This is the first (real) post in my ongoing living social media case study. I am part of the volunteer management of Artomatic, an art nonprofit based in DC, and I’d like to share with you the work I am doing as we go along. See more here.
First things first, a little scene-setting. Artomatic is a 6-week unjuried arts festival in the DMV (Washington, DC, Maryland, Virginia) with offshoots in other places as close as Frederick, MD and as far as Sunderland, UK. For DC, the event dates are determined by the site that is found to host the festival, usually a large corporate space either newly built (with developers looking for exposure to fill the building with new tenants) or slated for demolition. The site must have working electricity and bathrooms, and must be ADA-compliant.
Since the event happens once a site is found, Artomatic is not necessarily every year. It could be every 2 or 3 years. Currently, we are in planning for 2015 (which will be a huge International Artomatic – can’t wait to be able to share more about that), so for 2014, the site selection committee is looking for either a large site as mentioned, or a couple of smaller event sites.
Meanwhile, without an upcoming event to directly promote, that gives me time to build out the foundations for Artomatic’s social media. Normally, if I was doing this for a client, I’d do a full social media site audit and review all of the social media sites we have as a first step before implementing any changes, but in this case, I’m doing my own thing, so first up is Twitter – purely based on it being the first site I get a login for.
But let’s start at the top.
1. Define your mission and goals
Artomatic works to strengthen the artist community; build an audience for that community and helps focus attention on the use of temporary space for its events and the community of artists. Artomatic embraces all cultural stakeholders to collaborate in the temporary transformation of vacant space into an arts-driven creative place.
I have this taped to the wall behind my monitor. This is where it all starts. Want to know what social media strategy is? Social media strategy answers the question, “what is your mission and how can social help you achieve that mission?” That’s it. Don’t tell anyone. :)
So everything I will do from now on, will be about the following:
- - Strengthening the artist community – by finding and connecting those people who are part of that community.
- - Building an audience for that community – by sharing all the cool things the artists and performers are doing.
- - Focusing attention on the use of temporary space – by sharing the inner workings of how Artomatic helps developers and helps our city.
- - Engaging volunteers – by using all means possible to attract, connect, engage and reward all volunteers who donate their time to Artomatic.
Think about it. All the clues to what I need to focus on are right there in our mission statement. Some organizations’ mission statements are not so clear, it is true. But with a little work, you can get clear. And no matter what, if you really think about why your organization exists, you’ll find the answers to where to focus your social media efforts.
I’ll come back to these goals a lot in future posts, as we refine and define them tactically.
2. Check your branding
Seems obvious, but there are a ton of organizations missing a branded header image or background. My very first step is to check that the Twitter account has the correct branding. I have a fantastic set of branding guidelines, so I add the main Artomatic logo as header image behind the existing black and white logo.
I immediately also notice that the Twitter page has no full background, just the default blue Twitter birds, so I play around with some photos from Flickr by searching for images tagged “Artomatic” with a Creative Commons license to find a good placeholder background. Note that I needed to fill in the header image as well as the full background, and I still want to discuss this with our graphic designer, when it comes to deciding how the brand differentiation will work between each different social media site. But it’s looking good for now.
3. Determine your follow strategy
My rule of thumb for an organizational account is to start by getting the follow:follower ratio to 2:1. The reason for this is to show that we’re as much interested in learning from our community as we are in broadcasting our own content. My first step is to go through our existing followers and follow back anyone relevant (meaning everyone except spammers, in my case). I also ensure that anyone new who follows me is followed back. Note: Twitter does have a follow limit, currently set at 2,000 people, at which point the limit resets per an unpublished algorithm based on how many followers your account has. This is meant to identify spammers who will follow many people at once in the hope of reciprocal follow. So the idea here is to add a few people per day or per week, methodically and organically – NOT many hundreds at once. Many relevant follows will follow back, thus building up your Twitter audience.
When I first get started on this, the account is following around 900 people and has a follower count of maybe 3800. (I didn’t actually write these numbers down, so I might be off.) So my first task is to follow my existing followers back. I’m lucky to be doing this for the kind of organization that gets a lot of these responses:
@artomatic Artomatic is now following me on Twitter. That is indeed a very high honor. I love their events so much!
— Mike Ratel (@mowermovie) December 19, 2013
@artomatic thanks for following! I LOVE what ya’ll do over at Artomatic
— Lee Bee (@ASBeeTheBest) December 10, 2013
Thank you @artomatic for the follow! Love your mission and how you foster great art.
— Kelly O’Brien (@bookartistko) December 3, 2013
Yay! I think any nonprofit can get that feel-good response, though. All it takes is showing you care about your community.
I also use a tool called Manage Flitter to weed out the spammers, and check through the follower list. But apart from some basic Twitter forensics like that, I’m happy to follow most people back – I just want my account to look like this.
Now this is slow going, as I can’t follow very many people per week due to Twitter’s limits, and it is a risk following back our own followers first (as opposed to searching for new arts-related people). But based on my community building goals, it’s very important for me to show that I’m interested in our crowd as much as they are interested in Artomatic. So after a few weeks, I’m now up to ALMOST a 1:1 ratio.
I’ll keep going until I hit 2:1 and I’ll keep using Manage Flitter to help process these. It’s the only tool I know of where you can sort of batch follow, although by that I mean that you can pay them to do the following for you. My limits are too small to bother with that right now, so I’ll keep doing it manually – a few dozen a week.
4. Start monitoring and responding; choose your voice
At this early stage, I don’t have a lot (read: anything) to share about the next Artomatic event yet, so after introducing myself as the new person manning the account, I’m lying a bit low. Instead, I focus on asking for notice of, and retweeting, anything that is about local DC art. I’ve also decided that the “voice” of Artomatic, since we work with artists and musicians (as opposed to more corporate-sounding lawyers or doctors or marketers – ha), can basically be my voice. Luckily for me, while this is a “corporate” account, I know I’ll have much more luck building relationships with the community if I’m clearly a person who is also part of the community, and in particular, a person who cares a LOT about DC and the local area and who cares a lot about art!
— Artomatic (@artomatic) December 4, 2013
Hey if you’re a local DMV artist or musician, tweet me your shows and I’ll RT! Thanks #lovedc
— Artomatic (@artomatic) December 3, 2013
Let’s boycott #BlackFriday – buy some local art instead.
— Artomatic (@artomatic) November 27, 2013
A lot more to discuss related to this, but in order to keep these posts from being overlong, let’s talk more about content strategy in a future post.
Last thing to say here – you’ll have noticed I didn’t mention anything about using a content management tool for Twitter (like Hootsuite or Spredfast). That’s because for now, I’m a Twitter purist, and prefer to use Twitter.com for all of this. But since I have multiple Twitter accounts, including of course @maddiegrant and @socialfish and a soccer one (@soccerzone), I do occasionally use Tweetdeck just for monitoring mentions and hashtags, and I have Tweetbot on my Mac set up just for @Artomatic tweets (though I forget to use it).
I am sure when it comes to managing multiple social sites, I’ll set up Hootsuite – but for now, Twitter.com suits me just fine.
Any tips from you related to setting up organizational accounts on Twitter? Please share in the comments. I’m of course happy to answer any questions about what I’ve shared here, too.
KEEP AN EYE OUT FOR THE NEXT POST IN THIS LIVING SOCIAL MEDIA CASE STUDY. I’ll write one every 2-3 weeks. Let me know any specific areas you’d like me to focus on, too.
(photo credit: Eric Shutt)