The survey demonstrates a high participation rate among orchestras in the different social media tools. All orchestras in the survey are on Facebook and 80% of the orchestras have a Twitter account. But this just shows that orchestras have set up a presence, not what they are doing with the presence.
That’s where the engagement question can answer some questions. Eighty percent of the orchestras respond to questions and comments on social networking sites. A little more than half (53%) of the orchestras adapt press and marketing materials for social media and 40% actively pitch bloggers, and 20% maintain a separate mailing or pitch list for new media outlets and authors.
There is an obvious problem with such narrow framing: it doesn’t show the full scope of engagement. Furthermore, the interpretation of the question leaves room for different answers.
I was surprised to find that a little more than half claim to adapt materials for social media. Then again, condensing a press release into a tweet and posting a link could be construed as adapting materials. And perhaps instead of “responding to questions and comments,” the question should have included “regularly” or some sense of frequency and a segmentation of platforms (blog comment, Facebook, Twitter etc.).
And what about pitching bloggers? What kind of bloggers are being pitched? Are they just the arts critics from traditional media who maintain a blog? Or do they include blogs like Sequenza21and Opera Chic, or local blogs like Gothamist and Chicagoist, or even local classical music enthusiasts who blog?
Most telling was the question about responses to negative comments. Nearly half of the orchestras said they did respond externally. All orchestras are on Facebook, yet only half respond to possible negative comments. Perhaps this finding tells the truest story about engagement.
The reason I highlight these points, is because I feel the survey findings might reflect an appearance of frequent engagement through social media. This doesn’t completely match up with my own observations, even though there are the obvious exceptions that show both quantity and quality.
I received a comment via e-mail:
What kind of content are these orgs trying to share over social media? I think videos, podcasts and blogs are the main types of content that orgs should be sharing when they get into social media. Perhaps that is part of the problem. Orchestras aren’t creating the kind of content that is popular to interact with, easily shareable with others, etc. Thoughts?
I think this touches on a very important point. Orchestras are just dipping their feet into social media. It seems a lot of organizations have joined to “keep up with the Joneses.” So yes, they’re active on Facebook and Twitter, spending time on social media, and yes, they find it moderately important, but there’s no know-how on communicating in a social media environment, and there’s no strategy or policy behind it. This knowledge and a well-defined goal, along with well-established metrics, is what’s lacking at most organizations.
And talking about goals: driving Web traffic and increasing awareness of programming and the organization are the most important social media goals, according to managers. Although opinions are split on increasing ticket sales, it is only ranked sixth out of eight.
Certainly, organizations shouldn’t exclusively use social media as an outlet to shill and sell tickets yet there is no way to reasonably separate revenue development from other mission related goals. Simply put, revenue performance and the institution’s mission are not mutually exclusive.
I would suspect that if managers were pressed on why they would want to increase Web traffic, or why they would want to increase awareness, it would all come back to ticket sales.
Then again, not necessarily. I believe social media can be a great tool to advance the orchestras mission of bringing classical music to the community. Although tremendously important for the bottom line, ticket sales is still only one of the components in that mission. That’s where the distinction between goals and objectives is important. Your mission is your goal; ticket sales is an objective toward that goal.
Update: Elliot Harmon at the techsoup blog finds it odd that orchestras focus on Web traffic as “it seems a clumsy proxy for the less transparent goals of awareness and education.”
What do you think?