With the growing importance of digital in today's social and professional environments, and associated influence on audience and consumer trends, digital is something arts organisations must embrace to remain engaging and relevant. What’s more, the opportunities being presented for funding for innovative arts projects born out of the collaboration of arts and creative organisations with digital specialists are vast and lucrative.
Take, for example, Nesta. An independent charity working across Great Britain, Nesta aims to foster innovation and growth in the UK economy by providing significant investments and grants to mobilise research, networks and skills.
This year alone Nesta (in collaboration with Creative Scotland and The Arts & Humanities Research Council) announced that it was releasing £500,000 worth of R&D funding to arts organisations in Scotland and £7 million to those in England. The intention is to work with new media companies to develop projects using digital technologies and channels to inspire, reach out to new audiences and restructure their business models. Partnering companies are able to submit ideas, which address an assortment of sector needs and have the potential to be commercialised, thus providing the industry with potentially ground-breaking, new ways of working and benefiting the general public. Proposals are asked to explore six key areas of interest, including user-generated content and social media; data and archives; distribution; education and learning; mobile, location and games; and resources.
These themes are hardly restrictive and provide great scope for innovation in the arts. In fact, the list is beneficial in that it pushes organisations to consider how digital can enhance their processes in a whole multitude of ways.
User-generated content & social media.
Our experience and research shows that engaging audiences both online and off is a principle goal for the majority of arts and cultural organisations.
To keep up with the industry leaders you must be looking to new ways to interact with your audiences pre, post and during exhibitions, shows or events. Thanks to a plethora of new technology, and particularly the growing presence of social media and mobile in everyday life, there are more opportunities than ever to make connections with your target audiences.
At the heart of successful engagement lies quality, relevant content. As with the productions you deliver within your organisations, your content online must inspire and connect with your audience to maximise the chances that they will proactively interact with you and help promote your content to their greater networks. The ability to share content at the click of a button is part of what makes these digital channels so powerful, drastically reducing barriers to entry and amplifying the reach of your communications.
However, investing in digital must be proactive and consistent. The consumer harnesses considerable power in the online space, influencing how your organisation and brand is perceived through reviews, comments and blogs. Therefore, you must be prepared to respond to feedback and regularly update and monitor content across channels.
Data & archives.
Transparency, shared data and learning, and collaboration are at the heart of a prosperous and productive arts sector going forward. Digital technology can be implemented to make collections and archives of information more readily available to the public, as well as to other arts and cultural organisations.
The Internet is the ideal platform to expand the range of the British arts and cultural sector to a global audience. Additionally, technologies such as mobile web and apps support enhanced access to information on the move.
Digital presents a host of new ways to impart and deliver content and experiences, both online and off. What’s more, implementing appropriate technologies and optimising on digital channels can drastically enhance the span of your budget.
Being accessible and available online massively augments your ability to not only attract new audiences but translate these visitors into customers. Furthermore, opting for more cost-effective and far-reaching digital technology is a safe investment in today’s digitally focused consumer culture.
Education & learning.
Interactive, educational content and resources allow the arts to engage a number of stakeholders, in order to both attract new audiences to the sector and augment the efficiency and growth of it through enhanced internal skills.
Members-only areas on websites, intranets and extranets are all examples of secure hubs of information, allowing you to share resources and communicate with specific audiences on an easily manageable platform.
Developing educational resources using innovative technologies will encourage you to create more captive, social and accessible content, that is tailored to particular target market’s needs. This idea of considering the end user from the offset may seem obvious, but is often overlooked in the long-term and development process. By always keeping the user in mind you can create the most relevant, engaging and useful digital content to enhance your communications’ reach.
Mobile, location & games.
Exploring new technologies and learning from leading digital examples across disciplines will help your organisation stand apart from the crowd.
An analysis process, looking at your website and social media channel’s performance through analytics, will help to identify where your traffic is coming from, what content and channels they are interacting with the most, and identify what technologies will best cater to your users’ needs. Benchmarking and competitor analysis will also assist you in gauging how other arts and cultural organisations are targeting and connecting with audiences. Through all this data you will be able to more efficiently manage your online presence and set tangible, relevant goals.
With relevant, rich digital content at the heart of all online success, technology is increasingly allowing organisations to maximise on user data, such as location, demographics, etc to tailor online experiences. The most successful organisations will be those that create unique yet practical experiences for their audiences that integrate in seamlessly with other marketing communications and collateral, as well as increasing the interactions possible between the online and offline worlds.
Arts and cultural organisations can revolutionise the way they work through the smart application of digital technologies. Reviewing your organisation’s processes and performance on a regular basis will highlight areas for improvement. Additionally, the possibilities for collaboration and partnership across the sector via digital are rich and this united front may be the core driving factor for the arts sector at a time of financial hardship.
However, whatever your approach, the digital strategy must grow out of your organisation’s objectives and audiences’ needs, ensuring you do not simply adopt new technology or channels for the sake of doing so. Being able to justify your actions will better enable you to clarify how to measure them and refine them for optimal success.
After Digital has a wealth of experience in the arts and cultural sector, supporting digital innovation and strategy for leading organisations including Edinburgh Festivals and the Festivals Innovation Lab, Pitlochry Festival Theatre, Scottish Ballet, and London Philharmonic Orchestra, to name but a few. If you’re interested in collaborating with a team of digital experts to expand your horizons and support a prosperous arts sector give us a call today. We have experience working within the NESTA and other funding frameworks and can support you from idea generation and application through to the finished product.