Quote of the Day: on social media and your arts company

Worth a complete read but here is the nub of the matter :

No matter your geographic focus, social networks are fundamentally about forming a community and having conversations. Therefore, having a clear purpose in mind when you choose your networks is essential.

We’ve all heard the adage “the medium is the message.” It means that the method by which your audience receives your message becomes an inextricable part of the message itself. The phrase was coined in the 1960’s before the advent of the social media frenzy. But think about what it says to us today. Your show is its logo. Your season is the email blast that announces it. Your theatre is your Facebook fan page. But there’s more to it than that.

With social media, the audience becomes both medium and message. Your audience is your identity. Who your fans are says something about who your organization is. If someone chooses to invest themselves in your product or purpose by becoming a fan or making a comment, then they become part of your organization in a way that’s visible. They become a message that your organization is worth following.

via Building Audience Diversity Through Social Media.

Arts Education – what should we teach and how?

There’s a Twitter discussion happening right now hashtagged #artsed .  The hashtag acts as a search key for tweets that have anything to do with arts education, but this particular thread of the discussion is focussing on the issue of professional training for artists – more particularly theatre artists, and especially actors.  The originating posts are from the US but, such is the nature of Twitter, anyone from anywhere can jump in and contribute – it’s a democratic open house in the Twitter stream.  The current thread is tackling a matter dear to my heart and to those others who are participating.

However, there’s only so much you can say in Twitter’s 140 character delimited conversation bites and, inevitably, you long for another venue to continue the conversation at more length. I’ve turned here to my own scratch pad/blog, and perhaps others will join in the conversation. Continue reading “Arts Education – what should we teach and how?”

Group or Page: What’s best on Facebook for an arts company?

Google Analytics: SML Pro Blog Traffic Sources...
Image by See-ming Lee ??? SML via Flickr

I’ve been a fan for a long time of the blog/website as the hub of an individual’s or a group’s digital world.  Couple a blog with various outlier social networking applications like Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and so on, and you expand your outreach.  Not everyone uses social networking, though with over half a million signing up every day for Facebook, that most ubiquitous of apps, it’s kind of hard to believe. Facebook at the end of 2010 was the leading social network in the world.

Nowadays with the gradual federation of apps and services ‘talking’ to one another, it’s possible to provide a way for just about anyone with access to the web to engage with you, your group, and others who want to get in contact.

If you maintain a blog as your hub, the downside is that you you almost always have to travel outside your hub to access outlier material, though this is getting easier – see my post on using Friendfeed in this way. [UPDATE: Friendfeed sadly is no longer the wunderkind of aggregating services it once was. FYI it was bought out by Facebook]

On most blogs you can set up links or widgets that show your latest status on Facebook, your latest Tweets and those of the people your follow, your photos from Flickr, an RSS feed to keep readers up to date with your posts and so on.

Is there a one-stop for all of this, as well as an app that goes where most of the activity is?  Well, with the imminent demise or at least withering on the vine of the really good Friendfeed, it seems that Facebook has a way.  A current Facebook user can set up a page to leverage his or her ‘business.’  I’ve posted some links below that give you a solid introduction to what these ‘business’ Pages are, and how they differ from Facebook Groups.

Whatever you do, don’t use a Facebook Profile (regular ‘personal’ page) for your group.

You’ll max out at 5,000 friends, and you’re aiming for more than that, right?

Facebook Pages vs Facebook Groups: What’s the Difference?
This comprehensive post from the Mashable folk is really all you need to know to make a decision.

Marketing Your Business on Facebook

Facebook Business: Page or a Group? (video)

Leveraging a Facebook Business Page (video)

Is there anything right with the theatre?

When you spend as much time on Twitter and Facebook, and subscribe to as many theatre focussed blogs as I do, then you take notice of themes that won’t lie down.

There’s been a bit of a stir in the social networking streams over the past couple of weeks, and it’s been about the current state of theatre – and not just here in Queensland or further afield in Australia.  Updates from theatre sites from round the world arrive daily in my feed reader. I wish I could say that I get to read them all; I don’t. Some don’t interest me or are irrelevant but, as I read, I make it a habit to grab quotes or bookmark a post for later. These get stored away in my Tumblr scrapbook for later reference – a hangover from my academic days I suppose.  Lately, a lot of these theatre snippets have had a common thread.  With very few exceptions the tone is downbeat, the tune is repetitive: the theatre system – the model for institutionalised theatre – is broken. Continue reading “Is there anything right with the theatre?”

Footnotes to my year in theatre – 2009

The theatre and I have had a love affair for many years now; my Actors Equity membership card notes 13 March 1973 as my joining date, but that is just the marker of when it became a day job for real; the affair began long before then.  During this – my first, official year of retirement from full-time work – I’ve gone to plays, written about the theatre, helped organise it, advised on it, started a blog to help others find their ways around and through it, and generally pretty much been absorbed in my art form of choice.  Apart from the screen before me, my theatre-engagement has spanned four countries, many companies and organisations, several Australian cities, and all 12 months of the year.  But right here and now, and since it is the time of lists of the best, worst, wish I’d done more of during the year, here goes me …

Face to face …. as an audience member, I went to the theatre quite a bit in 2009; a quick look through the calendar says I attended 36 plays all up.  Some were superb, some were bloody awful, most were fair to middling.  Sift through any one of them though, and you’d find specks amongst the tailings if not tiny nuggets of theatre gold … a performance here, a gorgeously played scene there, another element of an otherwise-ordinary production that sparkles. 

The lovely thing about the theatre is that it is multifaceted, real, live,  and as capable of great big belly flops as soaring arcs.

It’s rare to find a flawless gem; and you’re doomed to failure if you go to the theatre expecting this.  When it does happen along, the experience is something never forgotten; that’s what keeps me going back, that and doing my small supportive bit for the enterprise.

As a theatre-lover, an advocate and a member of a couple of theatre boards … Chair to one of them … I spent far more hours this year engaging (aka talking, consulting and advising) with colleagues on the business of the business of making theatre than I actually did in dark rooms with strangers.  The diary says 75 individual meetings or presentations – good grief!  And yet, and yet … it has to be done.  This year I want to hear more voices – diverse, informed, loud – raised in support of the theatre.  Too many in my own particular neck of the woods are anonymous, whingeing, and ultimately destructive; too few are positive and enthusiastic.  When these latter voices are heard they should be listened to and encouraged, as perhaps should be the whiners and the trolls, but oh my, battling ignorance is an unlovely sport. 

Social networking has enabled a far wider conversation; the challenge is to get more to engage.

Virtually … my Facebook and Twitter streams are alive daily with the sound and sometimes the fury of theatre makers.  What I love is the way Facebook especially keeps me in touch with former students and colleagues; sharing reports from the field, who’s doing what and where, plus the increasingly-frequent pictures of their newborns and growing children are just plain … delightful.  My Google Feedreader overflows with articles and reviews on theatre from around the world – this has been the fun part.  This year I’ve loved discovering new and brilliantly funny and often argumentative, sometimes wrongheaded it seems to me, but always passionate voices through theatre-related blogsites.  Hours spent doing this?  Countless, but also priceless!

I’m tempted to note the bald figures of times and hours and the listing as a kind of reductio ad absurdum … the hours were richer, the events rewarding and so, so fleeting – except for some of the meetings.  I look forward to more of the same in the new year to be, and wish you a wonder-filled year wherever you are and whatever your passion, theatrical or otherwise.

A few good tips for website owners

I posted a peeve tweet this morning, something I do from time to time when the ‘Grrs’ strike.  I’m finding that more and more websites are popping up with good, well-written content, but with no RSS feed, so there’s no way for a regular reader or a potential reader to learn when new posts are made.  It seems that some of these sites also choose to add new content to a page rather than to blog individual posts, so there are no permalinks back to an individual post, just a page URL.  You know what this means?  After new material is added to the page, really good stuff slips down and off the page, and out of access.  That’s not good.  Even worse, some sites have no search boxes, categories or nav bars that make any kind of sense.  Bad design means good content suffers.

So, my peeve tweet went something like this … well, exactly like this …

Screen shot 2009-10-29 at 7.47.50 AM

So, a couple of tips.

  • If you haven’t already, you should register and burn your site via the excellent Feedburner so your readers get the latest from you in their email or feed readers.
  • If you haven’t already, you might consider joining Twitter and announcing your latest post that way.  If you have a WordPress blog, you could set up a plug-in like Word Twit which generates an instant auto tweet whenever a new post is published.
  • If you have a Facebook account you can announce updates and refer readers with a link back to your website.  There are also any number of plugins and other auto connections available for this most ubiquitous of social networks.  Just remember though that Facebook is a closed shop, and your announcements will be confined to its walled-garden environment.

Whatever methods you choose please please, do something … tell us about it.  Don’t waste all that effort, or miss out on the opportunity to spread your words.