Wouldn’t you love to see how effective orchestras are with their social media campaigns? I can only speak for myself, but I’d be surprised if most arts admin professionals wouldn’t love to get their hands on regularly updated data.
Unfortunately, there isn’t any sort of resource or database maintained by the usual service organization suspects but thanks to a tip from Ruth Hartt, I discovered an effort created by former arts marketer Amanda Lester.
Before her current work as an independent researcher, Lester worked at the LA Philharmonic in audience develop and insights and she used this experience to develop the Orchestra Social Media Tracker project. Using publicly accessible data, Lester tracks and compares a quartet of social media key performance indicators across 21 large budget orchestras:
- Track progress relative to peers
- Set more informed goals
- Learn from each others’ successes
- Be responsive to audiences through a positive feedback loop
The orchestras currently on her list include:
- Atlanta Symphony
- Baltimore Symphony Orchestra
- Boston Symphony Orchestra
- Chicago Symphony Orchestra
- Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra
- Cleveland Orchestra
- Colorado Symphony
- Dallas Symphony Orchestra
- Detroit Symphony Orchestra
- Houston Symphony
- LA Phil
- Minnesota Orchestra
- Nashville Symphony
- National Symphony Orchestra
- New York Philharmonic
- Oregon Symphony
- Philadelphia Orchestra
- Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra
- San Diego Symphony
- San Francisco Symphony
- Seattle Symphony
I genuinely love it when professionals take it upon themselves to track meaningful information simply because no one else is doing it. As such, I reached out to Lester to learn more, such as where the idea came from.
“I wanted a personal project to help me keep one foot in the arts admin world, while my day job is in market research for media and entertainment,” said Lester. “I’m a problem solver, and I’m drawn to the challenges facing the orchestra sector. A major struggle that was only exacerbated by the pandemic is how orchestras can use digital media effectively in a very loud and crowded competitive arena.”
She went on to highlight an artificial hurdle I find across numerous quantitative performance components in that groups tend to measure against the own performance instead of across the entire sector.
“One of the things holding us back, I think, is that orchestras are for the most part only tracking against their own past performance, and that’s just one piece of the puzzle,” said Lester. “I think context is critical, so I decided to try tracking a few social media metrics across a sample of 21 orchestras using whatever information was publicly available. By tracking and comparing across the sample each month, I can see orchestras’ relative social media performance both over time and vs peers. With my micro level post by post data that feeds into the tracker, I can identify which specific posts led to high performance in my key metrics. I can also observe patterns and infer why certain posts generated strong engagement. With my macro level data, I can create norms to compare against, and I can use month over month rankings to gauge consistent high performers and when an orchestra has an extraordinary month.”
If you’re wondering why she wasn’t able to do this while working at LA Phil, you’re not alone. Having said that, it should come as no surprise to discover that while working in that role, time needed to gather and tabulate data fell victim to scarcity (a topic we recently examined).
After leaving that position, she said she wanted something to help keep her foot in the field and it didn’t take long to create the spreadsheet used to track data. From there, Lester began sharing insights and Top 5 rankings via monthly LinkedIn posts under the hashtag #orchestrasocialmeidatracker.
I was curious why the orchestras on her tracking list were all larger budget ensembles and it should come as no surprise that it has everything to do with keeping the project manageable.
“Since this started as a project for my own enjoyment and interests, I chose orchestras I considered national competitors to the LA Phil, where I worked for several years,” said Lester. “I still live in LA, which is why there may be a bit of a West Coast bias to the selection. I also wanted to include enough orchestras to be somewhat representative of a certain peer group of course, while not making it overwhelming to track or view.”
Personally, I’d love to see the project expand to include not only mid and small budget size groups but focus on measuring performance among groups that employ full time social media managers against those that don’t (#ROImatters).
Another natural expansion of Lester’s work would include enough time to reach out to orchestras in the list to gather deeper insights that help explain the monthly results she identifies. Fortunately, her work has generated enough traction she’s considering starting a dedicated blog along with a colleague to begin compiling the results and to publish an end-of-year report.