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Looking at some rules (Part III)

June 9, 2009

I would like to continue taking 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 my last post I dug a bit deeper into rule #9. In this post I want to concentrate on numbers 3 and 8. The connection I find with these two rules is time, yours and the audiences.

3. An underrated aspect of social networking is that you’re asking people to invest in a relationship. It costs them something – time, attention, their ideas, thoughts, feelings, even clicking their mice. You have to constantly reward them for participating or they’ll go away.

8. Outside of your primary artistic role, don’t get into the content-producing business. Video is hard. Magazines are hard (and expensive) to produce and sustain.

Social networking takes time. A huge amount of time if you are doing it right. The people who are engaging with your organization in this way deserves your time and attention. In a way I would liken it to customer service.

As an example, think of the social networking portal you are using as an usher. When an audience member comes to the theater and asks a question about the performance, the usher would certainly try to answer them.  They would also go out of their way to help them in any other way possible. How long might this take, maybe 20 or 30 seconds? But that interaction is amazingly important to the audience member’s experience, whether they like the performance or not.

So now back to social media with this in mind. My point here isn’t that you have to answer as soon as you can when someone connects though social media with you (but you should), or that how you answer has a profound effect on the persons experience and relationship (though it does). My bigger point is about time. Remember our usher? 20 to 30 seconds is not that long to spend with someone, they can probably answer questions many times in the lobby before the show. However, when you are engaging through social media, it isn’t just one person that needs the attention at any given time. It could be 10, 100, 1000, and that social media lobby is open 24 hours a day. Each of these people needs the same attention that the usher gives or they wont have a great experience. If organizations want to engage though social media, they must understand the huge amount of time required to make the experience worthwhile. Also, remember you must be generating content for you patrons, and this will further drain your resources. A staff must be prepared before undertaking a project of this magnitude.

Social media provides endless possibilities right now, but you have to do it right. Before starting to use social media, you have to go into it with your eyes wide open. You would never hire an usher who ignores the audience, so don’t make that mistake in your social media efforts. Organizations must make the time to give the audience the attention needed so the online experience a memorable one.

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