Saturday, August 13, 2011

Old Marketing Techniques don't work on New School Social Media

It's time to update our tactics in terms of Marketing to the new generation of Social Media savvy consumers

Let's turn the clock back to the early 16th century. During King Henry VIII's reign, a musician either traveled from town to town playing for scraps and handouts, or they found a patron. In the late 16th century the printing press created a new market. The savvy William Byrd obtained the sole right to produce music and made a small fortune because of it. Times were changing, and while it was still necessary for a musician to have a patron if they really wanted to be a full time musician the landscape of the market was opening up new opportunities.

Moving forward to the late 18th and early 19th century, Beethoven expanded this concept making more money from his music sales than he did from patronage. He still had the occasional patron, but pretty much from his time forward the money for musicians came in the form of sales of music and concert performances.
Taking a look at marketing techniques, let's go back to the 17th century where the printing press allowed pamphlets and fliers to be produced. Even though a majority of the population in England couldn't read, these pamphlets and fliers created by anti-monarchists turned the popular opinion against Charles I and let the way to his beheading and the "reign" of Cromwell. Note: there were no laws about truth in advertising, so many of the pamphlets mocked the king using cartoon figures.

The same sort of bad press took place in turn of 20th century Vienna against Mahler. Caricatures of Mahler exaggerated his "Jewish" characteristics. It's not the only factor that led to his removal as conductor of the Vienna Philharmonic, but certainly played a part.

The point of all these historical examples is to show, throughout history how new marketing techniques came about and changed the way we approach the public. Not all of these techniques were used for good and I suspect Social Media will have it's share of shameful mis-uses. However, like the World Wide Web changed the marketing concepts 20 years ago, Social Media is doing it again.

One Problem: Many arts organizations aren't effectively using social media. I suspect they don't understand the way social media works and are approaching it with the same brush as they have previous forms of marketing --blasting out their marketing message over this new medium, with no real regard as to how the medium works.

Here are some great examples of arts organizations that do understand this new medium:
Philadelphia Orchestra: They post comments about what they're up to (similar to their marketing message in the newspapers or on their website). But they also retweet (RT) messages that fans post about their orchestra. While they were at the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival they posted pictures and tidbits about what was going on beyond the music. This generated a lot of chatter about their organization. Well done!
Dallas Symphony: They use much the same technique, but they also try to engage users who are chatting about the Dallas Symphony. They talk up performers who are coming to perform with them, and even talk about guest performers upcoming concerts that are not with the Dallas Symphony. They understand fans of these performers will like the chatter and associate it with the Dallas Symphony and thereby gain exposure simply by association. Kudos!
London Philharmonic Orchestra: They engage their followers and seek out people who are talking about like topics. So, if someone is talking about the BBC Proms, even if it isn't about the London Philharmonic Orchestra (LPO), the LPO might chime in a comment or RT the message. This is yet another way to engage an audience and gain followers by association. Great Job!!!
Colorado Symphony: They are creating chatter by engaging their musicians in facebook conversations. This is great because is shows the human side the musicians, and is rapidly gaining followers who are interested in what they have to say. Keep it up!

Here are some examples of arts organizations do well, but could improve with minor adjustments:
BBC Proms: They produce a lot of chatter about their event. They are a huge event, so no real surprise there. However, what they aren't doing (and should) is RTing and engaging with their fan base. There are hundreds of tweets about the BBC Proms daily, but the festival doesn't respond to outside chatter. It's a small step, but it would dramatically increase their outreach.
Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival: They do a great job of both engaging with performers and following what other major outlets are saying about their festival. Where they could improve is with timing. Sometimes tweets and FB posts get made that aren't picked up by Vail Valley Music Festival on the same day. This delay in responding prevents a tweet from going viral. Gabriel Kahane performed at Vail and at the Glimmerglass Festival. IMHO, Glimmerglass did a better job of getting people chatting about Gabriel because they were actively engaging tweets in a timely manner. It doesn't mean arts organizations need someone dedicated to the task of following social media, but the payoff could be huge!

The problem I see with many of the other arts organizations out there is they are stuck in an "old school" version of marketing. They aren't engaging with their followers. So, while they may have several thousand followers, are any of them RTing the message?

The power of social media is the ability to get people talking about a subject. I am a blogger, but not associated with a major newspaper, or even a major arts organization. Yet, according to the matrix available on the internet which monitor social media engagement, I am one of the most influential people in classical music on the internet. I'm not trying to brag. I'm trying to say, it's possible, using social media to become a force in the market place without having a huge budget.

I read an article the other day on innovation (I will try to find the link). It talked about how some arts organizations are afraid of innovation because taking risks --trying to innovate -- means the chance of failure. The higher the risks, the greater chance of failure and yet also the greater potential payoff.

Social media isn't a huge risk nor is it a huge cost. In order for any social media campaign to be successful, however, I believe there are two major factors at play. First: organizations must hire employees that are savvy in best practice for the new technology. A thorough understanding of how to engage in the current and emerging online community paired with a leading edge attitude and exploratory personality will ensure that your organization's message will have effective reach even as the landscape changes. Second: this same person should be passionate and knowledgeable about music. Social Media is more social than media; just like at a cocktail party, the skilled conversationalists will draw the most attention. Audiences now want to know more than where and when, they want to know how and why as well. With a few hours a day, one properly skilled person can effectively engage the social media audience and dramatically grow the outreach of an organization.

I believe arts organizations all over the country can better engage their audience using social media. Regardless of size, it's possible for any arts organization to join the conversation, have an impact, and get noticed - and when you get noticed, more people will come to your concerts!

If you belong to an arts organization and would like to chat with me about how to improve your social media presence, connect with me on twitter: @chipmichael. I am passionate about music and want to help!

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