For arts organizations, the era of Facebook is here. Nearly every day I get invited to “Like” an organization such as symphony orchestra, chamber group or individual artist. If I decide to Like the group, I’ll get updates on concerts and events in my newsfeed.
At first, it was kind of fun to see what groups were playing and doing. Following how different groups approached and used their representative Facebook tool was interesting at first but after the first year I started noticing distinct patterns; some of which produced a steady stream of flawed approaches, others generated regular gems, and others were nothing more than general annoyances.
Facebook can be a powerful marketing tool for arts groups if used in a thoughtful and fun manner. Because so many groups seem to be missing the boat on properly using such a great social networking tool, I thought it’d be fun to point out real examples of what works, what doesn’t and a few tips that will keep the fan base “liking” any given arts organization.
There are several groups out there that have fantastic fan pages. Milwaukee Symphony, Naples Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony and Dallas Symphony are my current favorites. All have interesting updates, links to good blogs and videos, and most importantly a good dialog with patrons. When patrons or fans put tasteful links or questions and the organization quickly answers or responds, you know you’re in a good place. On a few of these Facebook sites, they use trivia questions for free tickets to help create buzz and perpetuates the ‘fun’ aspect.
Too much of a good thing can get you unLiked.
Some arts groups have good Facebook pages they update regularly with fresh content but they post too often. When this happens, an individual’s newsfeeds can get bogged down by these groups and it can quickly appear like the group is doing nothing more than advertising, I call this “newsfeed domination.” Posting newsfeed items several times a day will get groups “hidden” or “unLiked” by the fan or patron.
Abusing private messaging is another item under this category that can get you unLiked in a hurry. Personally, when I see I have a message in my Facebook inbox, I expect it to be from a friend, not an impersonal email blast from a group advertising their upcoming concert, event, or announcement. The lesson here is a fan page already has announcement features so use private messaging sparingly and try to make the messages personal.
Engage fans, don’t advertise to them.
If you want your group to grow and engage a group of people, don’t just put up concert dates and press releases, put up a question or two to create some dialog. Maybe ask the members of your Facebook page their opinions, such as “If you were able to program a concert, what would it be?” or, “Tell us what you thing about our new coffee and concert program?” Asking opinions of fans will generate a good dialog, but it will also allow free access into the ticket buyer’s minds.
Chicago Symphony’s Facebook page has a very tactful and fun way of advertising upcoming concerts. Last week I noticed a picture of the special bells they planned on using for their Berlioz Spectacular and it generated many comments and attention. Going beyond the standard concert announcement gives an added interest and fun. An important point here is to make sure to respond to fans, even if it is to simply acknowledge their comment. Tossing out questions and never responding makes a group look disengaged.
How (and how not) to win facebook fans.
The right way is on Phoenix Symphony’s Facebook wall:
Facebook fan: TPS Box Office: Could you please let me know and anyone else who purchased “Choose Your Own Series” vouchers the status of our vouchers? I have yet to receive anything and I bought my vouchers in July.
Phoenix Symphony: First, we would Like to apologize for the delay in receiving your tickets. Everything was mailed out Monday, Tuesday, and today, so you should be receiving those by the end of the week. You can book tickets for performances now by calling our Box Office at 602-495-1999 if you know which performances you would Like, or you can look over our concert guide, which you will get with your vouchers, and book concerts throughout the year. We thank you for your support and hope you enjoy the concert season!
In this case, the Phoenix Symphony was extremely polite and answered the question promptly, within one day to be precise.
An example of the wrong way to interact with fans is on the Facebook wall of a bigger budget group that shall go unnamed:
Facebook fan: What is gong[sic] on with *SO season subscription renewals? First the mailing (which came out very late) does not include any indication of pricing for the varoius[sic] series available, and today, on the phone, we are told that the *SO will not offer renewing subscribers any seats outside of orchestra 1, 2, or 3, unless you agree to pay the highest subscription rate in order to concentrate the audience in the same part of the hall. We were told this is all to make the musicians happy.
This question went unanswered for several weeks but when the group finally got around to responding, it was all downhill.
Orchestra: You are misinformed Mr.****. Please call the box office for clarification. Renewal rates are already stronger than last year and the campaign is on track to exceed the best season on record in 2006. We hope that you will join us for a very exciting season!
Facebook fan: The original post, 10 weeks before your reply, was correct when published. It is an accurate representation of the conversation I had with Box Office Manager ******* on April 22. I understand that within 7-10 days of the start of renewals, the restriction of only renewing in Orchestra 1, 2 and Dress Circle 1 was lifted. Interestingly, the online season subscription information still only shows these three sections available for subscription.
Given the public nature of wall communication, having a question go unanswered on a Facebook wall is one of the worst things to do. Not only does the fan feel ignored and unimportant, but all of the other fans can access to the wall will see the inaction.
In this particular situation, when the orchestra in question finally got around to posting a reply they made the situation worse by being defensive.
No matter how much a fan may be out of line, so long as it doesn’t cross an obvious line by using profanity, etc. a group should never blame or make a patron or fan look or feel stupid. Remember, Facebook walls allow everyone to see just how good or bad your group is at public relations.
While I’m sure there are groups out there struggling to find time and figure out who will operate their Facebook fan pages, it is worth the effort. Access to patrons has never been easier and maintaining a fan page can be very rewarding for any arts group. Hopefully arts groups will use this fantastic social networking tool to the best of their ability.
In the meantime, please share some of your favorite Facebook arts organization pages and what you like about them.