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Social media for time-starved theatres

17 Mar

I was inspired this morning by John Jantsch’s post on his Duct Tape Marketing blog regarding using social media for things you are already doing.  There are some great ideas in his post, but while I read it I kept hearing voices of my colleagues at under-staffed, over-worked non-profit theatres saying, “but I don’t have time!”  The reality is we don’t have the time NOT to join the conversation.  So, here are some simple ideas for making the most of your social media time.  I know that some of this will seem far too basic for many of you, but I also know a lot of folks in our industry haven’t delved into this and don’t know the questions to ask to get started.

  1. Use a third-party program to consolidate your updates.  There are a host of third-party programs that allow you to update all (or most) your social media sites in one fell swoop.  I like TweetDeck because it is sleek and simple and I can see all the relevant information at a glance.  It is connected to my personal Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts.  You can also set it up to monitor more than one Twitter account (for those of us who tweet for ourselves and for our companies).   Not only can you update everything at once, it also streams all the updates from your friends to the same interface and allows you to reply to relevant tweets and posts without going to the individual websites.  This tremendously cuts down on the time I spend with my social media updates.  Some other options are HootSuite, Twhirl, and Seesmic.  They all approach the same problem in a different way.  Check them out to decide which program is the best fit for your needs.
  2. Share the blogging. Yes, it is wonderful to have the Artistic Director blogging for the company, they are the public face of the work and no one else represents the passion of the organization in quite the same way.  But, there are lots of times when the A.D. can’t, won’t, or shouldn’t blog … at least not on a regular basis.  That’s when you set up shared blogs!  With WordPress you can easily create a blog that can be posted to by numerous folks, all with their own by-line.  I’m sure there are other blogging systems that allow this, but I like WordPress, so I haven’t done the research to find others.  Ask your A.D., production manager, technical director, resident lighting designer, volunteer coordinator, and anyone else that can provide good, interesting, rich content for your patrons.  If everyone commits to writing at least once a month, all of a sudden you have a steady stream of very diverse, behind-the-scenes stories that your supporters will love.  Be sure to put all their bios in the About tab so that folks will know who they are listening and talking to.
  3. Use the tools Google has provided
    If you haven’t already set up your Google Alerts for your company name, your name, and the key words in your industry, do it now!  You can’t be an active part of the conversation if you don’t know what is being said. You get an email each morning with relevant mentiones of your keywords.  This is the only way Synchronicity Theatre found out that we were mentioned in a list of 13 companies tweeting it right.  Whether it is good feedback or complaints, you have to keep an ear to the ground and Google has made it super easy.    Another part of keeping informed on the conversation is at least skimming the headlines of the relevant blogs.  Google Reader is a great way to keep track of the blogs you are following.  Microsoft Outlook has a reader feature, too, but I find I get distracted by incoming email when I read blogs in Outlook.  Google Reader keeps me focused for the short amount of time I have to peruse blogs in the morning.  Don’t know which blogs to follow?  Check out the few I have in my blog roll to the right, then go to Technorati.com and search the key word of your choice (arts management, arts marketing, theatre [in your city, or general], etc., etc.)  Pick a couple to get you started and then you can add more as you get in the habit of checking your Google Reader.

Hopefully this will get you started (or more efficient) with you social media campaigns.  We have an unprecedented opportunity to turn our casual patrons in to advocates and evangelists just by joining the conversation.  But, you have to join the conversation!  What other tools/techniques are you using to keep on track?

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