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what can we say in 140 characters or less

Posted By Salt Lake County ZAP
October 20, 2015

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I considered tweeting this entire post over a day or so. How would you like that flooding your feed? #NotSoMuch #IThoughtSo.

A big part of my job is wrapped up in posting and tweeting.

I love promoting all the events, performances, classes and opportunities that ZAP-funded organizations offer. I enjoy seeing the good work these organizations are doing. Mostly, I relish in connecting with the public – the people of Salt Lake County.

But I have a confession to make. I hate Facebook. Seriously. (Kind of).

Facebook and I have a love/hate relationship. I’ve dumped it… twice. My most recent return to Facebook was prompted by a need to, yet again, familiarize myself with the ever-changing medium due to a surprise-addition to a past job description. Now, with my new job (which is the best job ever!) at Salt Lake County, I’ll probably be keeping it for good.  

I’m not too sad about it now. I’m ready to commit.

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I’m putting down roots because of the potential, I think.

Yes, I believe in the power of social media as a marketing tool. But, even more, I believe in the power of social media as a tool for connection. In a world where people identify lack of time as the most common barrier to attending the arts ( NEA Barriers to Arts Attendance), what better way to connect with our audiences than to meet them on their phone while they’re on the go?

But how can we connect with our audiences in a more meaningful way? Social media marketing the way we currently do it works, but is it best? Does promotion, promotion, promotion ever get tiring? These are all real questions I’ve been asking. And they’re questions I don’t necessarily have the answer to. Do you?

I recently read a blog post entitled “ Bringing Backstage Onstage with Social Media.” It’s from 2013. In the break-neck world of social media, it could have been written a hundred years ago. But, honestly, I think arts organizations are still figuring this one out. I recommend you take a peek, if you haven’t already.

The author describes a few scenarios. A playwright writes a play in a storefront window while the document is projected on a screen to passersby in real time. A man creates a virtual choir – gathering voices from across the planet. A museum uses Pinterest for internal communication about museum design and programming – and all of this is pin-able and accessible to the public. What do all of these projects have in common? They proudly display the work of creating. And they invite the public to be a part of the work, too.

Social media isn’t going away. At least not any time soon. Why don’t I see more invitations like this?

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We’re protective of our craft.

I understand that. There are copyrights and personal protections to consider. I get it. But, for me at least, I didn’t fall in love with theatre because I saw a play. I fell in love with theatre when I was in my first show. To me, the process was much more magical than the performance could ever be. Knowing the process helped me appreciate and love the product so much more. Is it that way for you?

Maybe it’s about vulnerability. Are we nervous about sharing the unfinished, unpolished work we do? It’s a vulnerable position to be in. A position that is displaying what is not yet done. Not yet perfected. A position that is learning. But, in my experience, it’s the vulnerable moments that make life worth living. And isn’t that what art does best? It pokes at all our vulnerable spots to show us (and remind us) we’re human.

Sorry, I’m philosophizing. Let me get back to the point. How can we share the work we do (the good, the bad and ugly) on social media? How can we remind our audiences that we’re human and it’s hard work to create and be vulnerable? How can we build real audience relationships over social media? How can we invite people to join us in the process?

And then, at some point, we will need to make connections in real life.

We will need to speak face-to-face. We will need to experience something together in real time, in person. But might social media be the impetus for this meeting? And how much more meaningful will that experience be if we’ve already built something together?

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I don’t think social media is the answer to all our audience development problems. But, if we start thinking creatively (which is what we do best) about it, it could be one of the answers.

So, now I want to hear from you.

There are a lot of questions in this post. It’s pretty much full of questions. If you’re part of an arts organization, what do you think? What ideas do you have to make social media more meaningful? How are you inviting audiences to be a part of your work? If you’re a member of the public, how would you like arts organizations to relate to you on social media?

Let’s hear it. Post a comment below!