Following Up On The SFS Social Networking Site

As promised back in May, it is time to take a closer look behind the scenes at the San Francisco Symphony’s (SFS) social networking site, which was officially launched on May 6, 2009. In order to find out more about how the organization designed the site, how much it costs, and what sort of goals they have in mind, I contacted SFS Director of Public Relations, Oliver Theil…

The SFS provided many useful details, but not as many as we originally anticipated.
The SFS provided many useful details, but not as many as we originally anticipated.

After the original article was published, a number of readers wrote in to say they were most interested in finding out more about the costs associated with developing the site as well as the sort of benchmarks the SFS has set to measure success. Unfortunately, those individuals will have to continue wondering as Theil was only interested in offering basic information on those points.

“…most of the work designing the site was done in house sporadically over the course of several months by a variety of people, led by PR but also including Marketing and IT,” Theil wrote in an email.

Fortunately, Theil was willing to provide more detail regarding the development process.

“For us it was a 2-3 month developmental window pre-launch.” Theil wrote in an email. “In our immediate post-launch phase, ongoing site moderation and maintenance by our PR team has varied, depending on content aggregation, seeding and individual engagement, but it’s in the neighborhood of 10-15 hours a week for one community manager, for now.”

Lastly, my previous article expressed concerns over a restrictive Terms of Use policy that I described as “a bit too much of an old-school ‘what can you do for us?’ one-way relationship approach.” I asked Theil about this and he pointed out that some content contains links to embed material elsewhere throughout the intent.

He also pointed out their use of Ning’s boilerplate Terms of Use page, which contains relatively generous policies regarding use of content. At the same time, the SFS community site still publishes a separate Terms of Use page that lists the highly restrictive language referenced in my original article. At the very least, the dueling Terms of Use pages present an awkward scenario for users and the site would be better served by publishing a single policy.

Speaking of social networking, the folks over at Wolf Trap Opera Company (WTOC) launched their own Ning based social networking site. Christened the Wolf Trap Opera Hotspot, now you’re in the know… the site relies on Ning’s hosted platform solution and at the time this article was written, has 69 members. Hopefully, WTOC’s director and blogging mistress, Kim Witman, will post details about the venture sometime in the near future.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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2 thoughts on “Following Up On The SFS Social Networking Site

  1. We rolled out the Hotspot about 10 days ago, and we’re about 2 weeks away from the opening of our first opera this summer. I will certainly check in with you at the end of our season. (That is, if you promise never to call me a blogging mistress again… I’d settle for something like blog goddess…)

    I will say that one of the reasons we went to ning.com in addition to our Facebook fan page (which we launched at about the same time and which has about 350 members) is that we wanted a platform that users weren’t forced to join in order to view.

    As for the SFS 2-3 month launch and 10-15 hours/week to maintain, well, those figures aren’t in the realm of possibility for a small company like ours. I daresay that more companies find themselves in our position (fewer resources, human and financial) than in that of a huge organization like the SFS.

    We’ll report on the other side. Meanwhile, we’ll ride the wave as wisely as we can.

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