What should we adopt? How can we adapt?

This post also appears as part of the Arts Marketing Blog Salon hosted by Americans for the Arts.

While reading over the Arts Marketing Blog Salon entries this week, particularly David’s entry on the rise of the citizen critic and Ron Evans’ post on online reviews, I was reminded of an experience I had a few years ago when our local paper cut its classical music and dance critic. I had a meeting with many of the marketing directors in the city, who were understandably upset about the firing and convinced that their success was inextricably linked with newspaper coverage.

Should we adapt to new technology before we adopt it for our own uses?
Should we adapt to new technology before we adopt it for our own uses?

Many of these people had been in marketing for 30 years. When they first started out in the business, the primary marketing channels were TV, radio, and newspaper (and maybe billboard, telemarketing, or fax.) When a new medium was introduced, it might take a while to master, but that was fine. The learning curve was viewed as an investment because you knew that medium would still be around in five years.

Compare that to now. We have new, “must-have” technology platforms coming out nearly every 6 months to a year. Today, we are being pushed toward mobile apps for phones and iPads, geolocation social media like Foursquare, and more. We are not sure if these technologies will still be popular in three months, let alone five years down the road. Combined with the slow-but-steady demise of many of the “classic” marketing channels, it leaves us constantly wondering: how quickly should we adapt and adopt, when it comes to new technology?

Specifically relating to citizen critics, these two issues come head-to-head. Firstly, we have the citizen critics adopting new media platforms for distributing their reviews. Then, we as arts managers must decide if and how we will adapt to them—ignore them, embrace them, meet them on their own turf with a social media friendly press release, etc.? How do we decide?

When I studied communications technology in undergrad, one of the first things we talked about was Moore’s Law, the principle that the capacity of new technologies doubles every 18 months to two years. It applies not only to the memory size on a new laptop or the number of pixels in digital cameras, but it also describes the exponential rate of change we are experiencing as a society. I find myself thinking about this principle every time I hear that arts organizations “should be using” this new platform or that new tool.

Even though the capacity of the technology may have increased or the new platform may have reached critical mass in usage, my workload capacity typically has not increased nor has my motivation to take on one more task reached critical mass! Chloe Veltman’s post does a wonderful job in relating this back to arts managers, speaking to both a difficulty in adapting to the demands of social media (particularly Twitter) as well as a resistance towards adopting it as part of audience engagement.

So, typical of this age in which we are often left with more questions than answers, I leave you with two questions to mull over when planning your marketing strategy: What are the signifiers that it is time for your organization to adapt to a new technology? Which signifiers indicate that your organization should adopt the use of a new technology?