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Creative Approaches for Arts Organizations Using Social Media

Small cultural groups that rely heavily on part-time or volunteer staff and donations face a challenge when it comes to developing and executing a social strategy.  It’s unfortunate that groups that are so social by nature are often strapped for cash and hampered by the time that staff and volunteers can dedicate to social media.  But there are many lessons that can be learned from large cultural organizations with more time and more money.  

I had the pleasure recently of working with a group of artists, theatre groups, museums and galleries in the Niagara region of Ontario, population 430,000.  I looked for social media success stories in similar sized communities they could relate to.  In the end, I decided to highlight the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) in Toronto, a world renown gallery in a city of 6 million.      

The AGO clearly has full time people running its social media and they’re doing it well.  It’s utilizing nine social channels and that’s why it’s a great example.  It’s sort of like going to a buffet of social tools already developed where you can pick and choose what will work for you.  

Here are some tips that can work for any arts group (or business for that matter): 

Website/blogsite:  The AGO website has a really clean design but manages to have all the information people need accessible on its home page.  The site also links to all its social channels.  It even gives the opening hours for that day.  

Photosharing:  It’s using Tumblr to post its “Art of the Day” to showcase the gallery’s collections. The gallery also has a flickr group where gallery visitors can post photos.  Pinterest is another visual channel and lots of people are pinning their own gallery photos but the AGO has yet to start a page.

Video: The YouTube channel provides a unique view of the gallery behind the scenes, interviews and video favourites that shine the light on other people and organizations.

Twitter:  The gallery uses Twitter effectively, often to drive followers to its Facebook page where they can engage them in a more in-depth experience.  Recently, they posted a question on Facebook asking fans to tell them who they thought was the best artist of the 20th century.  Tweets asked the same question but drove followers to Facebook to answer it.

Facebook:  Facebook can really get your group’s “personality” across.  The AGO uses the new timeline to be more visual and engaging.  Help each other on Facebook to promote all cultural activities in your community rather than competing.  If you’re a museum, talk about theatre. If you’re an art gallery, talk about authors. 

LinkedIn:  Most people think business networking when they think of LinkedIn but the AGO has taken a creative approach.  Clicking the LinkedIn icon on its website takes you directly to its art focused group, rather than a company page. 

Sometimes it makes sense to let the big fellows do the leg work and then borrow their ideas.  I don’t think they’ll mind.