Online presence

Originally written for ArtsProfessional

I’ve spoken here before about the benefits of the internet in bringing creative communities together, but how can we directly engage with the platforms available to us to make the most of them – and how do we get the balance right to ensure we engage with audiences, and don’t ignore their input?

It can be incredibly easy for the internet to be used by companies merely as a PR tool, and a number of venues only engage with it in this way – an approach which is understandable considering how much further it can reach as opposed to more traditional forms of marketing. Although it can be more difficult to measure success of a marketing strategy delivered online whilst analytical tools are still developing, with a number of venues now using Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems such as Tessitura and Patron Edge it is possible for much more information to be fed into one central database – and subsequently more departments are able to pull and cross-reference the data they require with ease.

But statistical analysis only tells part of the story. Online presence brings with it a need for ‘brand identity’ – the ways in which audiences view the company they are interacting with. As more of us engage with the online world, there is a greater need for companies to be able to differentiate themselves from one another – with information flowing so fast, there need to be ways in which it can stand out to maximise potential engagement. This can be done in incredibly simple ways; avatars provide the most basic and obvious form, as most online communities allow users to add a profile image which with they can be identified. If a company logo or striking image is used, then it arguably provides the easiest way to draw a user’s attention amongst a sea of text-based information.

Beyond this, ‘tagging’ posts is also an increasingly popular practice. Almost any posting on any platform can include hyperlinks, which allows for information to be posted in a briefer, more digestible form before a reader decides whether or not they want to read more – instead of bombarding readers with a torrent of information in the first place. Furthermore, social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook allow specific account to be tagged in posts – meaning information can be brought to the attention of a targeted group, or a number of people can be associated with one action or event.

At present, I’m working with Old Vic New Voices on the TS Eliot US/UK Exchange – during which groups of emerging artists from London and New York fly to their counterpart city to produce new work and engage directly with the creative community. During the Exchange we are using a number of online platforms to provide a wider insight into our experiences – and to allow others to engage with us and play their own part in the programme. Ideas Tap will provide a platform for daily blogs and digital content produced during the course of the Exchange, and on Twitter we will be using the hashtag #TSEliotUSUK to make our tweets more identifiable – allowing for a wider ecology of voices than by simply using one dedicated account, and drawing more attention to the scheme through the follower counts of each individual contributor.

The experience should be an eye-opener; with no standard to speak of, we are liberated to discover new ways of presenting information without pressure. It will be fascinating to see what the results are, and to gather feedback from others – and perhaps we may be able to help others with similar projects in the future.

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