This post was written as a guest blog and originally posted on the PatronManager site.
No disrespect meant here, I have been an intern myself — and I fully value what they (we) bring to the table: a fresh perspective, an influx of new information into the organization, LOTS of energy… and don’t forget coffee. One thing that I have noticed in some smaller arts organizations is the mindset that social media is not a legitimate piece of the marketing plan, but just an extra-curricular side project. Because of this, managing social media usually gets assigned to an intern — because after all, every millennial knows how to tweet, right? After that happens, it is never revisited again.
Consider this — would you task an intern with holding a daily press conference for all of your subscribers? Surely you wouldn’t (well, depending on organization bandwidth, you might. #nojudgements). But that is essentially what is happening when you give out your organization’s Facebook login information. Any and all posts, tweets, shares, follows, insta-snaps etc… are forwarded to your patrons — and usually directly to their mobile devices, which likely are on their person. This connection is part of the power that social media can bring to a company of any size. But, as we learned from Spider-Man, “with great power there must also come great responsibility.”
The responsibility here is to ensure that the information posted is accurate, matching your brand, useful to your mission, and is sent at times when patrons will be most likely to see it. Neglecting these responsibilities risks wasting institutional energy, or potentially creating bad publicity for your organization.
Keep things correct
I’m sure someone at Google spent a not-small portion of their life making sure that the spell checker in Google Chrome works. You should certainly use it — every time. But remember, spell check won’t ensure that the date and time listed for the event you’re promoting is correct. Before you hit that big blue button, give it a read — especially if you are composing your message from a cell phone. You want to be sure the post says what you actually want it to say, rather than what “you’re iPhone keyboard things you tired to say…”
Branding / Voice
I wholeheartedly recommend having a style guide in place and that everyone on your staff uses it. This document should set the tone for the public face of your organization. It should answer the question of what type of audience you have, and what kind of market you are trying to expand. For example, the tone used by an emerging contemporary, page-to-stage company will likely sound distinct in comparison to a classic Shakespearean playhouse beginning its 30th season.
Content / Mission
One way to determine this is to look at your social media feeds under the lens of your mission/vision/core values. Ask yourself “what message needs to come across to our patrons to push us closer to our mission?” Sometimes, that push comes from spreading the word about an upcoming production and getting more patrons into the house. Other times, you want to continue a conversation to get people interested in not only your performances but the art form in general.
The branding/voice conversation above will also apply to the type of content posted as well. Your organization’s voice and the content that it posts should be in alignment. Some questions to consider: Does your organization post content of a political nature? When something noteworthy happens at another arts organization in town, do those get posted/re-tweeted on your page? How do you handle reviews of your own productions/work that are not favorable? Hint: the answer to this one should NOT be to publicly engage, or fight back. Many organizations have fallen into trouble by attempting to defend a negative review or comments in a public forum. I don’t want that to happen to you.
Timing – it’s everything, even if it’s not the only thing
I get it. Nonprofits are known for working terrible hours. Early mornings, late nights — whatever it takes to get the job done. When one of the reminders blinking in your taskbar is telling you to “post something profound on Facebook” it is so easy to drop it off entirely or to post something hastily at the end of a long day.
Though, to make the most of your social media efforts, it is beneficial to post at times during the day when your patrons are on social media. In general, this will usually be at lunch hour, right after work, and on weekends — but you’ll want to monitor your particular feed to note the times which get the most interaction from your patrons to find your ideal times.
I’m certainly not saying that you should never have an intern post something to Facebook. Many patrons might appreciate seeing something posted from their perspective (perhaps in a blog post). Interns can also be very useful in pulling information which could be helpful in creating posts; and yes, they can even be skilled at making the actual post, since most of them have been using social media for a significant portion of their lives.
However, my advice is to set them up for success by making these decisions early, and verifying that your interns are in tune with the best way to communicate with your patrons in a way that enriches your relationship with them before you hand over the keys to the castle.