This afternoon I was lucky enough to be invited to participate in the University of Kentucky‘s webinar “Look Who’s Talking: Encouraging Your Audience to Drive Digital Change”. Hosted by Ben Sheridan (@B_Sheridan) and Rachel Shane (@rachelshane) it provided an introduction to the best ways to get the public working for you on social media.
When I was in the United Kingdom I joined a local non-profit theatre society who owned and ran their own theatre – Lancaster Grand Theatre. The theatre was (and still is) a gem in the North West of England. It was earmarked by the council in the 1950’s for demolition in order to make way for redevelopment of the area. Understanding the cost to the community of losing such a facility some locals banded together to form Lancaster Footlights (a theatre society) and, using their own money, purchased the theatre.
Many of those conscientious individuals are still very much alive and kicking and frequent the theatre regularly, devoting massive amounts of time and energy in maintaining what is now the third oldest theatre in continuous operation in the United Kingdom.
When I joined the society I was viewed (I’m sure) with trepidation from the stalwarts within. “Who’s this youngling in my theatre?” I heard the walls whisper! I would confidently put forward my ideas for “modernizing” the theatre. Ideas such as a TV monitor in the lobby to show a PowerPoint of upcoming shows, accepting payment at the bar with Square, or, promoting the theatre on Facebook. Of course many of my ideas were met with confusion and concern. But recognizing the need for change (or perhaps the need to keep me quiet) I was promptly put in charge of Social Media output for the society. By “put in charge” I mean I set up a Facebook Page and just started generating content. When I thought I had enough Likes and a decent content history I presented it to the Board and bathed their collective awe(!)
Truth be told I wasn’t doing anything other than the local corner shop or “man with van” business. But it did at least start the change for the society which now has a devoted employee in charge of Social Marketing – happy days!
Rachel and Ben’s webinar today opened me up to many new angles of Social Media which I had never really considered. The main focus on the 45-minute session was User Generated Content (UGC). It was surprising to me how obvious this way of delivering content was; anyone can do it! In fact, thinking about my own experience with social media, some of things I tried would fit into a UGC box. The difference being that my approach was unplanned and ad-hoc!!!
I won’t go into details of the webinar. Partly, because the content is not mine to share and partly because I want to keep all the top tips for myself!! But I will share one response from Rachel to a question about organization generated content. I don’t recall the exact question but essentially it was “How often should organizations ask for donations on social media?” It resonated with me because I have to put my hand up and say that at least 80% of the content I generated for Lancaster Grand Theatre was “BUY TICKETS!” or the like. Being a bit of a Facebook junkie myself I have a plethora of Likes to organization Pages in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Among them there are those that appear to follow the Greg Robertson approach to posting and there are those that don’t.
In thinking of those that, essentially, use social media as a ticket advertising platform I’m left thinking of a group of theatres or companies who come across “amateur”, “immature” dare I say “desperate”? And THIS was Rachel’s point. People don’t use their chosen social media platform to look for the Box Office phone number. (They have Google for that). They don’t want a barrage of prices, dates and offers forced down their throats when they log on after a day at work. Mostly they want entertainment, fun, escapism. Yes, making the sale is important to non-profit organizations and those that choose to never advertise their next event do so at their own peril. But sparingly is the key. Rachel’s rule of thumb was 1 post “hard sales” and 1 post “soft sales” for every 4 posts that are entertaining or fun. And who doesn’t want more fun in their lives?
So take heed Arts Organizations! Keep it light. Keep it fun. And the odd hashtag here and there doesn’t hurt!