With the rise of social media and crowd-funding platforms, it is only natural that there will be some growing pains with the process of arts marketing and fundraising. However, most of us have had access to these platforms for a while now and it would serve us to know how to get the most out of them. I wrote a post back in the day, “What ‘The Wire’ Taught Me About Hustlin'”, that continues to ring truer now when focused on promoting our art through social media and crowd-funding. The formula works as such: one who does a lot of talk and not a lot of work is a charlatan; one who does a lot of work without a lot of talk is a martyr; while one who does a balanced amount of work and talk is a hustler (baby…)
Now a Facebook and Twitter addict like me (connect with me @mezzoihnen – see what I did there?) does not go a day without a barrage of status updates, tweets, or event invitations all relating to music. Couple that with the fact that I’m about to go broke supporting all these Kickstarters. Usually, I love it. Usually, I am so proud of my friends and colleagues for all the compelling creative work they are doing and their commitment to getting the word out there. Other times, it feels like another Nigerian-prince-offering-me-millions-in-exchange-for-my-bank-account email. So what is the difference between promoting your art and spamming the bejeezus out of y0ur circle of friends?
The difference lies with authenticity and communication of value. First things first, make sure that you are promoting something of value to your circles. The only person that will show up time and again to a show that stinks or an opening of mediocre art is your mom. Invite your network to performances that are valuable to them. If you’re asking them because the show is valuable to you, then they’re doing you a favor. That can be just fine; but think about how many favors you’ll owe… Be objective about the value of this or that performance in your friend’s lives. Next, be specific when you are promoting. We have already discovered that not everyone will come. If you are more specific in the promotion, it is more likely that those glancing over will stop when their eye catches something of interest. For example:
This is less likely to grab attention, except from those that already know what you’re talking about. Note that this status doesn’t provide a link or any location-specific details. What if someone isn’t particularly interested in that show? You may want to include some additional information regarding what sets this performance apart from others.
Some of you may find this specious, but it is much more likely to get the attention of someone who is able to attend your performance. Tagging and linking is just good social media etiquette. If your status grabs their eye, don’t make them comb the interwebz looking for ticket information for your show. Adding information about why this performance is important is what takes your basic updates from drowning-in-the-newsfeed to wow-I-should-go-to-that. Now, I know that this is just basic stuff but it is surprising how often we throw something out there in the ether without thinking about our audience. As performers, we’re constantly told to “know thy audience.” Why should our online personae be any different? Think about why it is important for your network to know about this event or fundraiser and why your specific contacts will want to know about it. Think about your updates as mini-press releases: all the news that’s fit to type… in 140 characters.
My friend Kevin Clark wrote a great series about planning a successful Kickstarter. He will be the first person to tell you that just because you put together a video and a Kickstarter page does not mean that your project will become the next overnight Amanda Palmer.
Yes, strangers back Kickstarter projects, and sometimes projects go viral and raise tons of money. Do not plan for that to happen to you. Do not expect the internet to bless you with money. It almost certainly won’t.
If you want to build a solid project that will actually work, you need to go through your entire address book, your Google Contacts, your Facebook friends, your Twitter followers, and your Tumblr followers one by one. You need to be honest with yourself about whether you think they’ll give you any money, and if so, how much. – Kevin Clark from How to Plan Your Kickstarter – part 3
I have no intention of re-writing Kevin’s awesome series. If you want to find out how to make it rain with your project, click through to his site. I just want those with awesome projects to realize that with more promotional skills they can reach beyond their immediate circle of starving musicians (just like them.) If you’re thinking about your crowd-funding updates as mini-press releases, you may want to check out a few of these resources:
- Titles That Work on ProBlogger—And Why
- ProBlogger has informative posts on how to craft different elements of your writing from headlines to bios. Take a look around the site; your writing will be better for it.
- Maura Lafferty’s blog
- Lafferty is “a pro-active problem solver and innovator, and I love working with my colleagues in the performing arts to take charge of the communications and story-telling issues that are preventing them from accomplishing their organization’s goals for growth.”
- She writes, ” As evidenced by sites like Sōsh and DINKLife.com, when we can’t find what we want (and sometimes, regardless of whether it exists already – sometimes just not marketed properly to us, or because we think we can do better), we build our own product that delivers on many of the promises that classical music, performing arts, and other civic philanthropic organizations have relied on for success. The more that we can build direct, meaningful relationships and connections with this audience, the more they will take ownership and connect to the promisesthat we who love our orchestras, opera companies, and performing arts organizations so value.”
- Like she writes, direct, meaningful relationships and connections are paramount.
- Check out Kathleen Adler of WildKat PR on Twitter:@WildKatPR
- “WildKat PR has made its mark as one of the most innovative and creative PR companies specialising in classical music, as well as in contemporary music and cultural projects. The company has particularly distinguished itself in the creation of bespoke commercial strategies and the astute employment of new technologies and media.”
- Make sure you read this post from Adam Thurman, President of Mission Paradox.
- “The reality is that if these audiences never come your way they will be fine. You, on the other hand, will be in serious trouble.”
Email spam is a force of nature at this point. However, promoting our art, events, performances, galas, and fundraisers doesn’t have to be like that. By paying more attention to the authenticity of our message and the needs of our online audience as well as our offline audience, we can achieve more eyeballs on our message which will hopefully put more butts in seats. The internet is not this magical place where your audience is waiting on baited breath for whatever you deign to write. It is a large, noisy public forum. It is our job to first and foremost make something worth talking about. Then, tell the people you know and encourage them to act while giving them the means to do so. Remember that “hide” button is only a click away. Tell a compelling and accurate story to keep your friends, family, and colleagues coming back for more.