One of the problems with Social Media is all the "chatter" it creates --people talking about Kim Kardashian's relationship, Justin Beeber's recent exploits and Lady Gaga's latest outfit. Certainly there is a lot of noise that just doesn't interest classical music organizations or the people that attend their events. But is there "good" information out there in the Twitter-world that would serve these organizations?
Who should Classical Music Organizations follow on Twitter?
Certainly it makes sense for Symphony Orchestras to follow the major performing artists and/or conductors, particularly those coming to perform with them. Opera houses should be following the various artists who lends their voices to Twitter as well as the stage. But, like classical music organizations, major artists are as often promoting their own events as providing new and interesting information to the classical music world. So, don't limit your followers to just other artists.
Classical music organizations should follow like organizations. Dallas Symphony follows the St Louis Symphony and visa versa because they both understand the importance of following what's happening in the industry. Both of these organizations also understand the power of Twitter and are effective in using it to communicate not only about their own activities, but about classical music as a whole. They can leverage each other (and do) with mutual benefit. London Symphony Orchestra and the London Philharmonic Orchestra are another pair that leverage each other. You might think they are competitive, but they understand that a healthy and involved classical music audience serves them both well.
It probably makes sense for classical music organizations to follow the major publications that publish news articles about their particular organization, so, for example, the Colorado Symphony should follow the Denver Post, because the Denver Post is likely to post relevant information to the Colorado Symphony even if the symphony isn't specifically mentioned.
What about fans? Should arts organizations be following their fans and if so, why?
Well, fans are the people who talk about your organization. They are the ones looking for new ways to highlight what you're doing, or want to give a "heads-up" when something is coming you should know about. Fans are people who can provide a wealth of information without needing to pay market researchers. The more appreciation you show fans for their involvement, the more it encourages them to spend money on your events. It's a win-win!
Are there people you don't want to follow?
Sure! As I mentioned above, there is lots of chatter on Social Media about things that have no relevance to the Classical Music world. There are probably fans of your organization who nevertheless fill their Twitter stream with celebrity gossip and talk about their daily lives which has no reference to you or what you are really interested in. Still, they are fans, and responding to them can build good will, so how can you manage these accounts?
Can you follow someone without "following" them?
Yes, it's possible to put people on lists and then use TweetDeck or HootSuite to see your lists (and thus the tweets from people on that list) without having to actually follow them. This means you can see what they're posting publicly without having to clutter up your actual follow list. This is how some people stay aware of what's happening in the Twitterverse while maintaining just a small collection of people in their follow lists. Film stars typically use this technique: they often have unbalanced ratios with 10k+ followers, and only a few hundred accounts they follow. Check you favorite celebrity's feed and see how often they are making responses to people who aren't actually on their follow list. Pretty sneaky!
I have a list of over 100 symphony orchestras which I read using TweetDeck. I only actually "follow" have half of these orchestras, although, because of TweetDeck I can read every thing they publicly post.
I have another list of opera houses. Because I tweet less about opera, I only actually follow about 1/3 of these accounts. Still, I try and read all their public posts.
Putting someone on a list is a great way to see what they're posting without actually following. Because of lists, I'm probably reading close to 1500 twitter accounts. However, I am following just under 600.
What's the difference? and why would I care?
The difference between someone I follow and someone on a list I read is my ability to communicate with them directly. I follow a policy of limiting my follows to people I want to have direct and sometimes private communications with. You can only send direct messages (DM) to people who are following you. I can always mention someone using the @ symbol, but I if I wish to send them a private message, we will need to have an established relationship.
When I (@) mention one of these organizations they get a special notification they have been mentioned. They can then choose to re-tweet (RT) or comment (or ignore) as they see fit. However, not everything I want to say should be said publicly.
If there is a negative review or comment about an organization, I might want to alert the Twitter account of the news article so they do "damage control." Or, as in the case today, there might be news they want to take advantage of but again, something I don't want to share with the wider community, DMing them allows me to pass on information that might give them an advantage.
So, you see, while it's important to follow people beyond the major artists, it's possible to see what people are saying without having them clutter up your "friends" feed. A real strength of Twitter is the ability to make relationships with people to whom you might want to communicate in a less than public way. Build your follow list with an eye to reciprocation and effective communication. Keep your finger on the pulse of the greater Twitterverse by effective use of lists.
What's the underlying message:
There was an announcement today that I wanted to share with arts organizations. I spent half an hour sending DM's to over 100 different organizations with whom I've built a relationship. This is a much smaller group or sampling of the organizations I have listed. My greater list includes organizations aren't following me, so there is no way to send a DM to them. The result, they missed out.
In the scheme of things, today's announcement probably doesn't matter. Nothing I had to say will make or break an organization. Still, it made me wonder, "Who Should Classical Music Organizations Follow on Twitter?"
Some organizations may not think it is important to follow a new composer whom they have no immediate plans to commission, but in the wide world of Twitter communications, we have an opportunity to interface in a whole new way. Used correctly, your Twitter feed can become a device for sifting the chaff.
If you would like to learn more about managing your feed, leave your contact details in the comments.