BLOG 1st July 2020

Getting to know your audiences: data isn’t scary

A theatre without an audience clapping, a music venue without people dancing or a museum without visitors wandering is worth nothing as this goes to the core purpose of why these places and the activity within them exist. Audiences are the first thing to think about when planning any activity in your organisation. In May and June, we focused our content on this first step to audience development. Understanding that your relationship with your audiences is paramount to your organisation’s success and must underpin everything else you do.

But to be able to include your audiences’ wants and needs in your overall strategy, you need to know who they are. This is exactly what we will help you with in this second stage of audience development in July, August and September. Getting to know your audience is not rocket science, we promise! Here’s a taster of what we will be looking at and informing our resources, insights and events over the next few months. We will continue to shape all of this next wave of content with the challenges and ever evolving situation around Covid-19 in mind.

How can you know more about your audiences?

First thing’s first: Information is everywhere, only one click away. But you might already know that. We ran a survey last March to find out more about NI organisations’ audience development practice and results showed that 66% of respondents collect data about their audiences regularly. However, only 13-31% of them actually use this audience data often. Demographics and what audiences think about the organisation are favourites (and the easiest to find). But there’s only so much you can do with this information.

What about your audiences’ interests, preferences and dislikes? What makes them laugh or cry? What prevents them from engaging with your content online or visiting your venue? What motivates them to buy tickets for your programme? What are their cultural habits? Do they engage with you during the week or only at the weekend? If you get hold of this data and you use it correctly, bingo! Your audiences will feel heard, included and loyalty won’t be too far away.

There’s a well full of invaluable knowledge and insights that awaits you and most is available for free. But also remember that before starting to collect information, you should define what your aims are – is it to share knowledge with your audience or to generate revenue through ticket sales? There shouldn’t be too many goals and once you have them listed, it will be a piece of cake to explore analytics.

It’s about more than audience demographics

Of course you should know about your audience’s age range, gender and location. These are basics and can be found via your communication channels: through your box office system (if you have one), your website and social media analytics, and your newsletter’s subscribers list.

However, there’s a lot more you can find with the same medium that will help you to refine your programme, your marketing strategy or your membership schemes:

  • Posts engagement – link clicks and reactions – will tell you what content your audience is interested in but also which one of your channels is the most popular and effective in terms of calls to action.
  • Site search terms: if you have a search bar on your website, a feature within Google Analytics will track what people visiting your website are searching for. If they’re looking for something you don’t currently have on offer, you may consider including what they want in your programming.
  • Your visitors’ journey through your website: Google Analytics will assist you to determine how people found your website, what page they landed on, how long they spend on your website, which pages are the most viewed and which aren’t, or even what page most visitors are dropping out from during the ticket purchase process. Based on this data, you will be able to verify the usability of your website and make changes to your design to suit your audience better. What makes sense for us doesn’t always make sense for others.

Those are only a couple of examples of the things you can track. We just wanted to give you a taster.

Box office systems are not the only option to gather data

Don’t get us wrong, box office systems are very useful and can uncover a lot of juicy details about audiences. But a lot of smaller organisations can’t afford ticketing systems like Ticketsolve or Spektrix and prefer to use free platforms like Eventbrite. Eventbrite is great for practical reasons but the information it collects is not as extensive as paid software. Other types of organisations don’t even need such platforms because they’re free walk-in, like art galleries and museums.

So what other platforms can you use if you don’t have access to a box office system?

As we mentioned above, Google Analytics is one of them. It is a free analytical tool that you link to your website in order to find out who your audience is, how they found your website, what they are doing on your website and how they help you to achieve your goals.

All social media channels and newsletter tools come with free built-in analytics, already set up, only waiting for you to check it out. Like Google Analytics, it gives you audience demographics but also when your followers are online and how they engage with your content week to week and month to month.

We have planned a series of analytics toolkits to be published over the next three months that will not only single out the important must-be-tracked items but will also explain how to do it yourself without hiring an external agency.

We will also host our next Fourth Wall Session, a webinar where someone who looked at data within their own organisation, used their findings to create an experience tailored to their audience’s needs. Sometimes it just helps to hear a colleague explain what they did.

And of course, we’ll continue to share insights and resources.

If you’d like to discuss analytics specific to your organisation, we are hosting themed audience appointments on Thursday 30th July and you can book your space on our event page.

This work is supported by our annual funding from Arts Council NI.


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