Staffing social media at the Vancouver Opera

The whole world is watching Vancouver right now. Let’s hope the world also takes some time to check out the Vancouver Opera, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.

When I published the findings from my Orchestras and Social Media Survey, no orchestra had indicated they had dedicated personnel for social media. Just a short while later, I came across Ling Chan, social media manager at the Vancouver Opera. Naturally, I was intrigued to find someone in a dedicated social media position at a classical music organization.

Ling was gracious enough to answer a couple of questions during these hectic Olympic and Nixon in China Canadian premiere times. I wanted to learn more about what her job exactly entails.

You are social media manager for the Vancouver Opera. Could you briefly describe what your typical day looks like?

The first thing I do when I get in is check our Twitter, Facebook and Blogs to answer any questions or comments we may have received. This also gives me a chance to chat with our opera company peers, find out what’s happening in the industry, and pass along opera news and gossip to our online friends.

I meet with members of the marketing team throughout the day to strategize and communicate news and upcoming promotions and events. For example, we’re currently working on a guerilla marketing blitz around our Canadian premiere of Nixon in China. We’re also planning for the world premiere of our newly commissioned opera, Lillian Alling in October, 2010.

During the rest of the time, I brainstorm ideas for upcoming blog posts; gather information and images, do research and hopefully create fun, interesting and compelling stories.

Could you share some details of your job description? What was the organization looking for when they hired you?

As Social Media Manager, I manage and moderate all our social media tools including our blogs and our Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and Youtube accounts. I write content to increase brand awareness and site traffic, drive client engagement and ticket sales, while tracking and reporting data to measure the penetration and impact of our social media efforts. I also identify and develop new and innovative methods of engaging our community by staying current with social media tools and industry trends.

The position of Social Media Manager grew out of my previous position as the Assistant to Managing Director. During that time, VO realized and embraced the importance of engaging our audience online. As I was already active with social media personally and had a strong understanding of its tools, I happily volunteered to manage and build our presence online.

I juggled my Assistant responsibilities while working on social media, but with all the success and support we were having online, it soon became clear that a dedicated Social Media Manager was needed. Luckily, the management at VO is forward-thinking and innovative, and they realized what it took to become leaders in social media in the Vancouver arts scene and the opera world.

From the Vancouver Opera Web site, I gather that you report to the Director of Marketing. Does your function have a mostly marketing function and to what degree do you interact with other departments? And how does the decision-making process work in your position?

I play a key role in the marketing department by communicating and promoting the company’s brand. I report and work closely with the Director of Marketing and Community Programs to develop and implement long term social media strategies.

I interact with the Artistic, Development, Education and Lottery departments constantly, as it’s my job to communicate their current and upcoming activities to our online audience. We’re more than happy to “lift the curtain” and give them a peek at what makes Vancouver Opera tick.

Do you have a dedicated social media budget to work with?

We will have a dedicated social media budget after this fiscal year. Our social media expenses for the past year have included prizes and promotional materials (postcards, posters and signage) for our special events: Operabot screening, Facebook & Twitter Fan Night.

How do you monitor the social media presence of the Vancouver Opera?

I use Google Alerts. Twitter is another great way to find out who’s interested about us.

What kind of outcome does the organization expect (or, perhaps, what are the goals and objectives)?

Our goals for social media are to increase awareness and engagement, drive ticket sales, and earn wider media coverage.

How do you measure your success?

We measure blog traffic: pageviews, unique visitors, comments and links each month. On Twitter, increases in our number of followers are wonderful indicators of interest, but what’s more important are the re-tweets and @ responses. I also look out for other bloggers and media writing about us.

I measure all this against increases in ticket sales and subscription purchases, click-throughs to our main website, donations and attendance.

After reading this interview, check out Vancouver Opera’s blog, Flickr, YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook pages. And read this interesting blog post from John Biehler on his participation in Blogger Night @ The Opera. Connect with Ling Chan on Twitter.