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Follow Us Here…And Here…Here Too…And Oh Yeah, Here

Thomas Cott shared Colleen Dilenschneider’s recent post about the futility of using social media for the sake of using social media.

“…spending copious time on the newest social media features (that none of your audiences are using), measuring success by vanity metrics, and building out features that nobody is asking for…why do organizations do these things? They don’t help support bottom lines like getting folks in the door, building affinity, increasing donor support, or sharing knowledge if they aren’t relevant to your market or strategically integrated into an engagement plan…. and yet organizations brag about these useless endeavors to their boards and at industry conferences.

Many organizations seem to be feeling so “peer pressured” to be utilizing social media that they are using it to do stupid, time-consuming things for audiences that don’t matter”

I am right there with her. I have often suggested organizations shouldn’t be jumping on to the latest social media bandwagon. Especially since news of these apps/tools is often self-perpetuating out of proportion to the percentage of the population actually using them. Once a critical mass is reached, they get reported on because everyone else seems to be reporting on it making it seem like far more people are using it than actually are.

However, I can understand why arts organizations are doing it. Yesterday the Here and Now program on NPR interviewed Amanda Palmer and the conversation got around to referencing Taylor Swift’s story about two actresses being up for a part and the one with the larger Twitter following getting it.

While Palmer goes on to talk about a large following not equaling depth of engagement just as Dilenschneider mentions, the idea that breadth of exposure is better than depth with a few people is still the dominant criteria.

Print, broadcast and online media still talk about the number of eyes and ears they can deliver when trying to sell you advertising.

Grant reports will often ask about the number of hits your website received during the grant period. I called one funder to clarify criteria to use for indirect exposure because it almost felt like an invitation to wildly estimate using a contagion theory. My guess is that some of the sources of their funding have proved to be impressed by these numbers so we are being encouraged to provide them.

And actually, when I looked up contagion theory to make sure I was using the term correctly, I found out complex contagion theory is a term associated with social media. So it isn’t entirely unreasonable that funders are interested in reporting about a shotgun approach.

The same thinking that motivates a movie or stage production to cast the actor whose commentary on their involvement in the project will reach the most people, influences the values of arts organizations and their funders. If an organization is trying to expand its reach with using the hottest new toys, don’t they appear more ambitious and progressive than the organization that has a solid 500 people savoring their every post on a single social media site?

Visit the Facebook pages of two arts organizations in a city you have never visited. When you decide which is better are you basing it on how cool their header image is and the number of likes? Or did you actually take the time to evaluate the quality of their posts?

Colleen Dilenschneider is fairly accurate in her assessment about how these efforts will not provide any meaningful results, wastes time and potentially sets your efforts back. The answer to her question about why organizations engage in futile social media efforts is that the illusion of progress is valued.

To some extent, you might ask the same question about why people use alcohol as a social lubricant instead of working on changing themselves to become more adept at handling these situations. Except that the illusion generated by this activity is widely expected and accepted. (Insert your own joke equating the idea of wasted resources and the need to use the restroom after a beer.)

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Info You Can Use: Like This Post And You Could Win….

..Well Actually I Can’t Promise You Will Win Anything.

That was one subject tackled in a slideshow/PDF Venable LLP posted from a talk they did in early August, How Nonprofits Can Raise Money and Awareness through Promotional Campaigns without Raising Legal Risk. The slideshow proper is followed by resource documents that delve a little deeper into many of the topics.

The collected information is a great basic resource on many of the legal questions you may have about different sorts of promotional and fundraising techniques like raffles, games of skill and chance. The laws of many states make it necessary to have the “No Purchase Necessary” option and the ease (or lack thereof) of taking advantage of that option is frequently a subject of legal action.

While every state has different laws, the slideshow helps to clarify the general distinguishing characteristics of these activities. For example, I wasn’t aware of some of the following:

Some less obvious examples that may satisfy the “chance” criterion include those in which: a prize is awarded to the “100th” store (or Web site) visitor on a particular day; the amount of the prize depends on the number of people who decide to participate; the prizes are of unequal value; or, a drawing is used to break a tie, or a single prize is divided between tied winners.

The document addresses some of the issues use of the Internet to solicit contributes raises in relation to social media and rules dealing with being registered as a charity in other states if a significant amount of contributions is originating from there.

One of the biggest legal situations they discuss is the commercial co-venture (CCV) where a business might promote that a portion of a purchase will go to benefit a charity. NY State launched an investigation regarding companies that did that in relation to breast cancer and turned up a great deal of fraud. Apparently half the states have laws regulating CCVs in terms of disclosure and the manner in which the relationship is promoted.

Use of social media for solicitations is apparently a gray area legally so the suggestion is to proceed with the same care you would if you were making the same appeals face to face or in print. There are also concerns that you respect privacy when collecting user data, especially from children, and protect the data from theft. Geolocating and behavioral advertising and tracking are identified as hot button issues.

However each social media service has a number of their own rules of which you need to be aware.

For example with Facebook:

-Promotion may not be administered directly on the site, must be administered through a third-party Facebook Platform application
– Cannot use Facebook functionality or feature as an entry mechanism; e.g., “Liking” a profile page or posting a comment on a wall. Also cannot condition entry into the promotion upon taking any other action on Facebook; e.g., liking a status update or uploading a photo.

• However, can condition entry on a user “liking” a Facebook page, checking in to a “Place”, or connecting to the Facebook platform based promotion application as part of the entry process. E.g, can require that users “like” a Facebook page and then submit a completed entry form to enter.

This was something of a surprise because it seems like I get requests to like things all the time and have seen it tied to a chance to win something. I have been trying to remember about how they have been structured.

Facebook is also pretty strict about requiring groups to provide notice that Facebook is not associated with the promotion really in any way.

Another area of concern is intellectual property rights. If you are encouraging people to submit some sort of creative project you can run into a number of issues,

“Incorporating user-generated content in a marketing campaign could expose the sponsor to liability for libel, copyright infringement, violation of one’s right of privacy/publicity, deceptive advertising, trademark infringement, or other violations.”

While social media sites and marketers are protected from liability for what people submit or post on their sites, if you turn around and use the submitted content to promote your organization or product thinking it is entirely original, you could be in quite a bit of trouble.

If you look at the slide show but have more questions, it is really worth looking at the additional resource documents at the end. There are some good short articles that deal with the Do’s and Don’ts of Social Media promotion and

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Be Here, With Me

Like many of you, my dear readers, I am of a split mind about the inclusion of social media in live performances. Overall, I think this is a good place to be. I have often written here that one should not jump on the hottest trend, but obviously one should not entirely dismiss it. A healthy mix of skepticism and self-education on the matter is valuable.

There was recently a post on the Drucker Exchange that pushed me toward the “against” column. I have talked about the benefits of tweet seats and such in other entries so I am not going to try to balance the “con” argument here.

In reference to employees using headphones and having social media chat window open at work, the Drucker Exchange piece cites former entertainment executive Anne Kreamer,

“The majority of these young workers said that they felt far more connected moment to moment with people outside their workplaces than with any co-workers,” she writes. The problem, according to Kreamer, is that they miss out on crucial exchanges, become less loyal to the company and one another, and innovate less. As studies on innovation show, physical proximity matters.

… For one thing, it’s the reason many people go to work at all. “Work is for most people the one bond outside of their own family—and often more important than the family,” Drucker observed in People and Performance. “The work place becomes their community, their social club, their escape from loneliness.”


More important, such contact influences productivity, and creating satisfying informal work arrangements among co-workers is especially important for good output. Research conducted by General Motors during the 1940s, for example found that “‘good fellowship’ or ‘good relations with fellow workers’ showed as the leading causes of job satisfaction,” Drucker recalled.

The Drucker Exchange piece echos a rhetorical corollary many arts people ask of those who feel the need to engage in social media exchanges during a live performance experience, “What is the reason you come to the performance at all?”

For many it may be that a friend or significant other encouraged them–but then they aren’t really dancing with the one that brought them, either. (Though granted, that person may also be connecting with outsiders as well.) Or maybe they are getting extra credit for a class or looking to advance their career.

The mention that employees who isolate themselves in this manner at work are less loyal to the company makes me think audience members who do the same probably aren’t developing a lot of loyalty to the arts organization. True, the act of actually writing about what they are seeing may actually forge a connection that passively watching the show wouldn’t, but there is no guarantee the person is relating their feelings about the show.

While arts organizations probably can’t have the same expectations about audiences they could during the days of high subscription rates, audience churn is a big problem. It costs a lot more to attract a new attendee than to maintain a relationship with frequent attendees. It seems ill-advised to encourage activities that don’t cultivate a connection and may even erode it.

Simply forbidding people to use mobile devices isn’t going to magically result in the scales falling from people’s eyes and have them realize how disconnected they were. The arts organization has to provide a reason to get engaged in the immediate experience as an alternative to connecting to friends who are elsewhere.

As much as we may want to believe it, the experience of the performance may be insufficient to get a person invested. For some people, texting, tweeting, etc may simply be filling the void of uncertainty about the experience with a safe activity.

The solution may not be any more complicated than encouraging front of house staff to actively ask people what brings them to the performance and find out what their expectations are. Or perhaps changing the layout of the lobby to facilitate people gathering and chatting in certain areas. Essentially replace the friends who are elsewhere with friendly faces right where they are.

This song went through my mind as I wrote this entry-

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With 10,000 Friends Like These, You Don’t Need Enemies

One of the things that makes me cringe uneasily is seeing non-profits running social media “follow me” campaigns where they make the push for the next multiple of 5000 milestone looming a few hundred followers away. Maybe they simply want the appearance of being as cool as all the other kids on the block and show off how popular they are. But to my mind, and perhaps I am erroneously attributing motivations, it appears to be the social media version of “if only they get exposed to our work once, they will fall in love with us forever.”

I should be clear that while I often talk about the “get them in the door and they will won over” reasoning in relation to the arts, I am seeing this practice across the non-profit sector. If the motivation is reaching more people via raw numbers, I think it suffers the same flaw as buying huge mailing lists or extending special offers/programs to get more people through the door. Unless you are making an effort to provide an experience/materials that is relevant to the new people, the effort isn’t productive.

Non-profit organizations are advised to move away from the shotgun approach in their physical advertising and most agree because of cost and recipient resentment over being spammed by snail and email. But social media is both inexpensive and people are choosing to follow you rather than you pushing your material on them. In my view, regardless of how inexpensive a channel of communication is, the goal should always be to have a your information be of interest to a high percentage of those being reached rather than reaching the highest number of people.

Yes it is cheap to greatly augment those numbers of virtual followers, but why are you even making the effort if you have no follow up plans? That’s worse than creating a social media presence just because everyone else is. At least you aren’t actively trying to convince people to buy in to an experience you have no intention of enhancing.

Many of the organizations I follow provide information that is interesting to me as an arts professional, but unless they have 10,000 arts professionals/admirers following them, I doubt most of their followers are as engaged as I. The quality and quantity of one organization’s feed actually dropped significantly after their big push. (Though I suspect the feed was initially created by an intern who left or a staff person who got pulled off the detail because the tone also became decidedly less strident and partisan.)

The other problem is that these “follow us” campaigns encourage existing sincere followers to leverage their relationships with others to bolster your followers. This is akin to asking board members to open their address books to solicit donations from their friends, albeit less intrusive and garnering even less personal investment.

Ask people to evangelize for your organization, by all means. But if you are flogging them everyday to help you reach a specific goal, the number 10,000 has as much relevance to the well-being of your organization as January 1, 2000 had to the end of the world.

If you know most of your followers aren’t going to pay attention and decide not to write to their interests, why the heck did you make so much ado updating the countdown every couple hours for two weeks? If your social media site wasn’t envisioned as a tool to provide information to interested parties and strengthen your relationship with them why does it exist?

I will be the first to admit that I am not using my organization social media sites as often and effectively as I would like. But when I do issue updates, it is to celebrate the success of partner organizations/artists, make followers aware of grant opportunities, national issues with the arts and artists with whom they may be unfamiliar. Yes, when we have a show coming up, I am linking to videos and online stories about the artist, but we aren’t having a show every week of the year.

I know that a large segment of those following are positively inclined toward the arts as both consumers and practitioners. Many are not make the decision to attend a show, but their knowledge and general attitude toward the arts can be positively influenced by all the information we post.

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