The Role of Social Networking for Cultural Entrepreneurs

The last few years have seen a growing trend of cultural business start-ups, globally. A cultural business (events, arts, music, theatre, etc.) is significantly different from a commercial business for more than one reason. Cultural businesses are usually at an agency level with a limited number of people. They still have their founding member(s) actively involved in the day to day dealings of the business. Additionally, the success measures for these businesses rely heavily on social networking and strong interpersonal connections in addition to fiscal outcomes. Constructing sturdy social ties lies at the very heart of a successful cultural venture. Maintaining healthy relations with competitors and building on personal networks directly helps a cultural business gather information and resources for mutual benefit.

Due to the nuance of this business sector however, there is an absence of a guided direction as to how much networking actually helps the cultural business and to the extent to which a cultural entrepreneur’s reputation affects the business. The current paper explored this area, and reveals some interesting and constructive information.

It appears that the more favorable a business’s reputation, the more likely it is to succeed and grow. A start-up’s reputation hinges on that of its entrepreneur. The current research therefore suggests that the more actively (socially) involved a cultural entrepreneur is the better the chances are for the business to succeed. A cultural entrepreneur is expected to build strong social relations with competitors, as well as building a sturdy personal social network, in order to be in the loop on important shifts and developments in the cultural business landscape.

Two major obstacles affect cultural business: funding sources and competition with other similar businesses. In the face of limited funding, private cultural businesses find it difficult to compete with public institutions that receive more government funding. A strong networking specialist can greatly help to mitigate the disadvantages a for-profit culture enterprise might face. However, it appears that while a healthy network can help overcome the constraints posed due to limited funding, the benefit is not the same when the level of competitiveness increases. Since cultural entrepreneurs spend a tremendous amount of energy and time networking for mutual benefits with peers, who are also potentially competitors, there seems to exist a general supportive mindset among the cultural community. Unfortunately, when the level of competitiveness increases, perhaps due to a dearth of available funding, it poses a problem that cannot be resolved through social networking alone. In fact, social networking may negatively affect the business, at times of increased competitiveness, since social networking involves a mutual benefit factor.

With the limited research available on cultural entrepreneurship, the current study has contributed in a large way by pointing out the importance of social networking and its limitations as well. Cultural entrepreneurs should focus on building social networks, as part of their business strategy that can assist in overcoming some of the common issues faced by cultural start-ups. However, they should remain conscious that in times of increased competition, alternatives to these social networks will need to be explored.