Monday, December 10, 2007

3 Ways for Arts Organizations to Get More out of Facebook

Justin Smith at Inside Facebook recently wrote an article entitled The Facebook Marketing Bible: 24 Ways to Market Your Brand, Company, Product, or Service Inside Facebook that should be required reading for any individual or company interested in taking the plunge and engaging with the rapidly growing social network.

There are a large number of musical organizations that have recently started networking on Facebook, with varying degrees of success. I have a few suggestions for both individuals and organizations in order to make the most of this encounter:

1. Don't be a spammer. I've seen several musical organizations join Facebook, become members of a large number of groups, only to spam all of them with photos, event listings, and web links. Putting your most impersonal foot forward is a sure-fire way to ensure that no one will take your events seriously.

2. Don't set up shop and then leave. Many organizations join, friend a large number of people in their regional network, set up a group, then leave, never to return. I understand that it is important to be able to say "we're engaging with technology" these days, but doing Facebook is no different than starting a corporate website--it demands a lot of effort up front, and plenty of maintenance time down the road as well.

3. Use the personal touch. The most successful way for organizations to get more out of Facebook is for a large number of their employees/artists to actively use a variety of Facebook media to first of all, interact with people, then to advertise their events. Groups, notes, posted items, photos, videos, event listings, and personal messages all add up to the possibility of making new friends and growing your audience. For example, I received an event listing to see a show written by a writer I recently worked with. A few days later, I received a message personally inviting me to see the show. While I didn't have time to go, the personalization of the event listing + personal invitation was extremely classy of this person, and I will do everything I can to see shows that they write or produce in the future.

There is a big upside to Facebook. In September, Tapestry New Opera Works' Opera Briefs 7, an evening of brand-new short operas, was well on its way to selling out nearly a week from opening night. A few days before opening, advance sales were cut off so that a dozen or so tickets could be held for walkups, who would otherwise have been turned away. While it is difficult to nail down precisely how this came about, I believe that it was a combination of traditional marketing (via press listings and email) and the event's singers, pianists, writers, and composers sharing the event listing (by clicking on the +Share button on the event page) and spreading the word among friends in their networks. I'm sure Tapestry isn't the only arts group experiencing this newfound ticket-buying frenzy, but it came about because members connected to the organization took the time to connect with others and utilize their social capital to fill seats.

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