Arts a Tough Sell for Social Media Users?

The shift to using social media by non-profit organizations is ever-gaining momentum, new tools and guidelines, resources and round-tables. There are constant questions being asked about efficacy, ROI, and best practices, and a wealth of people trying to provide answers that may or may not work for a particular organization. Anderson Analytics has released some data that will likely be of interest to those who are either dabbling or firmly entrenched in the world of social media. It identifies the most common traits and interests of populations using the most popular social media sites, and can help brands more deftly target likely consumers.

But will this survey aid arts organizations trying to target potential audiences? I think it may, but only if used creatively. The survey gives a clear (and occasionally surprising) breakdown of the "demographics and psychographics" of the folks who are logging in (and even those choosing to keep their social life offline). While some of the conclusions are to be expected (LinkedIn users are more focused on business and have a higher average income than those of Facebook, Twitter, or MySpace), there are others that are less self-evident but arguably more important. (For example, LinkedIn users will probably spend their money on electronic gadgets, and their leisure time on sports activity or health/beauty, and use the web to look up gambling and soap opera information.) There was, in the information I read, a noticeable lack of arts-related interests expressed across the board. TV, movies, and music registered as interests of some social-networking users and non-users, but there was no report of interest in "live performance" or "museums." Now, I don't know if these were simply not choices on the survey, or if we are facing a much more serious problem.

The non-users, identified as either "time-starved" (and interested in exercise, entertaining, music and movies) or "concerned about security" (and more likely to be older) may most heavily comprise the audiences we already get coming out to support the arts. As the population of the U.S. increasingly participates in social media, there is an increase in online shopping and generally using the web as the portal for information, news, and entertainment. So by the many users of social media, who we want to convert into our supportive audiences, our work (and the act of leaving the house to experience art) may be perceived as irrelevant.

If social media users are less likely to spend their offline time seeking entertainment, how can we as organizations, using social media as we attempt to grow audiences, supporters, and participants, hook these users in and then urge them out (to our shows and events)?