What’s trending: Digital strategies in the arts

In this robust digital age, changes occur quickly. A foolproof marketing strategy two years ago may lead you to disaster today.  Unless you’ve been living in a cave content marketing is not a new phrase in your vocabulary, neither is data analysis. Similarly, for those strategies that have become tent poles in marketing plans, there are those that have gone the way of the dodo such as auto-blogging or QR codes.

When it seems that there is always a new marketing strategy gaining popularity, how do arts marketers decipher which approach is the best fit when investing resources?  Which of these emerging strategies are fads and which will be lasting trends?

Seth Godin describes trends as gaining “power over time, because it’s not merely part of a moment, it’s a tool, a connector that will become more valuable as other people commit to engaging in it.” Whereas fads simply fade out of the moment. Godin does note that when a fad fades we are able to truly understand the trend underneath.

Trend analyst Faith Popcorn recommends thinking of trends as a kind of database about consumers’ moods that can be tapped to help formulate marketing plans. For example, as individuals crave leisure time filled with productivity creating a marketing plan that embodies an experience is advantageous.

In Forbes article 7 Marketing Trends To Budget For In 2019 notes trends occurring in the for-profit business sector: it’s imperative that we in the arts industry keep abreast of what is trending not only in our nonprofit field but also in the commercial sector. Primarily, content marketing remains a key driver of engagement. Additionally topping the list of current trends are chatbots for customer relations, tactics for personalization, as well as focusing on an organization’s authentic values.

One trend we know isn’t going away any time soon is digital marketing. Increasingly, studies have shown that smartphone and tablet use is on the rise. According to the Pew Research Center:

  • 64% of American adults own a smartphone.
  • ​90% of American adults own a cell phone
  • 32% of American adults own an e-reader
  • 42% of American adults own a tablet computer

Recently commercial marketing budgets have shifted as well, with more money allocated towards digital advertisements than traditional counterparts such as print, radio, and television advertisements. Conversely, Capacity Interactive’s recent Arts Industry Digital Marketing Benchmark Study reports that most “30% of paid media was dedicated to digital and 70% was dedicated to non-digital media.”  Why the divide? Is it because our audiences aren’t online?

In looking to the Performing Arts Ticket Buyer Media Usage Study it reveals audiences are heavily relying on digital platforms to seek out information.

Source: WolfBrown

Perhaps, a more telling reason the arts industry has yet to increase investments into digital marketing is because we still aren’t prioritizing our patrons in the decision making process.  Capacity Interactive’s recent study asked organizations how they were approaching website design. Not surprisingly, arts organizations reported that the overall focus in designing new websites is meeting the organization’s internal needs. The majority of arts organizations have  yet to move to a patron-focused, data-informed approach to marketing. In fact, only 25% of survey respondents prioritized data- analytics when redesigning their websites. Cause Inspired Media’s chief operations officer, Sean Kerr, advises:

“The transition to digital isn’t so much a hard switch as it is an ongoing reevaluation. At every stage and in every project you need to understand where your audience is, how they engage now, and what you can do that matters to them.”

When looking at the broader marketing sector, recent research, shows that 73 percent of marketers say they use their website analytics to research their audience, but only 42 percent say they use actual audience conversations.  Currently, we are missing an opportunity to better our patron relationships. If marketers want to close that gap, they might want to look into chatbots.

For information regarding how to build your very own chatbot I recommend Ben Beck’s article on How to Build Your Own Facebook Chatbot in About 10 Minutes.

In addition to answering our patrons inquiries before they visit, chatbots can also be used in museums and galleries as patrons are able to have an immersive experience that has surpassed the analog atmosphere. “Bots can expand one’s ability to understand one’s surrounding reality and the world.”

By assisting in answering questions and contact with the work, chatbots can generate interest in the art itself. Recently, Akron Art Museum launched their chatbot museum tour guide, “Dot”. Dotleads a “choose your own adventure” style tour of the museum’s permanent collection, allowing visitors to choose what they are interested in seeing next. Even though chatbots have been around since the late 1960s, it seems our technology keeps getting better at ways we can create a personalized experience for our audiences.

In order to stay open to new ideas and trends, we need to develop marketing plans that are flexible, adaptable, and versatile. Our digital landscape keeps changing and we need to be ready to embrace the trends. By researching our audiences moods, staying abreast of technologies, and allocating budgets effectively we can ring in the new year with successful strategies for our organizations.

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2 Responses to What’s trending: Digital strategies in the arts

  1. James Wilson says:

    Thank you for sharing this.

  2. Andy says:

    Wow, actually I knew that emerging technologies are popular within all the industries, but I never thought about chatbots in this contexts. I read about the case of using AI for cancer prognosis (https://itrexgroup.com/case-studies/ai-platform-for-cancer-prognosis/) and about chatbots that read lectures, but actually AI bot for museum – is brilliant idea!

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