I still hear some arts managers express doubts about social media and online social networking and their value. Whilst they are ruminating issues around effectiveness, control and the investment of time, others are just getting on with it and having hugely positive and very tangible results.

Some key New Zealand arts organisations now have thousands of Twitter and Facebook members and have targeted distinct market segments with highly pro-active social networking strategy using Flickr, YouTube, MySpace, Twitter and Meetup. Internationally, Museum of Modern Art in New York City had an astounding 353,741 Twitter followers at last count.

When it comes to online social networking and the arts, my view is: What’s not to like? The online social networking phenomenon is a gift for creators, producers and promoters of the arts. Could we have dared to dream of or imagine such a tool a decade ago? And such inexpensive and instant access to potential audiences and their passions, beliefs, activities and networks?

Why are online social media tools so significant to us, as arts marketers?

  • People of all ages are using social media tools like Facebook to plan and organise their social lives. If we deliver the right information to them within the context of the social networking tools they are using, then at the click of a mouse they can share this with their entire network of friends.
  • Your busy and time-poor potential audiences have too much on their minds to consciously remember to visit your website. But, once you engage in online social networking, your updates, key messages, image uploads and blog posts are delivered automatically to your friends’ and followers’ home pages’.
  • The influence of bloggers and micro-bloggers has become undisputable. If you impress some key influencers on Twitter with your performance or exhibition, or tickle their fancy with an intriguing comment or ‘tweet’, they may post up a reference or even an endorsement that is read by their hundreds or thousands of followers.
  • On a daily basis, you have the opportunity to chat with your customers and listen to their conversations in a place where they feel comfortable . This is audience engagement, ownership and accessibility at its finest.

To the doubters above, I say: “Whether you personally believe in online social media or not is not important; what matters is your potential audiences are using it. Choose to be absent at your peril”.