At the end of 2017, we published the Performing Arts Ticket Buyer Media Usage Study, a collaboration with WolfBrown where we surveyed nearly 27,000 people who purchased a performing arts ticket within the prior two years at one of the 58 organizations that partnered with us on this study. We wanted to take a bird's eye view of what types of media arts buyers were consuming most often, and where they are getting their information about cultural events.
I’ve had the opportunity to present the results of this survey at a number of arts marketing gatherings and the results around social media usage have ruffled some feathers. "But what about Twitter?" I've been asked more than once since Twitter doesn't appear in the data as one of the top platforms that ticket buyers use.
Rather than wing it, we dug into the data to understand Twitter's role. When asked which social media platforms they use in a typical week, only 19% of respondents reported using Twitter. This is across all age cohorts. For comparison sake, Facebook is used at least weekly by 65% of respondents.
Put another way, 80% of online adults use Facebook while just 24% of online adults use Twitter.
Slicing the data by age, Twitter use is fairly consistent across age cohorts up through 45-54 year olds, then we see a decline. This is a different pattern than we see on other social media platforms, where there’s a steeper negative correlation with age.
Knowing that Twitter is not used widely by arts ticket buyers or the overall population, next I wanted to understand if the people who are migrating to Twitter are particularly important audience members. To answer that, we sliced the data looking at subscribers, donors, frequent attenders at the organization through which they received the survey, and initiators.
For the first three - subscribers, donors, frequent attenders - Twitter usage was actually lower than non-subscribers, non-donors, and non-frequent attenders. This is consistent across all social media platforms and makes intuitive sense given that all three of those categories correlate with age. And, we know social media use in general does, as well.
For initiators, those who indicated they’re “the kind of person who likes to organize outings to cultural events for my friends,” Twitter usage indexes up. 23% of initiators vs. 19% of all buyers use Twitter. This is also consistent across all social platforms; for comparison sake, on Facebook usage for initiators is 72% versus 65% for all buyers. This is probably due to the underlying factor that initiators are negatively correlated with age (identification as an initiator was stronger in younger cohorts) and so is social media activity. So, initiators do use Twitter more, but there is not a more significant lift for Twitter than other social platforms.
According to this data, I would say focus first on Facebook and the channels that arts buyers consume more often and put Twitter to the side. I say this because each platform requires a unique voice, a particular posting style and all of that takes a lot of time. With limited resources, focus on where you get the biggest bang for your buck, or with one (or two) fowl swoops.
However, there are a few things that this data does not tell us that could convince me using Twitter is valid for your organization:
Are there influencers in your market, whose opinions drive ticket sales, who use Twitter more than other platforms? For example, does your city have a theater critic who has a large and influential Twitter following that people flock to? Do you have an artistic director or regular performer who has an influential Twitter voice? By influential I mean when they post, lots of people respond and engage and purchase tickets.
2.) You have a large staff with extra time or someone who is a Twitter pro
I doubt many organizations feel this way, but perhaps you do have a dedicated resource for Twitter. You feel like you are killing it on Facebook and Instagram and someone legitimately has the time to post well and frequently on Twitter.
3.) You receive lots of customer support inquiries on Twitter.
If you have established Twitter as a place where patrons are turning when they have questions or needs, then it would be tricky to step away.
Otherwise, when push comes to shove, put Twitter to the side and focus where the eyes and ears are. You only have so much time and money, so you have to use it on the platforms where more arts buyers spend their time.
Disagree with me? In owl seriousness, I'd love to have more data points and increase the list of why Twitter is valid. If so, please reply below. Please don’t Tweet at me.