E-marketing E-ssentials: Is Social Media Killing E-mail Marketing for the Arts? (Actually, Both are Alive and Well)

Eugene Carr
March 2011

During the last few weeks we have fielded our seventh annual arts patron research study, which analyzes the online behavior of arts patrons. This year, we mailed a questionnaire to over 70,000 patrons and the results are just starting to come in. We’ll share them with you in a forthcoming article. But my head has been in research-mode recently, and two revelatory studies have crossed my screen in the last few weeks which speak volumes about how arts patrons — especially seniors and baby boomers — are spending their time online.

Comscore recently published an omnibus study about digital trends, and the study shows that web-based e-mail usage is declining by something like 8% and fairly substantially among the very young. You can read the results here. (It should be emphasized that their study was for “web-based” e-mail, which did not include mobile e-mail usage.) Though the study spawned dozens of e-mails and blog posts about the “death of e-mail,” this would be a false conclusion.
The article actually has some of the most staggering good news for the arts I’ve read in years, buried later in the report. Referring to e-mail usage the article states:

In contrast, usage increased among those 55 and over. The number of 55-64 year olds accessing web-based email increased 15 percent with similar gains in engagement, while those age 65+ experienced gains across all three metrics as well.

So, what we’re seeing is that now, decades after e-mail hit the scene, the bulk of the traditional arts patron audience is finally catching on! From a marketer’s perspective, these patrons are exhibiting all the traits of “late adopters.” So, don’t quickly give up on e-mail — it may only now be moving into its heyday.

A second article in eMarketer, focusing on the loosely-defined “grandparent” market, has some fascinating data about social media. As you can see in the chart below, social media usage among grandparents is growing.

In fact, the article goes on to say:

eMarketer estimates that 49% of 55- to-64-year-old internet users will use social networks in 2011 and forecasts that boomers and seniors will continue to be among the fastest-growing segments in terms of social network usage.

Just as e-mail seems to be moving into its heyday with older audiences, social media shows all the indicators that it, too, will become mainstream.

In the social media world you get a double benefit. Even though you’re probably not going to win the media-day with 25-year olds using e-mail, the good news is that with a little bit of work and completely free tools, you can do an awesome job connecting with younger patrons using social media. When you do, you’ll be laying the groundwork for the older audience, which is adopting social media now. That’s why you need to invest time and energy in developing a social media strategy and an execution.

So, between e-mail usage increasing among the core arts audience, and social media coming on strong, there’s never been a better time to double down on your digital marketing.

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