San Francisco Online Community Meetup (#OCTribe) – Feb 25, 2013

The February talk for the San Francisco Online Community Meetup, hosted by TechSoup, was on Arts Organizations using social media to engage existing communities and reach new audiences. This meetup was also a collaboration with Emerging Arts Professionals. The panel included:

Dan Meagher, Director of Marketing, Diablo Ballet of Walnut Creek: The Web Ballet project is using Twitter to crowdsource the first ballet work made from the internet. You can read more about the Web Ballet in The Huffington Post.
Maura Lafferty, an independent communications consultant working with classical musicians and performing organizations in San Francisco, CA.
Danielle Siembieda, former Community Engagement and Special Projects Manager for ZERO1: The Art & Technology Network, where she was in charge of all things social media, audience engagement, technology research, and trend forecasting.
Carly Severn, Digital Engagement Associate, San Francisco Ballet, who ran the ‘Nutcracker Holiday Challenge’ series of contests (Nov-Dec 2013) across Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, and WordPress.

Danielle Siembieda spoke about developing the Arts Ambassador program for their recent festival. They trained a team of their fellows to act as bridges between the sometimes complicated world of art appreciation and the attendees. They acted as guides for the people who say “I just don’t get art,” both online (via the Zero1 app) and off.

Carly Severn gave an overview of how she ran the Nutcracker Holiday Challenge during the past holiday season. Foregoing Facebook as a platform for contests (partly due to its restrictive rules around contests), each challenge was was an enhancement of the participating platform. The goal of the campaign was the cement SF Ballet’s The Nutcracker as a San Francisco Holiday fixture, connecting the city, the season, and the production together in the affinity of the patron.

Maura Lafferty spoke from a slightly different perspective. As a consultant, Maura has worked with a number of organizations, determining what strategies will work best and be the most maintainable for her clients. She often deals with the tension between wanting to reach a community that’s built of both digital natives and the less tech savvy, as well as clients who are very concerned with what their ROI (return on investment) is. Getting to the root of what’s behind their concerns of ROI is something she advises in that situation. In a later discussion, an audience member pointed out that tracking of ROI from posters and traditional advertising is virtually non-existent; social media provides that tracking on a scale never before accessible to small businesses and organizations.

Dan Meagher spoke about the work that went into The Web Ballet. 132 suggestions for the ballet’s content were received from all over the world; Diablo Ballet’s job was to pare that down to seven components that comprise the ballet. The result was “Flight of the Dodo,” which premiered March 1st. One other thing that The Web Ballet and getting more involved on social media did for Diablo Ballet was to change their perspective on who their audience was, opening the doors for them to reach out to a new community.

One key takeaways for non-profit organizations is something Dan Meagher brought up early on. While we’d love for the arts to be a huge moneymaker and command a million dollar marketing budget, most arts companies (and non-profits in general) are barely scraping by. Social Media allows us to reach our patrons in direct, low-cost, and much more personal ways than ever before. We don’t need that million dollar budget to get to them through social media.

Another tip that resonated with me was to nuture your in-house talent, from Carly Severn. As the Digital Engagement Associate, Carly works closely with the marketing office and the content creators within San Francisco Ballet, allowing a back and forth exchange of ideas and content that can be used across multiple platforms.

My top three takeaways from this great session:

From Danielle Siembieda: Don’t hide your staff; your supporters want to know who’s behind the organization. A lot of the time, we’re so focused on message, message, message, that we forget to be human. That human connection resonates with your patrons (especially in non-profit organizations) as much or more than any other message you’re sending out.

From Carly Severn and Maura Laffs: Be immersed in social media and the arts, as it’s the only way to keep up your fluency. Even if you’re not actively working in an organization, stay up to date on what’s going on in your arts world. On the social media side, the social world moves so fast, with new networks and technologies popping up every day.

A simple, but profound statement from Carly Severn: in order to make an impression, your content needs to be appealing as the content from your patron’s friends and family.

Other Links:
Awesm – ROI tracking tool mentioned by Maura Lafferty –
Want to check out highlighted tweets from the meetup? My storify’s got you covered.
Want to watch the whole panel? View the recording on UStream.