Research Update: Best Practices of Social Media

Social media use has become nearly universal among arts organizations. A 2012 social media study conducted by Pew Research Center demonstrated just how widespread social media usage was, with Facebook and Twitter as the most popular platforms by far.

A more recent trend can be found in a 2013 research by Trudel | MacPherson. It concludes that only “7% of respondents see resistance to devoting staff time and communications budgets to social media, and most groups plan to spend the same or more on digital communications in 2014.” It has also compared the findings of 2011 and 2014 and improvements are obvious, especially when it comes to audience’s responses. As of fall 2013, “[more] than 95% of the groups report positive responses to social media outreach” compared to 85% in 2011. However, despite its broad acceptance, relatively few organizations have a defined strategy guiding their social media use.

My research is focused on defining best practices for three major social media platforms, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest, and I will use three case organizations: The Andy Warhol Museum, The Met, and The Tate, as exemplars of strong social media policy. 

According to Pew Research Center, most arts organizations use 2 to 6 social media platforms and some are managing even more. Is managing more platforms necessary or better?

The Andy Warhol Museum, a social media leader among arts organizations, deliberately limits its number of social media platforms. Their case proves that strategies, not quantity are what matters when it comes to social media.

AMT Lab’s Katherine Schouten introduces some key issues of setting social media strategy in her post: How To Make The Most Of Your Organization’s Social Media Efforts.

Good strategy consists of three main steps:

  • Set objectives:

Social media goals include building awareness, driving action, and advancing engagement, according to Convio’s Social Media Guide. The Pew Center’s research shows that common positive outcomes of social media are increased attendance at events, more ticket sales, increased public awareness, and an ability to support fundraising efforts. When setting objectives for social media, it is necessary to evaluate the organization and the audience. Undoubtedly, the objectives should align with the goals and mission of the organization. Meanwhile, questions such as who the target audience is and how they use social media should be considered.

  •  Execute the plan:

Many social media writers have stressed the importance of “listening” as part of social media strategy. Listening is also known as “social media monitoring”. Good listening can answer the above questions on audience, and provide deeper insights so that organizations can adjust their content and actively engage the audience in the two-way communication online. AMT Lab writer Caroline Brent wrote about social media management and monitoring software earlier this year, and Haisong Li has contributed a review of Buffer, a multi-channel social media management tool.

  •  Measure and evaluate your results:

Clearly defined and measurable goals provide benchmarks for success and evaluation of social media strategy. With the proper analytic tools, the effect of social media use can be seen instantly.

Most importantly, social media strategy should vary depending on platform. Holly Ross articulates how platforms lend themselves to “channel-specific conversation.” She described Facebook as the place people “come to make personal connections and have fun,” and Twitter as “where people share the content that gets them excited.” Because of these different user behaviors and expectations, social media strategies should be tailored to specific channel. 

In my next post, I’ll investigate how the Warhol, Met, and Tate all use Facebook, and what lessons we can learn from their content strategies.

How many social media platforms do you use? Which has been the most effective for your organization? Does your strategy include goals, monitoring, and measurement? Let us know in the comments below!


More information about social media planning can be found here: Playing By The Rules: Creating A Social Media Plan.