5 Ways Arts Organizations Should Use Social Media

Arts organizations are facing funding cuts all over the world.

For example, Scotland is cutting £2 million ($3.1 million) for the arts. The National Theatre of Scotland, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, the Scottish Chamber Orchestra, Scottish Ballet, and Scottish Opera are all facing cuts of 10% in government funding.

This all got me to wondering how arts organizations could use social media to promote themselves, and find additional fans, attendees, and donors.

Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra

The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra is one of the largest arts organizations in Indiana.

There are only a few arts organizations using social media, but with social media’s explosive growth, the organizations that aren’t are missing a great opportunity.

While you may think that social media is only for young people, this is a fallacy that has long been disproved. In fact, the fastest growing demographic on Facebook is women, age 50 – 60. If that demographic fits within your core audience, shouldn’t you be trying to reach them? And what better place to do it than where they are already?

Second, if your core audience is people in their 50s and 60s, don’t you want to try to reach a younger audience? Otherwise, your audience will get smaller and smaller as they retire, move away, and die. If a younger audience is using social media, then you should try to reach them in their world, instead of forcing them to come to yours. They haven’t come yet, and that’s not going to change any time soon.

So here are five ways arts organizations should use social media.

    1. Set up a blog and give readers a behind-the-scenes look at your organization. Your blog should be more than just a press release center. Don’t just make it a place to dump all your promotional information. Post photos of rehearsals. Let staff, actors, and performers post their thoughts on performances. Post diary-like reflections of preparing for an upcoming show or performance.
    2. Create podcasts of musical performances.If you’re a musical organization, create a regular podcast, and make that available to the public. People can listen to past performances and get an idea of what you sound like. But if you think “if people hear us on a podcast, they won’t want to come,” that’s untrue. (Did you know that was the argument by orchestras against selling sheet music, the Victrola, and radio?) The New York and Chicago Philharmonics have shows on public radio stations around the country, and the Indianapolis Symphony has a highlights show on WFYI, our local public radio station, and yet they still get people to attend. If anything, when people hear a performance, it makes them want to see it live.
    3. Create videos of performances. If you are a performing arts organization, try posting videos from past performances on YouTube, and then putting them up on your blog. This is especially true for visual performances, like dance and theatre troupes. This will let people know the kind of thing they can expect when they attend one of your performances. And if they like what they see online, they’ll want to be a part of the experience, and attend a show.
    4. Create a Facebook page for your organization. If there was a single social networking tool that was made for arts organizations, Facebook is it. Not only does it have the largest population of social media users (500 million people around the world), but it’s ideally suited for posting or reposting content from other sites. You can repost your blog content, videos, and photos to your Facebook page. You can ask your members and attendees to join, communicate with them directly, ask them to tell their friends, which will bring in new Facebook friends.
    5. Share your contacts with other organizations. Yeah, I saved this point for last, because a lot of you will think I’m crazy. But think about it for a minute: your biggest competitors are not the other performing arts organizations in the area, it’s television, movies, restaurants, and general laziness. You probably don’t share members, so you’re not competing for the same dollars. But sharing contacts could be a benefit to both organizations. For one thing, you can introduce dance fans to the music that supports the dancers. You can introduce theater goers to dance, another visual art form. And as you cross-pollinate your membership, both organizations will benefit, rather than steal members.How can you cross-promote with another organization?
      • Do a feature of each other in your respective blogs.
      • Promote ticket sales (buy one of ours, get one of theirs for 50% off).
      • Do a joint performance, like their orchestra playing for your opera. Have their chamber quartet play at your museum event.
      • “Like” their Facebook page, and encourage your Facebook friends to like it as well. Ask them to reciprocate.

      By combining your social media efforts, you can double your efforts, introduce a whole new audience — who is already predisposed to appreciating the performing arts — to your organization. The result is you’ll be able to add new audience members to each organization, and strengthen both.

What is your organization doing? Are you using social media, or do you want to try using it? And if you’re not in an arts organization, how have you seen other organizations using it?