What influences theatergoers decisions?

What influences a person in choosing to attend to a live art event?

This was one the main question of the research developed by Andrea Hausmann and Lorenz Poellmann and published last year in the academic journal “Arts and the Market”

The authors asked to 16 German theaters to post a questionnaire on their Facebook page. Theater’s followers were asked questions about their artistic consumption activities. A descriptive statistics followed.

Because of the chose of social media to collect data the great part of consumers are between 20-29 years and because of the auto selection a great part of them attend arts events several times a month.
They asked the relevance of different sources of information and the results see at the first place the Theater website (83%) and the content of the Monthly program (77%). However the third and fourth sources are reviews by professional critics (71%) and Personal recommendations (64%). This underlines the importance of a good online communication and the centrality of the core offering of the theatre.

Interestingly when they are asked the relevance of the parameters for decision making, the importance of personal recommendations goes at the at the second place (55%) while at the first place there is the content to be performed (73%). The personal recommendations are more influential than Performing actors, Author of the play, Stage director and Title of the play. Professional reviews are only at the seventh place with 33% of respondents.

as long as the content in social media is concerned, the researchers asked for the importance of the content of social media communications. Obviously the most important elements are Facts/information, Photos and Videos (the common contents in social media). In this case the recommendations from other users is only at the fifth place with 67% respondents.

The authors explored what kind of messages in social media are considered trustworthy. They asked for the trustworthiness of the social media contents and found that less than half of the respondents (48%) trust a comment posted by an unfamiliar theatergoer on Facebook. They trust a little more a comment that is “liked” by other users (54%). However, respondent seem to rely very much on recommendations from people they know (80%) of respondents.

The research has some limitations in the methodology. In first place they submitted the questionnaire using Facebook and this can make the study of percentages a biased: if respondents are FB users that find the questionnaire online, they will already have a positive attitude toward social media, social networks and they will already prefer the strong-ties social networks such as FB, rather than the weak ties social networks such as Twitter. Are we sure that the same results will come submitting the questionnaire only toward Twitter or LinkedIn?
Furthermore the respondents are already fans of the theaters on FB, so the results hold as far as they rely on theaters’ online followers. In other words these results are not representative of the whole audience of a theatre. For example, saying that social media are important influencer for this sample means that social media are important for the theaters’ FB fans. This appears to me as a tautology.

Another limit of this research is the lack of hypotheses and the explorative nature of the methods and results. The authors missed the opportunity to make predictions on the results basing on the literature. They also missed the opportunity to use a little more complex statistics to make more robust the conclusions (there are no significance values in the paper), and they missed the opportunity to contribute to the general marketing theory.

However this research is interesting mainly to theaters’ practitioners because make simple results that can be used to enhance efforts to attract new public.

Hausmann, Andrea, and Lorenz Poellmann. “eWOM in the performing arts: exploratory insights for the marketing of theaters.” Arts and the Market 6.1 (2016): 111-123.