A conversation with Vince Ford, Internet & Database Manager
“We’re integrating our own version of social networking into our website,” says Atlanta Symphony Internet & Database Manager, Vince Ford.
“Our focus with this particular project is to deepen the relationship we have with the people already coming to see us.”
“We have information on our site that we think audience members will want to engage with, like Composer Bios, Event Details, Musician Bios, and program notes on a particular piece of music. (Audience members) can then enrich the content by adding their own perspective to it … ultimately creating new content.
Whenever a piece of music is mentioned, a place is available for people to comment. These comments might include memories of the first time they heard that piece, or played it in high school band, or college, or when they heard it in a prior concert, whatever direction they want to take with that. This will include concerts, once they have taken place.
Of course a lot of monitoring goes along with this. There are some challenges. When somebody writes something that is factually correct, but maybe difficult in someway for the institution to hear, we have to find where it fits. We won’t just reject the difficult pieces. These sorts of conversations don’t work if it’s all fluff.
When audience members post their comments, they will also include ‘key word’ tags to go along with them. This has multi-dimensional results. It is helpful in searching the site, and it informs the marketing department about the words and connections the audience makes, rather than the connections we as the institution guess that they will make. It’s free market research!
This new sub-channel within the site is about enriching other people’s perspective; as well as creating new pathways for navigating the site. This is another step in encouraging the audience to converse with each other, and with us, online.
Initially we will have to cultivate this with our audience because it’s completely new for them, and us. We will be building awareness of the new features in our weekly email newsletters, radio & print spots and program notes. We also plan to seed initial conversations to get and keep activity going. Our goal is to extend the sense of loyalty with the consumer. As that relationship grows and strengthens, they are spending more time with us, developing a deeper connection with our products and we think, spending more money. It’s a way to incubate (relationships) online.”
Another role Vince plays is as an evangelist or champion within the institution. Throughout the year Vince is sitting down with staff members and helping them to get online. This ranges from showing them how to create a MySpace page, or how to log into Second Life, or FaceBook or upload pictures on Flikr. Even if they don’t stay there, “hands on” is a much more effectively contagious way to get them engaged in the web conversation, than making a presentation in the board room. When it comes time to brainstorm about project ideas, there’s a much stronger base of understanding and support.