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Looking at some rules (Part I)

June 3, 2009

I want to spend some time talking about the “10 Ways to Think About Social Networking And The Arts (the zen of “free” as a strategy)” post from Douglas McLennan’s blog. In general I believe his “10 rules” at the end of the article are really on point and I think I can expand on them a bit further. Lets start with number 10.

“10. It takes work to build a community, much more work than to build an audience. But increasingly audiences are becoming communities because of the ability of social networking tools to link them. You can say you can’t afford to invest in building a community, but unless you do, it will be increasingly difficult to draw a crowd.”

I think there are few things that are at work with this rule. First, arts organizations must realize that there is a real difference between audience and community. I think many believe they are the same, but the reality is there is a shift taking place and we must learn how to speak with our audiences as they change. Organizations thought for a long time that their community was a subscriber base, but that base is eroding. Organizations were also accustomed to a communication theory where they say something to the audience and the audience receives it, end of story. That theory doesn’t hold up in the age of social media. Audiences are turning into new communities that want to have a dialogue with the organization, and Social Networking provides tools to reach them. It is becoming increasing clear that arts organizations must invest the time and money to engage in two-way communication with audiences as they evolve into communities, or risk losing an opportunity.

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