With audiences - especially young people - moving online, arts groups are using social media as a channel for audience development and relationship building. How can arts organizations take full advantage of these online channels in ways that are truly engaging, authentic and social?
I was recently asked to speak on this topic to community groups at the Milton Centre for the Arts - you can find my presentation here. In particular, I highlighted 5 things that arts groups should be doing on social media, and examples of groups who are already doing them well. Whether you’re a large company or a small community volunteer group, I hope these will spark some ideas that you can apply in your own online engagement.
1. Go behind the scenes
The San Francisco Symphony might be a big symphony in a big city, but their social media certainly doesn’t have a big corporate vibe. Their posts and pictures take you behind the scenes to capture the excitement and work that goes into putting a performance together - just the kind of thing that a symphony-goer would love to learn more about.
2. Let your audience speak for you
Instead of talking about how great your show is, why not let others speak for you? The Stratford Festival does this by sharing audience members’ posts as well as reviews. Over the years they’ve encouraged audience members to speak out on social media with initiatives such as the fan of the week, where they feature a fan comment:
On Twitter, they have created hashtags for each show to find comments more easily, and frequently retweet audience comments:
3. Connect with other arts groups, businesses and individuals
Often, the best way to reach a new audience is not through your own social media channels, but through other groups who have fans in a similar geography or interest. Use social media as a jumping-off point to find out who’s out there and make the connection that could spark cross-promotion, or even a deeper relationship and partnership.
Not sure how to get started? Reciprocity goes a long way on social media, which is why Puppets Up makes sure to let their fans know about other cool things going on in their community.
4. Use audio & visuals to bring your work to life
It’s been shown on many social media channels that pictures and video are the most likely to catch people’s eye and generate engagement. Fortunately, arts organizations have lots of ready material! This is why Ballet BC chose to make Instagram a part of their new direction in 2012, taking advantage of ballet’s visual nature to share beautiful images and fun videos online. The company’s executive director credits social media with a key role in increasing their online visibility and the boost in audience numbers over the last few years.
5. Get online with your members
For community arts groups, the focus is often as much on members (choristers, instrumentalists, actors, dancers, etc.) as on the audience. If your members are in a demographic that is already online and using social media, why not take advantage of these platforms to share information, post pictures of rehearsals & performances, and allow members to connect with each other?
Choir!Choir!Choir!, a Toronto-based, no commitment singing group, embraces this approach by operating entirely through a closed Facebook group. They use Facebook events to share details of upcoming rehearsals, and post the recordings of their songs on SoundCloud. Members also often take advantage of the online community to share relevant news, photos, etc.
What other examples of arts groups engaging online have you seen? What do you think helps to connect with performing arts fans?