Since 2006, the European Festival of Photography (EFP) has taken place every year in Reggio Emilia. The Festival focuses on photography as an ideal vehicle to communicate the complexity of modern life. Every year, photographers and influencers are invited to express their views on a range of subjects such as urban life, the human body, time and societal transformation.

The impact of these kinds of festivals on daily life is hard to evaluate, but a group of Italian researchers have attempted to do just that by focusing on the iconic tool of modernity: social media!

Lorenzo Mizzau (University of Modena, Reggio Emilia and Bocconi University), Massimiliano Nuccio (University of Turin) and Fabrizio Montanari (University of Modena, Reggio Emilia and Bocconi University) used a new social media intelligence platform to analyze EFP’s impact on conversation flow, sentiment, and word of mouth sharing on social media.

In particular, they have mapped the sources of the online conversations and the relevant content generated by users, creating a list of influencers.

The results of their research, documented in “Beyond Impact. The Web and Social Media Analytics in Festival Studies”, was presented at the 13th International Conference on Arts and Cultural Management (AIMAC) 2015 – Aix-Marseille, France, June 26th – July 1st).They analyzed the data by applying the web and social media analytics tool (WSMA).

WSMA aims at monitoring the information flows over the Internet concerning a specific event, topic or organization:

  • How can you build a lively relationship with the audience (participation), leading to user generated content and users spreading information within their networks?
  • How can you provide valuable information to cultural organizations?
  • How can you apply specialized analytic techniques such as media reputation, social filtering, social-network analysis, ‘sentiment analysis’ and social-media analytics?

What did they say about EFP2015?

Social media is by far the most important channel of engagement and information. The graph below shows the sources of online conversations and it highlights how social media is the source where the most conversations about the festival took place.

Social Network European Photography

This second graph shows the activity on the communication channels. Obviously, the days the festival was happening had the highest peaks of mentions. More importantly, we can see that some channels registered interactions only on those days, while social networks are the only channels where the festival’s mentions were maintained even after the event.

Daily Post Social network

Social networks are good tools to continuously foster attention, but this activity must be thoroughly planned and executed.

In conclusion, web and social media are the places where the majority of the conversations about festivals and relevant events happen. The research makes it clear that WSMA is a useful tool for understanding what people really enjoy about these events and how they evaluate the experience. Festival organizers and their stakeholders should embrace this strategy not only to justify (public) investment in the arts but also to improve festival organization and community engagement.