Location: The Times Center, New York City, NY
Dates: October 19 - 20
Organizer: Capacity Interactive

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Last year, Warren attended the Digital Marketing Boot Camp for the Arts in NYC and enjoyed it so much, we decided to sponsor the event this year. I was happy to tag along, since it combines what I do at Plank with my background in the performing arts.

While the conference is targeted quite specifically towards arts marketers, it helps us understand the priorities and struggles of our many arts and culture clients, and informs how we can best support their digital marketing initiatives.

Overall, I really appreciated how concrete and actionable the presentations were - this is not a conference of self-professed 'gurus' posturing on their expertise.

Here are some of the points that really stood out.

Data Over Instinct

With a tagline like “Get Your Geek On” it’s no surprise that data was a major component of pretty much every presentation at the conference. The message hammered home is to make use of research, data, and analytics to drive your marketing decision making.

Our keynote speaker, Colleen Dilenschneider, set the tone with her data-driven presentation on digital engagement and the arts. That might sound like a dry way to start a day, but Colleen wove a compelling story from her statistics. She focused on the importance of an organization’s reputation in driving visitorship, arguing that what other people say about you has 12.85 times the value than what you say about yourself.

Looking at the sources of information for visitors to cultural activities, the channels at the top of the list are the ones that talk “with” audiences (social media, web, and word of mouth) rather than “at” them (print, radio, tv). The importance of using conversational marketing channels was illustrated well in the top 3 reasons annual donors fail to continue supporting an organization, which all chalk up to a lack of personal, targeted communication.


She ended her talk with some data on what is the “best thing” about a visit to a cultural organization. Surprisingly enough (or not) the top factor was spending time with family and friends - this was more than twice as important to visitors as the actual exhibit or performance that they saw. Understanding that personal connection and desire to share experiences with loved ones is the driving force behind successful digital engagement. It’s not about technology, it’s about people.

The Facebook Behemoth

Oh boy, you guys. If there was any doubt that Facebook is taking over the world … well, the data is in.

On day two, we were presented with some key results of a huge survey done by Wolf Brown and Capacity Interactive of 58 performing arts organizations and what that means for marketing strategy. Basically, Facebook is the new broadcast TV in terms of how much time people spend there and its mass use across all age groups.

“Cross-channel analysis shows weekly or greater use of Facebook exceeds almost all other print media, online news, TV, or radio channels of content.”

— Wolf Brown survey

Our presenters went so far as to recommend that Facebook should be the #1 item in an organization’s media budget. It’s financially accessible, easy to create content for, and clearly has massive reach.


Arts marketers are hip to Facebook’s power, of course. We were treated to an excellent presentation by three different organizations sharing tips on digital storytelling. It was some great advice and inspiration for building your team, gathering assets, and sharing fun, awesome content.

Of course, the other thing Facebook does very well (for marketers), is target and track audiences for your advertising. Facebook’s own presentation on “People-based attribution” (aka: finding more ways to follow people around the internet) creeped me out though, and really hammered home its aggressive transformation from “social network” to “powerful advertising platform.”

Get Mobile!!

This is obviously not a huge revelation, but some interesting points stood out:

  • It’s not enough to have a mobile site, but to be ready for the ‘age of assistance’ and give users the help they’re looking for at the right moment.
  • A presentation on SEO also made a point of being ready for voice search, by using Schema to give Google more context, and creating conversational content.
  • Site speed matters! 53% of users abandon a mobile site if it takes more than 3 seconds to load according to one of our presenters.

So, even though everyone knows mobile is important, guess how many hands went up when a presenter asked “Who has an awesome mobile ticketing experience on their website?” One. ONE. There was a smattering more for an “adequate” experience. Pretty incredible, and makes me wonder if the obstacle is the ticketing software organizations are using.


If you made it all the way through that, you’ll probably want to check out Capacity Interactive’s blog for articles from some of the presenters, and where they promise to publish more results from that big bad Wolf Brown survey.

You’ll also want to visit Colleen Dilenschneider’s website, Know Your Own Bone, for some data-driven resources for cultural organizations.

Conference Culture