I recently talked with Jean Shirk,
Public Relations Manager of the San Francisco Symphony about their social networking
community on Ning.
How did they get started?
Jean says that they had been thinking about social
media for a number of years, and wondered about the best way to engage with
their audience. The SF Symphony established a YouTube channel in 2006 and had
created a Facebook page. They had
organized a very successful blogger night in 2007. They wanted to know more
about what their audience was doing on-line.
Media was in a state of upheaval – arts coverage was
declining and a lot less space was being devoted to the symphony in newspaper
coverage. The question was:
“How do we continue to communicate with people interested in us and new people that want to find out more about us?”
With the help of SF Symphony board member Matt Cohler (from
Facebook), and through some surveying last year, they began to think it out and
decided on a community site using NING.
Partnering with NINGThe Symphony partnered with NING to set up their community site. As part of that partnership they were advised about design, what features to include, the optimal layout, and how to get things to be robust looking at the very beginning.
Getting Started - The Schedule
They began talking and planning last fall and began construction in January. The building process took about 2 1/2 months. They launched on May 6, 2009, and now have over 1400 members.
Cachet - The prestige of the Symphony and its existing relationship with its audience has helped to build the community. As one patron said:
“I never joined a social network before. If the San Francisco Symphony is doing it, it must be okay.”
Popular Features - The most popular sections of the community site include the home page, the member profiles, the contests for Opening Gala and Final Fantasy concert tickets, photos and videos, and then the blogs and discussions.
Contests – For example, a contest was created around the popular iPhone SMULE apps apps that turn your iPhone into an Ocarina or ‘Leaf Trombone’. Among other prizes, winners received tickets to a sold-out concert at which the San Francisco Symphony performed music from the Final Fantasy video game series. The evening included a class on how to play the Ocarina, and the class played music from Final Fantasy together.
Rich Media Content - The symphony has tremendous content that populates the site. Excerpts from their ‘Keeping Score’ television series with PBS, or their Mahler recordings is a key part of enlivening the community experience.
Musician Participation – Musicians are encouraged to join, and a number of have done so including guest artists like Yuja Wang and tenor Alfie Boe, appearing at the Symphony’s New Year’s Eve Masquerade Ball. Concertmaster Alexander Barantschik and new SF Symphony Youth Orchestra Music Director Donato Cabrera have done video Q&As for the social network. Principal Bassoon Stephen Paulson is featured in instructional videos made as part of the YouTube Symphony Orchestra project.
Personal Profiles – Some interesting discoveries for the symphony
- Many people browse and read but don’t join
- They thought more people would create content, but in fact most people are browsers
- The personal profiles of many people are very in-depth offering much deeper insights into themselves than could ever be gotten in a survey.
- They are offering themselves up in some detail including their favorite composers and concerts.
- A key part of this is the implicit trust placed on the community.
Community Management Jean oversees the care and feeding of the community. She spends about an hour a day
uploading content and monitoring.
Jean reviews the profiles of new members, welcomes them to the site, and
highlights people and content.
Other important activities that are part of her day include:
- Listening to the community and responding as needed
- Insuring that the community is a civil place to be
- Tracking and removing spam
Some Social Media insights from Jean:“Social Media touches every department in the organization
in a way that more traditional media doesn’t. For example, when single tickets went on sale, it was a huge
day. One person was having trouble
on the website and posted a note on twitter about it. Because we were monitoring Twitter, we were easily able to
address the concerns of the ticket buyer. Sometimes you can’t fix it, but you
can show you care and are not a mute institution behind an impenetrable
In addition to their
community site, they use Twitter for listening as well as a news channel. They
have a YouTube Channel, a rapidly growing Facebook presence, and of course
their ongoing “Keeping Score”project, which encompasses a PBS television
series, a public radio series, the website www.keepingscore.org, and a national
education program for K-12 teachers that helps them integrate classical music
into core subjects.
SF Symphony Social Network
SF Symphony www.sfsymphony.org
SF Symphony on Facebook www.facebook.com/sfsymphony
SF Symphony on Twitter: www.twitter.com/sanfransymphony
Jean Shirk on Twitter: www.twitter.com/bean
SF Symphony on YouTube: www.youtube.com/sfsymphony
Keeping Score www.keepingscore.org and http://video.pbs.org/video/1295290184/search/keeping%20score
Matt Cohler http://www.facebook.com/matt