11 June, 2013 Michael McCallum

The Arc of Audience Engagement

The Arc of Engagement is the way the audience interacts with an arts company in the process of viewing a show or exhibition.

An analysis of this engagement can be seen in Brown and Ratzin’s ‘Making Sense of Audience Engagement’ (2011) and the Australia Council’s ‘Arts Audiences Online’ (2011). Whereas the Arts Council call it the ‘Journey’, Brown and Ratzin call it the ‘Arc of Engagement’, which carry through the essential idea of the passage of audience engagement.

The Arc of Engagement concept will be explored in the case studies in subsequent blog entries. What this arc does is display and compartmentalise the stages a person goes through in engaging in a production. Seeing a play or visiting an exhibition is not just about the event itself, it is a series of interactions that have their own vitality. Through social media and other means, the company can fulfil audience members on the journey and create a richer experience. In fact, it is an experience beyond what an artist can create at the event itself. Social media and website interaction should be a touch points on this journey.

The Arc of Engagement traces from the discovery ‘build up’ phase to the reflective ‘impact echo’, and social media has a role in stimulating people in these stages. The concept is to hook the customer at every point of the process. This can create excitement about a play or production and buzz around the event. In the build up phase, participants may start to look for information about the event. This may mean searching for online videos or reading the actors’ blogs about the event. A 2010 survey found that around 80% of people wanted to do some level of preparation before they see a production. As it gets closer to the production, this can include measures like restaurant locations nearby or parking information. These could be facilitated by Facebook posts and links to appropriate websites. Opportunity exists to link with local businesses to provide food that suits the production’s timing. Many of these restaurant sites contain social media reviews of the meals and venue.

arc_of_engagement_392During the artist exchange, social media can be used again, videos on YouTube analyse of a art works. Without some background knowledge, it is hard to comprehend a piece of art. One could ask how it would be possible to get a real feeling for Picasso’s Guernica with knowledge of the Spanish Civil War. A survey showed that 80% of arts companies used the internet to give media background about a production. Post-production can be dissected through discussion and analysis, which is done by about 25% of people. However, 50% of people like private reflection while others prefer to leave the event without any reflection. Social media may be used so that people may post at the location. This comes from the social need to grasp identity. The simple post to Facebook from the theatre foyer works as a locator of social status. People express who they are by tagging their location. Consider this: A post on Facebook to friends showing a photo with an actor at a small production can signify that: 1. They have friends. 2. They socialize with creative people like actors. 3. They go to trendy or edgy locations to see art. People like to see friends in such locations, and people who identify with the theatregoer may be inspired to see that production or another artistic event to post about. By encouraging arts spending through social sharing, the entire art community benefits as it competes with other forms of entertainment.

Other people will go on to write blog posts with more analysis of the events. While this group is relatively small, they have a notable position in the ‘Traditional Cultural Vulture’ community, which represents a valuable section of the return audience. Blogs such as ‘Shit on your Play’, have a small but passionate audience and form a valuable core for theatregoers.

The impact echo is the long term memory of the event, maybe as a social occasion or a reflective moment about an artwork. These thoughts can be stimulated by photos on the Facebook page.

The best artistic experience will engage on more of these levels as some people demand this feedback and stimulation.

Contact Arts Marketing Australia to see how your company can improve this engagement.

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