Sunday, May 31, 2009

Measuring the Impact of Social Media

Every time I speak at a conference, I am generally asked how I track the results of my social media campaigns, and what I consider a success. Everyone seems to be thinking in terms of ticket sales and return on investment. I don't disagree all together, but I also think we have to measure success on how these communications tools strengthen our relationships with our target audiences, and encourage a higher level of participation with our strongest supporters.

Recently at the spring LORT conference, I sat through a well thought out presentation by Sergi Torres, a third year graduate student from the Yale School of Drama, who took on how to track social media campaigns in terms of sales at Yale Repertory Theatre. The results were impressive, and I was glad to see research being done on how social media campaigns could spur sales. However, I was left wondering what type of value we assign to engaging our customer base.

I am a fan of Thomas Cott's You Cott Mail, as are many of my colleagues. On Friday, May 29, "You Cott Mail" featured a blog post by Douglass McClennan entitled "10 ways to think about social networking and the arts." In Mr. McClennan's post, he makes the argument that "using social media as just an opportunity to sell tickets is a bad strategy, the electronic equivalent of junk mail...the idea is to cultivate relationships with an audience that is increasingly online." While many of my peers would argue that the main priority of any Marketing Director should be increasing ticket sales, I would argue that we also have a primary responsibility of "Creating Raving Fans." How many times are we looking for new audiences just to see them leave after the first time they visit? Why don't we focus on deepening the relationships that we have already cultivated?

Side Note -- Although I found Mr. McCleenan's blog post very interesting, I must say that I disagree with some of his primary arguments. He states "Outside of your primary artistic role, don't get into the content-producing business. Video is hard. Magazines are hard (and expensive) to produce and sustain." I must contend that we are in the business of creating content, particularly as mainstream media sources go out of business. And video is not hard. If you can afford a mini Flip camera and some basic video editing software, you are good to go. If the Anaheim Ballet, which has an annual budget of $290,000, can create a video campaign on YouTube that attracted 10.8 million unique views and enabled them to become the #2 All Time Most Viewed Non-Profit, than anyone can do it.

So in the future when I am asked "what kind of sales do you see from your social media campaigns," I am going to reply, we should be asking what types of measurements we are using to track the engagement levels of our online communities. That is the primary objective, and sales are secondary. As Arena Stage moves toward becoming a national center for the production, presentation, development and study of American Theater with the opening of The Mead Center for American Theater, I consider it a success when people all over the world are watching our videos and interacting with our content online, even if they don't have the means to travel to Washington, DC and purchase a ticket.


Barry Pilson said...

Chad, I recently read a very simple article on MarketingProfs that I posted on a couple LinkedIn social networking groups.

The basic premise was, don't go into social networking with the idea of making money and listed 6 mistakes many companies and organizations make. Short but common sense reading.

Like many marketing activities, measurement isn't always about dollars and cents, at least not right away.

Vanopsmd said...

At Vancouver Opera we are experimenting with measures of engagement and purchasing via SoMe.

Purchasing measures are easy; embed your SoMe with discount codes and track sales.

We're also tracking "new to file" and doing online follow up with any w/o a discount code. You know, the old "how did you hear about it" routine.

Engagement is harder to track, although some simple google analytics codes buried and using other proprietary measures and you can start to get a good picture over time.

For now, we're happy measuring engagement in terms of # friends, # followers, # views, # comments, etc etc.

Keep it up with this blog. We're following and loving it.

Cheers from North of the Border and West of the Sun.

Alli Houseworth said...

Facebook Fan Pages have free analytics. If you are an administrator of the page, just click on the "Insights" link. It's easy-to-use, simple information that can be exported in other forms. It's not entirely complete, but it's a really solid step in the right direction.