So when it comes to social networking we're not really starting from scratch. People talk about us a lot online (recordings they like, concerts they've been to), and it's just a short step for people to find us within the now all-pervasive Facebook. At the beginning we did a little promotion for it among our existing web audiences, but after that we've let it grow itself. Facebook is really geared towards that anyway, since whenever you join something it's published in your friends' news feeds, and that creates the viral effect.
I think the key (your 'secret sauce'!) to its continuing success - we have a very active page and that in itself makes it an attractive page to join - is that we've made a very clear decision to NOT use it for marketing. We consider that to be a massive turn off. People do not use social sites to be marketed at, they use them for friendship and keeping in touch. Yes we occasionally throw in a bit of promotion for a concert or CD, but largely we simply let people know about what we are doing and where. We're never short of things to say, since the LSO is never ever (or very rarely) not working in some capacity! And lastly, we try to reply to every post we get, and to do so within a couple of hours at the most. No point in doing social networking if you're not going to network with those interested in you, is there!"
Twitter is our newest effort in the social networking area. We joined in January at a time when there was a sudden huge upsurge in usage, which helped us grow our followers (we just passed 6000 a day or two ago) quite quickly. We were unsure at first how best to use it - there were all sorts of experiments around using it during concerts - but what has emerged it that it is simply a tool for conversing with our followers and opening up our world by posting photos and links.
Like Facebook, our strategy is to NOT use it for marketing. I see so many arts organisations just tweeting about their next concert, mostly in corporate language, with a link to buy tickets - that's just very dull. And they are ignoring the fact that most of their followers are most likely not in their vicinity to be able to come to their concerts! What Twitter is good for is slightly quirky, informal conversations. Interesting photos, snippets of backstage news, discussing recordings or soloists with the very people that buy the tickets or CDs... then the occasional piece of promotion doesn't seem quite so offensive!
Then the overall feel of our presence to those following us is relaxed, open, friendly, approachable - that we're an orchestra of passionate individuals that want to engage with people and who appreciate the people who buy the tickets to enable us to keep putting on our high quality concerts."
How much time do you and other staff put into your social media activities?
"Probably a bit more than I should! Not really in office time - I have a wide-ranging role which includes looking after our main website, e-marketing, text messaging, film-making and general marketing duties which takes up a lot of time - so I tend to find myself tweeting and Facebooking from home, which is probably really unhealthy! It's addictive, I love chatting to people who are so interested and passionate about the LSO.
In the office I usually start the day with a round of updating each site (we're in Facebook, Twitter, MySpace and YouTube), and then occasionally drop in throughout the day for 5 mins at a time to check any responses and answer them. I also keep an eye on others' activity on Twitter in case there's something I want to respond to or a conversation I want us to take part in. I'd say that during the day I would spend a total of 30-40 mins on social networks.
My colleague Gavin, who works in our record label LSO Live, is also involved in our social network presences, and there's a few players that get involved, mostly when they're out on tour or when they remember!"
Do you have a strategy or plan or policy (written or otherwise?)
"We started out without anything official written down - Facebook was the first, and it was a bit of an experiment. When it started to grow and Gavin came on board with me, we sat down together and talked about what we were doing and how we should try and make it a little more official to satisfy our bosses, who were starting to ask about what we were up to (we didn't ask in the first place... they'd have probably said no!). We wrote a paper on what social media was, how we were using it now and what benefits it has for us. And we set down a few ground rules for ourselves and the players who we were going to ask to take part - like 'remember that you are the LSO and everything you say will be viewed as official', 'no swearing or nudity', 'don't drink and tweet' and 'NO MARKETING!!'."
How much of the success is personality driven? What if a development or finance person was doing this... would it still work?
Ah now, what you're suggesting here is that development and finance people don't have personalities! ;-)
Yes, a lot of the success is down to the personality we've managed to create for the LSO online. But to be honest, that wasn't hard! When Gavin and I are doing the updating from the office we imagine ourselves as the orchestra. What would we say if we were an LSO player and in a rehearsal or out on tour? Office life is fairly boring, other than really select things, and we think what people want to hear is what the Orchestra is doing. So in theory, anyone from the admin staff could do the updating, as long as they were properly briefed as to what to say and how to say it. There are people that are better at it than others of course, so the key is to pick your participants carefully. For example, Gareth Davies, our Principal Flute, has a fantastic way of writing that works so well on our Tour Blog, but other players having the same experiences as him may not be so good, so I tend not to ask them.
I suspect what you're getting at is whether if development and finance tweeted about their own work, would it be as interesting. Probably not! These departments are an essential part of our organisation of course, but they're not so interesting to the public (sorry guys!). When I see people tweeting for arts orgs under that organisation's name, but writing in the first person as if it were their personal account and with their own opinions, or about boring things like staff meetings or IT problems, I wonder what possesses them! Is that the image they want to project? And why?!"
Something that we learned quite early was to not get involved in arguments from a personal point of view. There was one incident with our Principal Flute Gareth on Twitter, who joined in a discussion on whether Tweeting during a concert is good or bad. He felt that it was bad, and got into a scrap with Greg Sandow, it got heated and, well, I had to step in and censor it. The problem was not that he had the opinion - he has a right to it! - but that the opinion was being communicated on the LSO's account and to the casual viewer would have looked like it was the Orchestra's official line. Because we are all passionate about the LSO, it can be easy to get drawn in, but the place for that is on a personal account."
Do you use any specific ROI metrics?
"The most difficult thing about doing social networking for a company is tracking the results and trying to find quantifiable results to justify spending staff time on it, since much of the content that is produced is not geared to making the sale immediately. But to rely on just these results is a mistake I think - see the final question for an expanded answer.
The tracking that we are able to do is through our Google Analytics on our main website, tracking direct journeys through from social media sites. This was we are able to see that Facebook is the fifth biggest referrer of visitors by income. Not bad! Twitter is much harder to track because of the large variety of thrid party apps that people use, and that don't show up in Google Analytics. We also use the Bit.ly link shortening service which tracks clicks on the links.
As for specific ROI, there's no monetary investment in social media, so measuring return on it isn't possible."
I just read a study that says that Social Media is a 'waste of time' and that there are little quantifiable results like increases in contributions, attendance, or new volunteers. What do you think? Are they missing something? [btw, here's the link if you want to read it.... ]
"Oh dear! Like the majority of people who commented on the article, I think it completely misses the point. So they've discovered that it doesn't attract volunteers? That's because this is not the right use for social media! It is not a marketing or fundraising tool, it is a communication tool. They seem to have the beginnings of a positive argument in there:
'For them, and indeed anyone else in the nonprofit space asking how to get value from social technologies, now is the time to take a deep breath and reconsider what social technologies can best be used for and what nonprofit executives can reasonably expect from them.'
People really need to think carefully about what they use it for and recalibrate their (and that of their Board's and CEO's) expectations in terms of hard returns. The article is more about fundraising than the area I'm involved in, but the reason behind the usage is the same - to cultivate relationships with the audience and people interested in you, to open up lines of communication and to make yourself a relevant part of their lives. These days marketing communications is a lot about the cumulative effect - decision-making is influenced by many different things, for example a poster, a press ad, a PR article, a radio ad, a brochure through the post, a piece of news delivered via social media. All or some of these may influence the decision to buy a ticket or a CD or make a donation, generally not one alone, and it may be a little while down the road when the trackability has become completely blurred.
And you have the opportunity to create ambassadors for your cause. Enthusing about a charity or arts org to your friends has never been easier! In a world where more people trust their friends' opinions about products and services, this is incredibly valuable.
I'm kind of intruiged about the assertion that social media is "a surprisingly expensive strategy" - what on earth are people spending money on? If you're spending money on social media, you're doing it very wrong! As one of the commenters said, using social media has zero cost, so any gain from it is a 100% gain, financial, profile or otherwise."
Thanks Jo! You Rock!
About Jo Johnson
After gaining her Batchelor of Music degree from the University of Hull, Jo spent five years working for the BBC, cutting her teeth on the newly emerging novelty, the orchestra website. After four and a half years at the London Symphony Orchestra, running the main website and all sorts of digital activities such as mobile marketing, email marketing, film making and lately social networks, she just about feels she understands what it's all about! Although as soon as that happens, something new comes along and she has to start all over again. She is in demand as a speaker on the subject of orchestras online and is particularly passionate about debunking the myth that social networks are a waste of time.
In her spare time, Jo enjoys playing the violin and viola in orchestras and show bands, and has recently taken up the ukelele. When not at rehearsal she can generally be found in the swimming pool or at the sushi bar.