Many arts organizations are constantly struggling to both bring in new patrons as well as maintain engagement among their existing base. Unfortunately, research shows that this hurdle is not going to disappear anytime soon due to a number of factors, as arts attendance has been on a steady decline in recent decades. Fortunately, Google Analytics gives arts managers the power to answer questions about their current audience demographics based on website traffic in order to both understand demographic trends and how best to target new audiences.
Arts organizations today need to be keenly aware of the portion of Americans that are considered by the National Endowment for the Arts to be “interested non-attenders,” and who make up a staggering 13% of the population, or 31 million Americans. These individuals are interested in consuming live art, but have trouble finding the time to fit it into their busy schedules due to the myriad of possibilities as to how they could spend their time. Contributing to this phenomenon is the explosion of recent technology and the endless entertainment opportunities it provides. Arts organizations are not just competing against each other for potential patrons’ time; they are competing against a whole new force of mediums through which people consume entertainment, much of which is free and easily accessible through mobile devices and at home. People no longer need to leave their couch to have endless choices of how to spend their downtime. YouTube provides glimpses into virtually any concert though uploaded videos, Netflix stores tens of thousands of movies and television episodes, and services like Spotify and iTunes house an endless supply of recorded music – no download or purchase required. In fact, research by the Pew Institute showed that 22% of respondents from a pool of arts organizations strongly or somewhat strongly agreed that digital technologies are “hurting arts organizations by decreasing attendance at in-person events.” However, many people still crave a personal experience with the arts and still highly value attending events in person. Arts organizations need to think of creative ways to market in order encourage people to spend their free time and money at events.
Another contributing factor is the aging population of the US which affects audiences attending the arts. In fact, studies show that only 21% of people in their 20s attended the arts in 2011, which has declined from 33% in 1982. On the flip side, the share of people aged 60 and older attending the arts has increased, increasing from 15% to 19% over the same 29 year span. In order to combat this issue, arts organizations must focus on getting younger people in the door now, especially because this generation will be the parents of future generations of arts consumers down the road.
The nation’s shifting demographics is another important factor to consider. For instance, traditional gender norms are in transition. According to the National Association of Baby Boomer Women, baby boomers currently hold 90% of the country’s net worth, and it is projected that by 2030, women will hold more than half of that amount. It will be key for arts organizations to recognize and address this trend from both a fundraising and programming perspective. It will be important to not only be aware of the gender breakout of their current patrons, but to focus efforts to attract the attention of new women audiences through social media, as a recent Pew Internet poll showed that women account for the majority of all social media interactions. Additionally, arts organizations must recognize the increasing ethnic diversity among the US population. By 2043, the US Census Bureau projects that there will be no ethnic majority in the United States. Arts organizations will need to be able to offer programs and events that appeal to a wide variety of people from different backgrounds, and recognizing this trend early and acting accordingly will set them up for a better chance of long term success.
Once you have created your Google account and successfully logged into the Google Analytics platform (see Why Your Arts Organization Should Use Google Analytics for more information), you can answer the following questions:
1. How many people were new to my organization’s website this week?
Let’s explore one way that Google Analytics can help address how to increase your organization’s audience attendance. In order to understand how many people are newcomers to your website, simply look to left menu on the Google Analytics main screen and click item “Behavior” to access the “New vs Returning” Dashboard:
From here, you will see a dashboard that shows the behavior of all visitors to your site, categorized as “New” or “Returning” users:
Note that Google Analytics allows you to change the time frame of the data capture in the top right of the menu (b). The column entitled “Sessions” shows the total number of visitors that viewed your page during the selected time frame (c), and the “Bounce Rate” column gives insight into “the percentage of single-page visits (i.e. visits in which the person left your site from the entrance page without interacting with the page)” (d). You can also see the average number of pages each visitor looked at and the amount of time they spent on your page before “bouncing” (e). Note in the example above, returning visitors stayed on the organization’s page for almost 45 seconds longer than new users! Now armed with this information, as an arts manager, you can start to develop strategies to bring engagement higher among new users, who in the example organization, comprise nearly two-thirds of the total website visitors for the week. For instance, you could create a banner or graphic with messaging directing new users to important website features or exciting upcoming events to increase their engagement.
2. What kinds of people viewed my website?
Now that you know the general behavior of new versus returning users to your website, you can take a deeper dive to understand more about who fell into either of these categories. In order to make sure that you have access to all of the available demographic analytics Google offers that I will be discussing in the following sections, make sure you enable Advertising Features. For information on how to turn these features on, visit the Google Analytics Help Page. Returning to your “New vs Returning” view and by clicking on the “Secondary Dimension” button, you can start to segment your audience according to a variety of measures.
By selecting the age category, you can see the age breakout of your new and returning audience according to the same metrics as described above. You can also opt to slice the data according to a whole other host of categories, such as the specific state or city they are located in. While Google Analytics does not yet offer the functionality to view the ethnic demographics of your page viewers, by slicing the data by views per city, you can dive into the demographics of each location further by looking at the wealth of statistics available from the U.S. Census Bureau. For instance, you could look at the average household incomes of the cities that had the most activity on your website to better understand how much disposable income they might have to better predict program attendance from certain areas.
3. How well are my social media campaigns working in directing people to my website, and what kinds of people are they working on?
While you are still under the “New vs Returning” behavior section, you can look at the source of how each visitor arrived at your website by simply clicking the “Source/Medium” button under the “Acquisitions” section in the “Secondary Measures” menu. Now you can see whether or not the user typed in your URL (labeled “Direct” below), or if they were directed to your site through another social media or search engine platform.
By clicking on one of the rows above, you can dive even deeper into the characteristics of each of these segments by selecting another secondary measure to look at, such as the gender or age bracket split. You’ll be able to see what social media channels younger demographics utilize more, and push ticket sales for the appropriate events or programs through direct links on the corresponding channel, such as Facebook, Twitter, etc. Additionally, by instead adding the secondary dimension of “time of day” or “day of the week” for a particular channel, you can see when most engagement occurred for that platform. For instance, the example below shows most activity from Facebook to the site happened between the hours of 8 and 10 PM:
This organization might consider posting portions of their campaign around this time in order to boost page views. Understanding who visits your website, when, and from where is key to developing an effective social media strategy to drive new and retain current business.
Google Analytics arms arts managers with powerful information about their website traffic, but when used effectively, it can help to develop strategies for attracting new consumers and patrons, creating a more sustainable organization for years to come. Get creative with how you view your data to develop strategies of your own!