A Step By Step Guide To Improving Outreach Through Social Media

Last Friday’s new media quick-start guide for Twitter was a BIG hit, thanks to everyone for the wonderful feedback. Ultimately, I’m very happy so many folks are getting something useful out of the advice. One of the questions that came in via email was if I had any ideas for using one new media platform to strengthen outreach efforts and build interest in a second new media platform. Yes. Yes I do…

In particular, the manager wrote:

“We already have a reasonably established Facebook page, is there a way we can use those followers to take a greater interest in our new Twitter page?”

With the right approach, you can improve outreach while simultaneously enhancing your organization's new media presence.
With the right approach, you can build up outreach efforts while simultaneously enhancing your organization's new media presence.

The answer is to take a page from other segments of the entertainment industry, especially video game developers. One of the ways they improve the longevity of user interest in their games is to promote fan generated material. This saves them the trouble of directly generating content while reaping the benefits of improved attention.

Twitter is a good place to begin when developing fan based content. Unlike Facebook, Twitter provides a great deal more flexibility for customizing accounts by allowing users to create backdrops, modify font colors, and attach profile pictures. Spend some time flipping through orchestra Twitter pages and it becomes clear that most groups aren’t taking full advantage of the customization Twitter offers. At the same time, limited resources make it difficult to direct a great deal of effort toward something that is perhaps on the low end of the priority list like Twitter backgrounds (sorry boss, that brochure mailing didn’t go out because we were busy making a Twitter background).

Fortunately, an established Facebook page is the perfect place to harness patron creativity by encouraging them to make custom Twitter content for the orchestra. Odds are, your orchestra’s Facebook page is populated by a demographic who are used to this sort of interaction. If you’re still not wrapping your mind around the idea, just look at all the creative variations Google has come up with over the years for their logo; you can use that as basis for encouraging fan created Twitter content. Here’s a step by step guide on how to get that ball rolling.

Developing Interest In Twitter Backdrop Fan Contributions

Post an announcement on your orchestra’s Facebook wall and send out a page update informing everyone that you’re accepting fan crafted contributions for your Twitter background. the more you can offer from the following list, the better your chances at developing interest and improving submissions:

  1. Make your orchestra’s basic style sheet elements available: color palettes, fonts, etc.
  2. Give fans a copy of your logo(s): make it available in as many formats and dimensions you can.
  3. Offer photos of musicians, guest artists, and anything else they might find interesting: this one is a bit sticky because you have to make sure fans don’t inadvertently use a photo in a way that violates terms of use or permissions. As such, don’t leave it to chance and post direct links to photos you know can be used for a project like this.
  4. Make do’s and don’ts clear: if you want backdrops to include the organization’s URL or box office phone #, make sure you let fans know in advance. Likewise, give them any copy you want them to use in a format they can simply cut and paste.
  5. Make sure any fan created content receives credit: Tweet about it, post a note on the orchestra’s Facebook wall, post a blog entry, etc.
  6. Thank everyone who submits an offering, even if you don’t use it.


Not sure how to create color palettes or what constitutes as Twitter background design best practices? No problem, I’ve got you covered:

  1. Create a color palette at COLOURlovers.com: After setting up a free account, you can create custom color palettes to share with anyone and everyone. Better yet, the site automatically creates nine different downloadable graphic design formats to make life as easy as possible for your fans.
  2. Stay inside the lines with a PSD Twitter Background Template: This template at fuelyourcreativity.com is hands down, the best template around.
  3. Yes, there is such a thing as Twitter background design best practices: Not only does this SmashingMagazine.com article explain the complexities of twitter layout across different screen resolutions, there are dozens of examples for how individuals and groups are making use of Twitter through custom backgrounds. Point fans to this resource and mention any examples you like.
  4. Fonts matter: Odds are, your organization uses a free font that comes loaded on most PC or Mac systems. However, if your group uses a licensed font, you can’t exactly give it away for purposes like this. As such, find a free reasonable facsimile for fans to use at dafont.com.

Ideally, you should be able to launch a program like this in less than 30 minutes but if you’re still feeling a little unsure, make sure you come back tomorrow where I’ll present an Adaptistration Fancrafted Twitter Backdrop project which you can use as a direct example to construct your own project.

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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