Let’s face it- social media is no longer a “fad.” It’s changing the way we spend our time, conduct business, and gather information. With the rapid advancements in technology including mobile and tablet devices (think iPhone 5, iPad 2 and android phones) the entire population is becoming more connected and reliant on technology. According to Nielsen’s annual social media report, the use of social applications increased 76% from 2011 to 2012. Consumers are also spending more time on social networking sites, (an increase of 21% from 2011-2012) and “feel more connected and informed” as a result. Thus, social media is impacting everyone: consumers, companies and organizations alike- including non-profit arts organizations.
Continually keeping my finger on the pulse of digital media, I have recently noticed many ballet companies forming a deeper understand and connection with social media. Over the past year, I observed an increase of activity with leading ballet companies participating onFacebook, Twitter, blogs, and even Pinterest. Moreover, as a social media enthusiast, I was pleased to see a recent article published in the Huffington post: “5 Things the Dance Field Should Be Talking About in 2013”, naming digital media and technology as an area that needs to be paid further attention to, especially in the arts. However, with the classic business model of a non-profit, technology doesn’t come at a low cost. If ballet companies want to keep up with the fastest-growing area of marketing, they are going to need the resources: time, staff, knowledge & assets. This becomes one of the biggest challenges in keeping up with digital media progression, which is moving ahead in full force. Thus, it’s a double edge sword: resources are needed for digital marketing and marketing is needed to drive sales, in turn bringing in the financial resources for the company. Although social media does require time and energy from organizations, it is on a positive note that participation in basic social media sites is essentially free. Lucky for arts organizations, it doesn’t have to cost money to interact with our patrons. So, there are ways to overcome some- but not all of the resource obstacles.
With increased activity from consumers on social media sites, it is only natural that the strategy in which we are reaching our patrons is shifting to more of a digital media marketing focus, rather than traditional marketing. From a marketing perspective, responsibilities are starting to shift as well. Marketing departments are beginning to realize the importance of shifting their marketing focus to digital efforts, therefore increasing responsibilities to manage the constantly developing digital landscape. From mobile technologies (apps), to Facebook,Twitter, blogging, and YouTube among others, it is becoming more and more difficult to manage, execute, and measure the projects necessary for these platforms. Thus, across various industries you have probably noticed new digital marketing positions cropping up, (ex: digital marketing coordinator/manager roles) as opposed to traditional roles. Additionally, social media, PR, and marketing are overlapping, making it more difficult to streamline marketing efforts and keep up with the ever-changing platforms.
Not only are marketing efforts being carried out online, but traditional ticket sales are being executed online as well. Looking specifically at ballet companies participating in online marketing, nonprofit organizations are beginning to realize actual, measurable results: increases in tickets sales, patron interaction, and higher level of brand awareness, which can be attributed to greater activity on social media sites. A recent article in December 2012 highlights a positive spike in ticket sales across numerous organizations in Boston, MA as compared to years past. Organizations include the Boston Ballet, The North Shore Music Theatre, Jose Mateo Ballet Theatre, Boston Pops, and Handel and Haydn Society noted onBoston.com:
“The numbers are impressive. Boston Ballet’s ‘Nutcracker’ had sold 89,814 tickets as of Tuesday, with $7.1 million in revenue, a significant increase from 2009’s 72,984 tickets and $5.2 million.
Catherine Peterson, the executive director of ArtsBoston since 1997, believes the boom is due to several factors, including the economy and organizations learning how to use social media to reach potential ticket buyers.
‘Everybody has gotten a lot smarter with how to get the right message in front of the right people at the same time,’ she said.” (12.26.12, Boston.com)
Now that we are really seeing the impact of social media and digital marketing combined with evolving technology, we need understand the ultimate impact this is making on our culture. With technology moving at the speed of light, it’s important to slow down, pause, and question whether these advancements are making positive steps, whether in the arts or other industries.
So, let’s take a step back in time for a moment and take a look at why the use digital media is important for progression and development in the dance world.
In my recent visit to Jacob’s Pillow, I was able to stop, reflect, and have more grounded thinking about dance in regards to the importance of dance in our culture. What I realized is that the role of dance in culture hasn’t changed. Our intent of reaching audiences with performing arts has not changed and will never change.
In 1931, Ted Shawn’s goal was to make dance more accessible and to create more opportunity for the creative process. Whether it’s the use of Twitter, LinkedIn, or Pinterest, these platforms are all ways we can express our creativity. Lauren Jonas, Diablo Ballet’s Artistic Director is fully onboard with a new concept of creating new works with the help of twitter followers. Jonas explains, “Diablo Ballet is proud of making dance accessible, and this concept will allow people to participate in the creative process. We’re thrilled to break new ground and to show how the global web community can come together to create the power of dance.” (Read the full article here).
With the increasing use of social media and technology, dance organizations should take advantage of the possibilities that social platforms have to offer. Digital media is a conduit that can carry on the legacy dedicated to creation and preservation of the arts.