Whos And Hows Of TikTok For Arts Orgs

By some fortuitous coincidence, I was digging into my news feed backlog and read Seema Rao’s Museum 2.0 post on guidelines for museum Tiktok accounts on the same day Ceci Dadisman put out an appeal to crowdsource a list of good non profit arts organization Tiktok accounts.

Many of Rao’s tips are basic guidelines for all communications employed by non-profits, regardless of medium or platform. They include avoiding insider terminology and only focusing on concepts that appeal to insider interests.

  • Learn their language rather than making them learn ours. My whole challenge is finding analogies between other Tiktok videos and art. If you’re not familiar with Tiktok, you might not know about duets. People reshare other peoples videos with that commentary. I used that popular format but to share ideas about art. Sure, I could have done short traditional videos about artworks. But that is less popular on Tiktok. Why try to get people to my ideas in a way they are less likely to like?

  • Remember people want to learn about art for fun. They are not doing it because it’s good for them. So don’t make it a chore for them. It might be our job, but it’s their time off.

  • Even if people like art, they don’t have much scaffolding. I have a core group of art lovers who know about art. The vast majority of commenters have basic questions or thank me for discussing basic elements. Schools teach less art, and so our visitors have taken less. It makes them no less interested. But it does mean we need to remember that when communicating about art.

  • People don’t care about museums, just the stuff inside them. Museum people, particularly boards, think visitors are excited by museums themselves. Sure, storage, art theft, removing varnish are interesting, but that’s because they look cool. Very few people are jazzed at hearing about the history of your museum.

The one that really caught my eye advised using personal, rather than institutional accounts with the idea that the former was viewed as more credible and personal:

People trust people to tell them about art. While I only recently put my real name, I’ve often had people say they like my approach to talking about art. I’d previously done Tiktoks for a museum account, and I never had as much pick up on videos. I think people want to hear from an authentic human voice rather than a brand.

While all of the accounts on Ceci Dadisman’s list were institutional accounts, the ones that seemed most appealing were those that didn’t seem to be directed by the marketing department. For example, The Royal Opera House and Met Museum pages featured video of artists performing and artworks in a gallery setting.

The Warhol Museum account seems to be entirely curated by their youth creative team and comes at the artist and work from a number of perspectives like how David Bowie and Ozzy Osborne viewed Andy Warhol and the canvas which Warhol had his friends urinate on.

Likewise, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History has field researchers talk about collecting ants by sucking them into a tube and the hazards of having them in your mouth if you aren’t careful. (Also, making bad jokes)

And of course, the Children’s Museum in Indianapolis collection lends itself to all sorts of opportunities by itself, but the Tiktok account lets folks know the organization isn’t just for kids.

So check out Seema’s post for more thoughts on how to do Tiktoks well and Ceci’s post to add accounts you know of to a Google doc so others can see what people are doing well.

Podcasting Surge Benefits Somewhat Mixed

So it appears that podcasts have turned into public radio’s competitive advantage. According to a recent study, nearly 4 in 10 public radio listeners also listen to a podcast weekly with those that listen to the talk-radio format more likely to listen than those that listen to public radio adult alternative or classical music formats.  Younger listeners are more likely to consume podcasts than older listeners.

“… 72% of Millennial public radio listeners also consume podcasts compared to 57% of Gen X and 35% of Baby Boomers.”

This said, podcast listenership has been cooling in recent years and while podcasts are a entree to listening to terrestrial broadcasts for many, in some cases it is drawing listeners from brick and mortar stations.

While nearly two-thirds (63%) say it has no impact on the “real time” they spend with AM/FM, the survey also points to a third of weekly podcast users spending fewer hours with the broadcast station. That is even more true among listeners of news-talk stations, where 39% said they are spending less time with AM/FM in favor of podcasts.

What I found most interesting was that the cooling attitudes toward podcasts seemed to be rooted in advertising. I assumed then that the survey included podcasts created through both commercial and public radio channels because public radio usually just has a brief underwriting message rather than a longer ad that people can potentially skip. The credibility of the ads is seen as super low. I would be interested to see a deeper dive into which company’s ads were seen as more credible than others.

The Public Radio Techsurvey data shows 61% of public radio’s weekly podcast listeners are getting tired of hearing the same ads in the podcasts they listen to, including a quarter (26%) who strongly agree. Just four percent disagreed, while 29% were neutral.


It also shows that host-read ads are preferred to produced spots, particularly among younger listeners. The survey shows 43% would rather hear a host-read ad. But among Millennials that number jumps to 59%.

“The data on advertising in podcasts is an eye-opener. While podcasters like to think their ads are more engaging, our respondents suggest otherwise,” Jacobs says. “While live reads from hosts are perceived as preferable to produced spots, podcast ads overall are no more credible than commercials heard on the radio.” Their data shows just 14% of public radio listeners think the ads they hear on podcasts are more credible than what they hear from their radio.

This last bit got me wondering about the relative credibility of sponsors and advertisers listed in program books, posters, digital signage around arts and cultural entities. I am thinking about this both from the point of view of wanting to provide a bit of a valuable benefit for sponsors and from the perspective of “charity washing” conversations where it appears corporations are trying to burnish their image through charitable giving. If sponsorship placement doesn’t lend credibility to generally sincere companies, it is something of a pity. But on the other hand, if people aren’t fooled by charity washing efforts, that is a relatively positive outcome.

The Audience Seemed To Enjoy It

Occasionally there has been discussion about how the standing ovation has become the default response at the end of a performance.

Not long ago, Seth Godin made a short post about expectation and delight.   He notes that when expectations are too low, there is no opportunity to even connect successfully whereas when they are too high, the sense of delight at an experience disappears.  He posits that the more successful you are, the more difficult it is to reach that point of delight because expectations are so high.

It almost sounds like advocacy for calculated mediocrity. But his next observation suggests that feedback like standing ovations make it difficult to determine if you are actually delighting audiences or not.

Often, this is replaced by the cognitive dissonance of sunk costs and luxury goods. People assert delight because they think they’re supposed to, because they don’t want to feel stupid–not because you’ve produced anything genuine.

This is a problematic element of group dynamics. You don’t want to be the only one sitting down when everyone else is up clapping, so you get up too even if you aren’t sure you enjoyed the experience. Others that are also feeling a little neutral about the experience are left to wonder what they missed that everyone else got and rise to their feet slightly bewildered. And so on and so on.

The artists are left thinking they did better they thought or at least the audience didn’t catch on to the flaws.

The folks who felt their experience was a little “meh” are likely inclined not to return and the venue administration don’t quite know why this is because these folks don’t feel anything strongly enough to fill out surveys. And after all, there was a standing ovation.

Interesting Thoughts On Arts Management Styles

Andrew Taylor made an interesting video/post about dominant arts management styles on his blog recently.  I am always wary about personality type tests and categorizations, particularly because so many are based, developed and administered using questionable methodology. I do think they can be useful as a tool for self-reflection and consideration if they are subsequently discarded and not used to define oneself.

In this particular case, Taylor is applying Ichak Adizes’ PAEI management framework to arts managers. PAEI stands for Producing, Administrating, Entrepreneuring, and Integrating. Taylor is careful to note that this frame:

“…is not to suggest there’s just four kinds of people in the world or the working world. The purpose is to suggest that each of us brings a dominant concern to the work; a dominant way of paying attention; and a dominant understanding of what it means to be productive in the workplace.”

Because everyone employs a mix from each of these areas, to get a sense of what your dominant approach is, Taylor says you might look at how you react when you are under stress and things around you are going poorly. Also, if there are things other people do in a work environment that drive you nuts, they may be operating in a mode opposite to your dominant approach. He gives the following examples of how each of these styles might manifest in practice:

Do you double down and get the work done that’s in front of you? Are you a producing energy?

Do you pause and think about what’s the better system to manage this process? Rather than getting it done now, let’s get it done right? Making you an administrating energy?

Do you focus on a distant future and say, Well, maybe what is in front of me now is really not the useful thing. Maybe there’s something bold and new and different I should be thinking about?

Or is your impulse to check in with others and your team and see how they’re doing and what they’re doing and how they’re finding focus in their own energy in this moment?

Taylor says that the extreme of each of these can be very damaging for an organization: The Lone Wolf Producer that moves forward with the work without concern for whether it serves the needs of the organization; The Administrating Bureaucrat that focuses on things being done according to the rules and best practices, halting progress; the Arsonist Entrepreneur who consistently burns everything down in order to create something new in the ashes; the Super Following Integrator who focuses on serving whatever needs the group expresses today.

I am skipping over quite a bit here, but the video and accompanying transcript are really relatively short so if your interest is piqued, it is worth the time to check out his post and ponder the insights you may receive.