not everything should be an app. Many tablet users prefer reading a site through a browser over launching and reading from within a walled-garden app. From the report: “There has been movement over the last year toward using the browser rather than apps for tablet news consumption. Fully 60% of tablet news users mainly use the browser to get news on their tablet, just 23% get news mostly through apps and 16% use both equally.” If you’re, say, a university communications department looking mainly to deliver content to your audience, be sure to weigh the downsides of using an app to do it — it’s more difficult for people to discover the content, and share it; and users need to be convinced to download the app in the first place, then actually use it consistently (hurdles, both).

That’s it for today from TOKY Research. Have any questions about these findings, or how they relate to your work? Drop us a line or give us a call. We love this stuff.

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Written by Stephen Schenkenberg