Commentary: Some insights on social media and classical music orgs 

Beth Kanter on her blog, 6/8/11

How do we motivate orchestra musicians to create content?  The question came up [at the American Symphony Orchestra conference] in the context of discussing "We don't have any time to do social media."   How can you get others in your organization to participate and contribute content, including musicians?   This can be a sensitive issue for some orchestras.  Also, it requires a social media policy.  Some orchestras have been successful doing this by working with musicians who serve on the orchestra's marketing committee and already understand or use social media personally.  Here's some of the advice that came through [a post I made on] Facebook:

It takes a while to motivate the musicians, because they are busy people and often on the road away from internet. They don't often see what you are doing in social media and therefore can feel apart from it. To encourage them to use their valuable free time to create content you have to first demonstrate that it's worth doing. Something that worked for me in raising awareness is to send a weekly email digest of responses from across all our social networks, to show the level of interest and engagement out there. Also, don't expect everyone to want to be involved. Spend time finding the right musicians for the job. - Jo Johnson  (London Symphony)

How do you "police" your employees use of social media?  The above question was posed to Makala Johnson from the Mayo Clinic after she shared some insights about this large nonprofit institution with over 50,000 employees encourages all employees to participate.    Her response:  "We don't have time for that."   The follow up question was, "Was there ever a time when employees used social media "unprofessionally" or caused a problem?"  Makala paused for a minute or two and answered,  "No."  The reason is that they have a good policy in place that talks lays out a philosophy and operationalizes effective social media practice.  Makala also noted that her job is about consulting and training people in the organization to use social media effectively.   Their approach to staffing - they've found that it works best for adoption to have social media tasks integrated into job descriptions.

User Experience Integration: The New York Philharmonic's Vince Ford offered a framework for creating a digital strategy (social media is one channel in that mix that falls under engagement) [which is] useful to brainstorm when and where to integrate digital tools, including social media.    Vince noted that their concert-goers are most open to engagement right after the performance - with email open rates soaring to 80%.  I shared this video from Jason Hodges about their clever approach to reminding patrons to turn off their cell phones at the start of a concert, but still generate some engagement on their social media channels.  This prompted some debate as to whether or not patrons will really turn off their cell phones to avoid disrupting the sacred concert experience.  It is a challenge for many orchestras.  Is "live tweeting" during a concert in the formal concert hall the best way to integrate social into the concert experience?  Some venues have strict rules about this, not matter how much it annoys some patrons. The midway ground is to experiment in less formal concert venues, like outdoor concerts, non-concert events, designate "social media moments," or have a sign or kiosk in the lobby to get feedback.  The Smithsonian Museum does this as part of getting patron feedback on exhibits.  Orchestras face significant challenges these days - attracting younger people to classical music concerts, affordable ticket prices, and the disruption caused by social and mobile media.   This is fertile ground for experiments and learning best practices.


 Alamo Drafthouse video screenshot

Commentary: Would your arts org expose your audience's bad behavior?

Marc van Bree, Dutch Perspective blog, 6/7/11

One of the things I love about moving to Austin is the Alamo Drafthouse. After seeing a movie there, you really can't go back to a regular theater. The movie I wanted to see last weekend was sold out, so I did have to go back to a regular theater. Big mistake.  The movie was a mild PG-13. Apparently, that means you should bring your 2 or 3-year-old and let him improvise sound effects and let him continuously and loudly ask questions. After about an hour and a half of it, nearing the end of the movie, a squeaky voiced teen usher finally approached the mother. The mother in turn chewed his head off and "wasn't going anywhere." A security guard finally moved in to make sure the remaining ten minutes were somewhat enjoyable.  Contrast that with the attitude at the Alamo Drafthouse. They have a zero-tolerance policy since 1997. And trust me, they mean business. And they stick to it.  Tim League, the company's founder, just posted this in response to a customer complaint voicemail:

When we adopted our strict no talking policy back in 1997 we knew we were going to alienate some of our patrons. That was the plan. If you can't change your behavior and be quiet (or unilluminated) during a movie, then we don't want you at our venue. Follow our rules, or get the hell out and don't come back until you can.

But he didn't leave it at that. He turned the actual voicemail into the latest "Don't Talk or Text" PSA and posted it on YouTube. The video just went viral with nearly 500,000 views in just four short days.  The policy is part of their brand. That is why people love going to the Alamo. Sure, there are countless stories of consumers posting creative videos exposing the indecent side of business. But how many companies would feel comfortable enough to expose indecent customers?  It's gutsy. But it fits the brand. It's what makes the Alamo the Alamo. Reactions have been overwhelmingly and extremely positive.  That made me wonder... are there any classical music organizations that would feel comfortable enough to do this?  And granted feelings about the arts are subjective, and not objective like a strict don't-text policy, but would an orchestra ever consider putting up a voicemail complaint about a, let's just say 'modern,' piece and unapologetically stand by their decision to perform it?  I doubt it.  And to be honest, I'm not even sure I would have the guts to do it. We spend a lot of time apologizing in the arts. But sometimes, sticking to what you believe in pays off. Just ask the Alamo.

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