WORDS: STEPHANIE EARP
Vaughan, Ontario was one of several cities that participated in the Culture Days Innovation Lab project this past year. We asked all the Innovation Lab Partners to reflect on our 2017 research findings, conducted by independent research firm Maru/Matchbox, and to choose one statistic that helps inform their participation in Culture Days.
Mirella Tersigni, Cultural Development City-wide/Culture Services City-wide, was interested in how attendees became aware of Culture Days events and particularly in how social media plays a role in that discovery.
Vaughan is located just north of Toronto, but it’s hardly just a suburb. It’s the 17th-largest city in Canada, and in the decade between 1996 and 2006 was the fastest growing municipality in the country. And now that Vaughan is connected to the Toronto subway system via rapid transit, the city is poised to add 25,000 new residents and 11,000 new jobs over the next 15 years. It’s an exciting time for this municipality.
For Mirella Tersigni, who’s entering her 13th year in the Cultural Development sector with the City, reaching those new residents, especially the younger demographic, was a key goal during Culture Days 2017. “We wanted to engage a younger audience and we know they are connected by social media,” she explains. Research backs Tersigni up -– 33% of respondents said they heard about Culture Days activities on Facebook. “Social media is key to live posting and information-sharing within each hub area,” Tersigni says. But increasing that reach, posting more often and in real time, presented a challenge.
“We hired a local writer and blogger, Romina Monaco, to serve as an ‘influencer’, as she has a great following in the GTA and Vaughan, is a Vaughan resident, and her established following and ability to post content and pics were a great all-in-one package,” Tersigni explains. “Culture Services, at this point, wouldn’t be able to instantly connect to that demographic, and have a huge following without having to invest more time and money. It was a win – a win for her, and for the City. Her posts and coverage got our numbers up on social media and brought more attention to the overall weekend.”
Alongside the investment in Monaco’s work, Tersigni and her team made sure that outreach was coordinated across multiple platforms. “This year more than ever we coordinated the social media posts with our mobile and digital signs to create higher impact and more awareness overall. This was pre-event right through to post-event.” Part of that effort included providing detailed advice for activity organizers on how to link up their social media activity with the wider campaign, using the same hashtags and links, to add momentum.
While Facebook outpaced other social media channels by a wide margin in Culture Days’ research, some marketers are expressing concern about the platform, not only because of recent news of data breaches, but because it’s becoming harder and harder to achieve organic growth without paying for advertising. In Vaughan, Tersigni found that other channels, like Instagram and Twitter were better over all. “We have a great partner in the regional SNAP newspaper - it does very well in the City of Vaughan and across York Region. On Instagram, we used a combination of pics and short video. Looking to the future, we’re interested in posting more videos, so YouTube might be way to go as well.”
The results in Vaughan make it clear that whatever channels arts and culture groups decide to use, a deeper investment in social media can pay big dividends, and working with socially savvy freelancers is one way to ease the often-underrated burden of time-spent on building social networks and credibility.
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