High Impact Social Media

Devon Smith
24 Usable Hours
Published in
5 min readSep 29, 2011



What’s working for arts organizations now? “Once someone likes us on Facebook, what do we do with them? How can we use Twitter to raise money? Can Foursquare really enhance the audience experience? How can Tumblr help us make sense of it all?” Yesterday’s half-day seminar, High Impact Social Media, supported by the Bloomberg Philanthropies arts advancement initiative and the DeVos Institute of Arts Management, attempted to answer just that by bringing together Gary Vaynerchuk (who, if you haven’t seen him, watched him, or read his books, you’re really missing out) and reps from the big 4 social media platforms for a crowd of a few hundred NYC arts managers. It’s the highest profile gathering of social media folks I’ve seen speak to arts managers, and I was thrilled to join the crowd, in anticipation of the groups next gathering in December where I’ll be speaking and moderating a panel on the same subject.

Words of wisdom from Gary:

  • Social media isn’t a concept, it’s the deciding factor between whether you’re still going to be in business or not five years from now
  • You [arts managers] are in the eyeballs and ears business, and social media has fundamentally disrupted communication. We are in the greatest culture shift of our lifetime.
  • Every 48 hours in 2011, we create more content than in the period between the beginning of mankind…and 2003. You have to provide context along with your content.
  • We default into pushing information out, into talking. But social media is the greatest listening platform every invented. Winning in social media requires you shut up and listen.
  • Single greatest opportunity & tool you have, is the @reply.
  • Social media isn’t easy, it takes time, and sometimes it’s not very fun. “Do you know how fun it is to answer what wine goes with fish 76,000 times? It’s not fun. And it’s not Pinot Grigio either.”
  • If you don’t have enough time to do social media, then stop doing other dumb shit, and hire an intern. But you need enough knowledge about social media to direct that intern’s efforts.
  • Consumer’s bullshit radar is dramatically better than you want it to be.
  • In a Groupon World, it’s easy to acquire customers. Social media impact retention. It’s all about customer lifetime value.
  • It doesn’t matter how many Facebook fans you have if none of them are engaging on your Page. If your Facebook post gets less than 1% fan engagement, you’re doing it wrong.
  • Data tells you what happened, not where it’s going.
  • Everything I [he] love will be ruined five years from now. Marketers ruin everything. You guys should understand better than most how not to ruin this. You care about what’s on stage, who’s in your audience.

A few other funny tidbits — Gary asked how many people in the crowd once swore they would never own a cell phone, and still don’t. When 3 people raised their hands, he was shocked, and said it was the highest number he’d ever seen in a crowd. As a well known user of colorful language, I was more shocked that Gary only dropped six F-bombs in 90 minutes.

Next up was Adam Conner from Facebook:

  • History of the internet: Browse (Yahoo) → Search (Google) → Discovery (Facebook)
  • “Facebook gives you the ability to connect with millions of people.”
  • There are plenty of places online where you can broadcast. Facebook requires Pages to accept comments because Facebook isn’t just for broadcasting.
  • “Don’t create a Page if you don’t have the content to support it”
  • Ten tips: Create a voice; Program your page (with an editorial calendar); Create exclusive content; Use visuals; Push & Pull people to the page; Make supporters stars; Engage other groups on Facebook; Get creative with apps & features; Know who your supporters are using Insights; Market your Facebook presence in offline/print materials.
  • Best idea I heard: Publish “thank you” videos to your supporters on your Page

Then Jake Furst from Foursquare:

  • Innovations of the internet: Google (Information) → Facebook (Social) → Foursquare (Geography)
  • 3 aspects of Foursquare arts orgs can explore: Merchant Platform (offering specials), Pages (leaving tips & encouraging others to follow you), Platform (building apps on top of Foursquare)
  • Foursquare tips “allow a user to experience the world through the lens of a brand”
  • Foursquare allows a brand to push messages, like Twitter, but at the appropriate time and place
  • Foursquare Stats is like Google Analytics for the real world
  • Special shout out to Foursquare for tailoring their presentation to arts orgs & using arts orgs in nearly every example. No other platform did that.
  • Best idea I heard: Use Specials to give your supporters an awesome experience not just a discount. What if that looked like giving house seats to whomever checked-in first after the house opens every night. They already bought the tickets, those seats usually go empty anyway, what a great customer service experience that would be…

Later was Glen Otis Brown of Twitter:

  • 3 types of parties: Spontaneous, Organized, Artful
  • Think of Twitter as each of those types of parties: spontaneous gatherings of people, a place to organize online supporters, and a place to curate/create art
  • Retweeting is curation with a click.
  • Use hashtags at events, and listed on collateral, to organize conversations
  • Post links & photos. Photos with hashtags get their own media page.
  • Ask questions & call supporters to action. Read & write on Twitter (half of active users only read — you should be too).
  • Experiment. There’s a lot of untapped opportunities on Twitter. Publishing house WW Norton is a great example.
  • Someone asked a question about how to protect your art online. Glen’s response: Obscurity is worse than piracy. (I agree).
  • Best idea I heard: Showcase talent and personalities associated with your brand using @mentions. There are tons of artists, managers, and staff on Twitter now. Why aren’t arts organization’s “official” accounts highlighting more of these people’s personal/professional use of Twitter? More curation and exposure wanted!

Finally was Mark Coatney from Tumblr:

  • Tumblr is the “simplest way to share information and connect.” 94 million people use it every month, 50% of those are in the US.
  • Tumblr “reduces the time between thought & action” in microblogging.
  • 40% of Tumblr posts are visuals.
  • Tumblr community is full of curators and remixers, who don’t necessarily consider themselves artists, but are often creating art.
  • Best idea I heard: Not enough people use the “call in” feature of Tumblr posts. What if audience members could call in post-performance audio responses & your arts org would post them as a podcast each week?

Alan Levine, CIO of the Kennedy Center was our consummate host, and left us with this final thought, “Why is it that so many people spend so much time on social media?” If we can tap into that, the future of the arts won’t be in danger.



Devon Smith
24 Usable Hours

PDX small business owner, statistics nerd, reluctant consultant, avid vagabond, arts & #nptech. Co-founder @measurecreative — strategy for progressive causes.