Social media; sigh. It’s got to be the biggest ball-ache recognisable in our current society, right?! Since the noughties, our lives have been taken over by an army of apps, social networks and on-demand technology that has allowed us to share our lives (or portions of it…) with others. People have started to ‘check in’ at the hospital on Facebook, sparking a flurry of concerned messages; others exploiting their ‘followers’ to intimidate or isolate others; many of us – myself included – swallowed up in the hype of the latest social craze of taking selfies everywhere we go (one appeared on my Twitter feed yesterday taken in a train toilet 👀👀… enough said).
On the flip side, social platforms have exploded into a ‘tour de force’ of connectivity and free promotion for the arts and entertainment sectors, allowing fans to get closer to their influences, and organisations allow their marketing to ripple into the feeds of potential future audiences. For me personally, it has led to new friendships, business opportunities, hard cash and an ability to share moments with family and friends wherever they are in the world. Whatever the aim for your social channels, there is no question that our profiles need to be an accurate and realistic reflection our lives, rather than reflected in a way that leaves the door open to exaggeration or misinterpretation. With that in mind, I’ve put together 7 reasons and things you can do to make sure you stay safe, genuine and effective online! Here goes…
1. Choose the platforms you find the most natural
‘Facebook, Twitter, Instagram… oh and then the guys and girls at my old work are on LinkedIn… and there’s thing other thing called Snapchat that I don’t really understand, how do I manage all my profiles?!’
… is a commonly experienced thought for many artistic directors, marketers and administrators in the Arts. The simple truth is that you only need to engage with your fans or audiences on the platforms that you feel most comfortable using. For example, the nature of Twitter’s simple functionality means that it’s extremely easy to use vs Facebook’s complicated formulas, feeds and content types. However, as it’s still a very ‘real-time’ platform, a constant presence is needed daily, or ideally multiple times a day to maximise your reach. It’s important that you take into account the pros and cons of every platform before deciding which ones you go for.
It’s also worth taking into account where your audience might be. LinkedIn and Twitter tend to have a more professional audience – reaching the older demographics too – whilst Facebook has the most users up and down the scale. Snapchat and Instagram tend to be focussed on younger, more active users who post more frequently; arty types usually find them easiest to use as they’re image-focussed.
2. Decide early on what’s off limits
Just because you have set up a public social media profile, never feel that you are obliged to share everything with the world. There might be aspects of your life that you feel are personal to you; your family, your children, medical issues, other lines of work… you set the parameters. It might be that some platforms – like your Facebook – are only suitable for family and close friends / colleagues, whilst your Twitter and Instagram might be more appropriate for the person you met at that exhibition last week to find you on. I get Facebook requests from people all the time that I’ve only met once, but I’m proactive in ensuring they can find me elsewhere so that I can interact with them in the way I’d like. Simple lines help keep you in control of who’s where, and with that, what messaging style and content to use.
3. Keep it positive and honest
God, people do love a good old moan on social media. I log onto Facebook and see someone moaning about the drilling that started at 8am down the road… well, that is the definition of a first world problem. There’s no doubt in my mind that the best personalities on social media try and use it to have a positive influence; many of the UK’s most popular Facebook pages are funny, light-hearted and/or uplifting.
4. Stick to your interests
I can’t think of many things worse than someone who’s an expert at bloody everything on Facebook. Politics, football, music, diversity, corporation tax, best hair products; you name it, they know it. There’s nothing wrong with having multiple interests… that’s what makes us individual and interesting to others. But when you are developing a brand presence online, it’s vital to streamline that messaging to allow the brand to be known for x or y. If that messaging becomes too varied, then your followers will become disillusioned with the product, event or organisation that you’re trying to promote. My advice would be to split your social presence up into three categories; what you’re selling (concert, festival etc), your organisations’ causes or interests and news/features from the industry or wider world that you support. It’s about juggling an even balance between all three, so that your organisation comes across as engaging, whilst becoming a reliable feeder for brilliant content.
5. Make it about others as well as you
And that leads me nicely onto my next point.
‘If only a third of your posts can be about our next concert, and only a third about us engaging with that diversity forum next week and petition around arts education, then what else are we able to talk about?!’
Every organisation has stakeholders and partners. Your stakeholders are people/organisations who support your brand, either financially, socially or physically. Like a ripple, different partners fall into different circles of your brand’s overall ecosystem. Content from industry leaders like BBC Music Magazine and Classic FM would fall into the furthest band from your core, but still remains part of your reach, whereas your associate producer’s new pop-up show is a little bit closer to home. Either way, it’s important to use your channel to promote what your friends are doing, as much as it is to promote your own activities.
6. Familiarity is key
I hate to thrust this words into your lives yet again, but diversity has to get a mention here. I’m not going to say anymore on it, only to simply say that if the more cultures, backgrounds, sexuality, genders, housing situations, childhoods and educations that you reflect, the more people your brand will reach. It’s that basic.
The most difficult thing in the world is converting someone from that stage of simply keeping an eye on what you’re up to, to actively supporting it, whether buying a ticket or promoting your event/product for you to their network. How can we mobilise our followers to become brand ambassadors? There’s no way to cheat around this – it’s all about being personal and familiar to your followers. If you have an important announcement – like a season launch – message those people directly and ask them if they would forward it onto their friends, or re-tweet. That personal message goes along way, and acts almost like a call to arms in getting them on board too. If it’s a brand, develop relationships with their Artistic Directors (or for the bigger companies, the social media teams) in order to foster that relationship.
At Tête à Tête, for our 2017 season launch it was amazing to see just how many alumni, supporters and fellow opera companies helped to spread the message. That network has been built through Bill’s hard work to make the company feel more like a family than an organisation.
7. The experience > a social update (!)
This is arguably the most important point out of all my pieces of advice. I recently took my little brother to a 1975 concert as his Christmas present; half way through the concert, Matt Healy put down his guitar, and asked the sold-out crowd at The O2 if they’d consider putting their phones down, just for one song. He wanted everyone to experience and enjoy just one song as a body of people – without any distractions. It was pretty special.
I find myself checking my behaviour at events all the time. The other week Chelsea won a penalty and as the striker was preparing to take it, I fumbled for my phone to try and video it. Suddenly, I felt like an idiot. Was I more concerned about people on Facebook seeing that I was at the stadium close to the action, or the fact that I’m enjoying the experience of watching my favourite football team? Being superstitious, I convinced myself that the act could somehow influence the result of the penalty, and put away my phone, feeling pretty embarrassed.
Whether you’re a worldwide indie band, opera company, orchestra or football team, it’s our role to protect the experience. Make sure people have such a great time that they want to take to social media to shout about how great you are.
Because it’s the memory that becomes unforgettable, not the Instagram picture afterwards.