Live entertainment is still a big draw for the Netflix generations, but how should arts organisations go about building relationships with them? Olivia Carr shares some advice. 

Taking photo of fireworks on phone

What do we mean by young people? ‘Generation Y’ (millennials) are those born in the late 1980s and early 1990s and are digital natives who often have a strong sense of civic duty, both on a local and global scale.

‘Generation Z’, born from the mid-1990s onwards, are constantly multi-tasking and are perhaps even more connected as a generation than Gen Y, while just as engaged and aware of the world around them.

Young people are hyper-aware of being sold to, and quickly zone out in the face of one-way sales messages

They are both united in that they find value in experiences rather than material possessions. Live entertainment is a commodity that the latest long-form TV series cannot compete with, and is something that young people will continue to seek out. With technological advances and the far-reaching economic consequences of the recession, both these younger generations will have a distinct set of wants and needs as they get older.

Initial interactions

Arts professionals must use the tools available to engage audiences before, during and after they visit a venue, and remain as accessible as possible. It is increasingly likely that young people’s first interaction with an organisation will be online, before they ever set foot inside a venue.

High-quality, digital experiences are key to catching the eye of this target market, so it’s worth investing time in building an online presence that will provide a valuable glimpse into the organisation. Video continues to dominate social networks and is predicted to account for 80% of all consumer traffic by 2020. Live content can also be an effective way of bridging the gap between online and offline.

It’s encouraging to see many arts organisations create original, witty and unique digital content that stands out on social media. The Barbican’s Instagram presence employs a strong visual aesthetic, while Scottish Ballet capitalises on young people’s desire for authentic, real-time online interactions. Orkney Library consistently hits the mark with hilarious tweets inspired by the tomes on its shelves. 

Common errors

Some arts organisations are guilty of jumping on new digital platforms without properly considering the resource implications. For example, Snapchat is popular among young people, with 30% of teenagers ranking it as their most important social network. But figures suggest that many business accounts are opened and then left inactive. This may indicate that it is difficult for small teams to consistently create enough content to make a meaningful impact on this channel.

A common error is adopting an overly ‘salesy’ tone in communications. More than other generations, young people are hyper-aware of being sold to, and quickly zone out in the face of one-way sales messages. One way of avoiding this could be to increase the involvement of young people in promoting events. My organisation, Tron Theatre in Glasgow, has had success in appointing young people as digital ambassadors. In this way, we hope to be able to market with, rather than to, young people.

Also, beware any content that could be viewed as culturally insensitive. More than ever, young people are quick to call out perceived insensitivity from brands (consider the online backlash generated by the recent Pepsi advert).

Encouraging return visits

Getting young people into your organisation is only half the battle. Once they have crossed the threshold, it’s important to find ways to keep them coming back. From a ticketing perspective, many organisations offer discounts for further events. Scottish Opera offers reduced-rate tickets for those who are 26 and under, encouraging young people to give opera a go.

Refer-a-friend schemes may also incentivise young people to book again and continue their relationship with an organisation. Timely, relevant and customised email communications keep young people informed about the work of an organisation.

A wider approach

Digital isn’t everything, but just part of a wider strategic approach in a marketer’s toolbox. Truly sustainable relationship building should involve not only marketers but education workers, programme coordinators, fundraisers, artists and box office staff as well as young people, their families and schools.

Audience agencies exist to lend a hand in offering valuable customer insights, generating information for organisations to use now, and store and build upon for the future. Arts organisations must work with families to engage new audiences, while continuing to invest in standing out online. Digital may not be everything, but it’s important and it’s not going away anytime soon.

Olivia Carr is Press & Marketing Officer at Tron Theatre.
Tw: @OliviaCarr93

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