What five years of blogging gets you

This September marks my five years of blogging (Mashable only beats me by a couple of months; read a nice roundup of the last 5 years of blogging from their perspective).

I just returned from the stART.10 Conference in Duisburg, Germany, where I delivered a keynote address last Friday. I now realize the presentation was a good culmination of the last five years of learning and blogging.

Five years ago, I had not imagined that my interest in the Internet and its applications for cultural institutions and nonprofits would get me to Germany. Although the convergence of marketing, culture and the Internet always guided my blogging efforts, the first three years didn’t make much of an impact. I was too general. My blog was more like the online journals from the early blogging years than the niche conversations of the more recent years. In 2006, I tried to narrow the scope of topics, but it wasn’t until the summer of 2008 I found my true niche. That’s when I started blogging specifically about orchestras and social media.

Spurred by my efforts at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (where I started the Facebook Fan Page and Twitter account, admittedly without much of a strategy behind it), I wanted to dig deeper into the material. I wrote a series of posts that would later become my “Orchestras and New Media: A Complete Guide” (which is more than a year old now and due for a revision or two; I lumped Twitter in with “other new media tools” for example). Last year, I surveyed American orchestras and their use of social media. It got me quoted in Symphony Magazine.

But this narrowing of focus, this writing for a niche was also coupled with my extension into other forms of social media. As Mashable writes in its look back: “The blogosphere of 2010 is also powered in many ways by social media, something that barely existed five years ago” Facebook and Twitter are major referrers to my blog nowadays.

Twitter especially has been a great networking tool for me. Just a day or so before I traveled to Germany, I published a post together with Devon Smith on QR codes for the 2AMt blog, a collection of writings for theater marketers. This post was born from a Twitter conversation, using the hashtag #2amt, with Devon and others.

In the last year, I have also written an occasional guest post for Beth Kanter’s blog, you can find those here, here and here. Beth is of course a master in weaving through social networks and she has an amazing ability to spur action; my classical music on Twitter list being one such example. This year’s presentation with Beth at the annual conference of the Association of California Symphony Orchestras was a real treat for me.

Additionally, I had some good fun writing a couple of guest posts for the Orchestra R/Evolution blog, surrounding the League of American Orchestras annual conference. And I can’t forget this year’s contribution to Drew McManus’ fantastic Take A Friend To the Orchestra project. It was an honor to be asked and I think I wrote one of my finest posts to date.

These guest posts enhance and enlarge my network as well. Now, unlike other bloggers, I don’t write a whole lot. In five years of blogging, I have only written 270 posts on this blog. But it’s not just five years of blogging. When I’m not writing, I’m reading, analyzing and learning. And it’s five years of getting to know people in the social media and cultural environment bit by bit, tweet by tweet, and preferably even face-to-face. It was truly wonderful to meet up with the stART.10 organizers: Frank Tentler, Christian Henner-Fehr, Christian Holst, and Karin Janner.

In these five years, cultural institutions have come a long way in terms of social media, but there remains much to be done. As my orchestra survey pointed out, organizations are all dipping their toes in the social media pool, but many have yet to think strategically and many have yet to truly evaluate their efforts. This blog will be a place where this discussion continues to take place over the next five years, advancing cultural institutions through the social media age. I’m certainly up for it. And I’m more than curious to see what my presentations will look like in another five years (wherever I might present them!).