A New Media Quick-Start Guide for Cultural Orgs: Twitter

I had a fascinating conversation with a colleague the other week that started off when she asked the following question: Which social media services should [our organization] jump into first? Although answering a question with a question is a bit cagey, my response was Why start with more than one? Following the latest Orchestra Website Review, it was hard not to notice that a number of orchestras included links to Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, MySpace, etc. but the reality is most of those companion sites weren’t being used efficiently…

Become the Super Bad star of cultural twittering!
Become the Super Bad star of cultural twittering!

Conversations with colleagues indicate this isn’t due to a lack of trying, but more from a lack of scheduling and focus. Generally, most social media platforms require a certain level of cultivation before you begin to see quantifiable results. More importantly, they need a plan and this is where most folks get lost. When combined with unfamiliarity about social media mediums, the results are usually increased apathy and frustration.

Fortunately, there’s an easy way to avoid these pitfalls.

Getting Started.

Since most professionals I know are more overworked than ever, let’s assume most people will have less than two hours per week to devote to a social media project. As such, platforms like Facebook, MySpace and YouTube are not going to be a good place to begin. Instead, opt for using Twitter.

    1. Make sure your username (which is what others will see and associate with your account) is something directly related to your organization’s name, is easy to spell, and not too long (the current max is 15 characters).
    2. Skip any invitation pages asking for friend’s emails, etc.
  1. Make sure you’re signed in, go to the Twitter homepage, and then click on the “Settings” link located in the top, right corner of the page.
    1. Make sure all of the info in the “Account” tab is accurate.
    2. Select the options you want in the “Notifications” tab; at the very least, make sure “New Follower Emails” and “Direct Text Emails” are selected.
    3. In the picture tab, upload your organization’s logo. If the logo isn’t designed to look good at a 50px x 50px dimensions, think about uploading something else. TIP: a larger version of your website’s fav icon is a good option here.
    4. In the design option, select a background picture or color that matches your organization’s current color palette. Although the hip thing to do is create a custom background, that isn’t necessary if you don’t have the time, knowledge, and/or resources just yet. But when you do, here is one of the best Twitter Templates I’ve ever seen. You’ll need Adobe Photoshop Elements or the full version to use the template; if you don’t have those programs, do a Google search and you’ll find several options, some of which are designed to work online.
  2. At this point, you’re ready to begin Tweeting but resist the urge to post something. Instead, take a look around and locate other organizations and individuals. This used to be an odious chore until Marc van Bree came out with his list of cultural Twitterers, which condenses the process into a few minutes. Search for individuals and/or organizations and while you’re at Marc’s page, don’t forget to add your group to his list.
  3. Sign up to follow as many groups and individuals as possible by clicking the “Follow” button located immediately under a Twitterer’s profile image.
    1. At this step, you can assign accounts you are following into lists. Lists aren’t necessary but they do make it easier to keep track of things down the road when you have hundreds or even thousands of followers.
    2. Track the groups you are following for a few days before posting anything. Make a quick list of what you like and dislike about how others use Twitter and use this as a guide to shape your Tweets.
  4. At this point, you have resisted the urge to start Tweeting on day one and you’re better for it. Consequently, you’re finally ready to Tweet, now all you have to do is figure out what to say. In general, Tweets inform and/or inspire action:
    1. Inform: These are static in nature, meaning they don’t include links. They can use statistics, We beat our ticket sales goals this quarter – woo hoo!; facts, Last season, our orchestra provided free concerts for more than 60,000 local school children; or trivia, Did you know Richard Wagner liked to wear women’s underwear? (BTW, he did).
    2. Inspire Action: Here’s where your professional instincts should kick in. If you aren’t already tracking your website traffic, start. What you want to do is post a Tweet that includes a link directing followers to your website and inspires an actionable event, such as purchasing a ticket, send an email, leave a comment, etc. Depending on the number and type of followers you have, you should notice a spike in website traffic following the actionable Tweet. You can use this data to begin refining your efforts and even include it in marketing reports. Another option is to inspire interaction between followers by asking questions and encouraging answers via replies.

Achieving Twitter Zen in only 20 minutes per day.

Here are some guidelines on how to achieve gangbuster results by Tweeting 20 minutes per day (or 100 minutes per week):

  1. Following individuals/groups and responding to direct messages: 5 minutes per day.
  2. Posting updates: 10 minutes per day (gathering links, crafting the Tweet to fit in 140 characters, etc.).
  3. Generating new followers and researching results: 5 minutes per day.

After time, you’ll become comfortable and efficient enough to begin incorporating Tweeting into monthly marketing plans and if responses are positive, you can expand your time allocated to Twitter as needed. Ultimately, professionals who learn how to use Twitter (and other social media platforms) without the need for extensive outside help only increase their value to the organization and improve their position in the greater marketplace. So what are you waiting for?

Tips and Tricks.

Take some of the frustration out of Tweeting and accelerate the benefits by incorporating the following tips:

  • Don’t spam Tweet. I have yet to encounter a group that is so interesting and has so much going on that they need to post dozens of Tweets per day and/or several in the space of a few minutes. At worst, you’ll start losing followers because people will get sick of seeing so many useless posts.
  • Don’t always make it about you. Social media isn’t a one-way street so remember to post reply Tweets to items of interest or link out to items such as newspaper articles and blog posts (like Adaptistration J – just use the handy Twitter sociable link at the bottom of each blog post).
  • Give followers a reason to follow. One good trick is to offer special promotions that are only announced via Twitter. Nothing helps build interest like exclusivity.
  • Figure out what you want followers to do before crafting a Tweet (inform or inspire action).
  • Pay attention to your followers. Like all good things, there are those out there intent on ruining it. Keep an eye out on bogus followers, they are easy to spot and just as easy to block (don’t worry, you’ll know one when you see one).
  • Consider using some third party apps, like TweetDeck, to help keep track of followers and organize your Twitter efforts.
  • Spread the word. Include links to your Twitter account in the organization’s website, email blasts, print newsletters, and even business cards.
  • Stay on top of Twitter trends by doing a Google search for “Twitter Trends” every now and then.

As time progresses, we’ll examine other social media platforms. Until then, share your Twitter related insights and observations here and make sure you’re following @Adaptistration!

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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8 thoughts on “A New Media Quick-Start Guide for Cultural Orgs: Twitter

  1. Great tips, Drew! I’d also add that you shouldn’t be afraid to make mistakes, as long as you’re honest and transparent.

    If you’re just churning out press releases on Twitter, people will tell you that’s not what they want. Listen to what they have to say and respond, correct your mistakes. They’ll be twice as happy for it.

    Twitter is a great testing arena to see what works and what doesn’t work. Keep track of what kind of tweets get a lot of responses and click-throughs, or even conversions.

  2. It’s also very easy to set up “saved searches” that help you monitor what users may be saying about your organization.

    Enter any search term, and on the results page, click “Save This Search”, and it will add a shortcut to the right side of the page.

    I’ve set up searches for things like “edmonton symphony” “#yeg symphony” (a lot of Edmontonians use the #yeg hashtag or some variant in their posts), “ESO #yeg” and “winspear #yeg”.

    You can then even subscribe to an RSS feed of a specific search, so tweets that match will show up in your chosen reader.

    Monitoring what people are saying about you (and then responding appropriately with a “thanks!”, etc) will go a long way to helping you build a list of local followers.

  3. Thanks so much for this post, this series and your site. I’ve been bopping by off and on for a while in a distant-fascination sort of way as a freelance classical violist. Most often I was lead over here by Charles (www.nobleviola.com).
    Now that I’m doing what I can to build a local music academy I am happy to have a real excuse to read you.

    I appreciate the excellent info!
    -Miriam
    ps. I imagine you’ve read Tara Hunt or Shel Israel- any other recommendations on social media or marketing?

  4. I’m pleased to hear the guide is useful and feel free to jump in with observations or questions at any time.

    As for reading, although there are some good social media books around, I’ve never encountered one that translates and/or applies to nonprofit performing arts enough to recommend. However, I do recommend stopping by the Dutch Perspective, Marc has a number of very useful posts. Alex Shapiro has done a number of seminars and has posted some good articles on this as well. Molly Sharp had a fascinating round table blog series on The Whuffie Factor you should check out.

    I know I’m forgetting some others but I’ll try to remember to post them when they come to mind.

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