There’s a lot of conversation about the ROI of social media and confusion about how to explain its importance to executive leaders. Need help? Here’s some data behind how social media drives attendance to visitor-serving organizations (zoos, aquariums, museums, botanic gardens, theaters, etc). The research provided here is courtesy of IMPACTS.
It’s as easy as 1-2-3 (or, rather, the transitive property in mathematics):
1. Reputation is a major motivator of intent to visit
The above data indicates the index value (i.e. the relative importance) of select factors (“utilities”) that influence the market’s decision to visit a visitor-serving organization (VSO). The way to consider this data is that utilities with index values greater than 100.0 bear a proportionally greater “weight” in terms of how the market makes its visitation decisions. In other words, a factor such as “schedule” with an index value of 203.5 is roughly 2x more influential in the decision-making process for a high-propensity visitor than is a factor such as cost with an index value of 100.4.
The US Composite data represents the overall US population. The High-Propensity Visitor (HPV) data shows the index value for folks who possess the demographic, psychographic and behavioral attributes that make them most likely to visit a VSO. In other words, by collecting data about actual visitors to VSOs, it is possible to develop a “profile” of the types of people who are most likely to visit a zoo, aquarium, or museum. In the end, every individual organization will have its own, specific list of weighted utilities that indicate the attributes of its visitors – but for the purpose of this example, the HPV utilities and index values indicated here are an average for all likely US visitors to visitor-serving organizations.
It is clear to see that for the overall US population and high-propensity visitors alike how important “reputation” is to your market’s overall decision-making process. In fact, only “schedule” rates higher in terms of influence on your market. (“Schedule” summarizes not just factors such as your hours of operation, but also factors such as how your offerings align with considerations such as school and work schedules. It may sound obvious, but if your organization isn’t conveniently accessible for your audience during its preferred days and hours, then you are risking your visitation potential.) And, while special events are an important driver for the US composite market, they are less influential to the HPVs (which represent the market segment where VSOs may benefit by targeting the majority of their marketing efforts).
2. Social media drives reputation
So we know that reputation is a major driver of visitation. But, what, mathematically, comprises your reputation? The answer is a little bit paid media (e.g. advertising) and a lot bit of reviews from trusted sources (particularly word of mouth and earned media – both of which are often facilitated or made entirely possible by social media). In fact, reviews from trusted resources are 12.85 times more influential in terms of your organization’s reputation than is the advertising that comes out of your budget.
3. Thus, social media is a driver of visitation
Social media and online engagement positively contribute to your bottom line by enhancing your reputation, which is a significant driver of visitation. Critically, it is almost impossible for an organization to quickly and efficiently overcome negative reputation perceptions. So, not only do social media and other forms of online engagement help boost your bottom line, they are also wonderful risk mitigation tools that keep you connected to your audience.
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About the author
MPA. Chief Market Engagement Officer at IMPACTS Research & Development. Nonprofit marketer, Generation Y museum, zoo & aquarium writer/speaker, web engagement geek, data nerd, marathoner, nomad, herbivore