Beth Kanter on Leveraging Social Media for Arts Organizations

The Wallace Initiative is the major funder of this program aimed at increasing social media capacity for arts organizations, led by noted non-profit technology expert Beth Kanter. Here she shares some insights from the masterclass that kicked off the program. Watch this space as well as Beth’s Blog for more from the 30 organizations participating in the extended program as well as Beth and the other trainers.

Theatre Bay Area, with support from the Wallace Foundation, Grants for the Arts, the San Francisco Foundation, the Hewlett Foundation and the Koret Foundation, launched “Leveraging Social Media: Becoming A Networked Arts Nonprofit,” a peer learning project to build capacity for arts organizations in using social media effectively.

"The people formerly known as the audience" - Jeff Jarvis

Zoetica designed and is delivering the six-month program that kicked off last month with a day-long master class for over 200 representatives of the bay area arts community. I started the morning with a participatory session called “Crawl, Walk, Run, and Fly” that was designed to help arts organizations assess their current level of practice and to unpack the knowledge in the room.

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The session included “Living Case Studies,” from people in the audience. For example, the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus shared how they were using a new mobile technology, QR Codes, to go green and save on printing costs.

Next on the agenda was a presentation by Geoff Livingston on social media strategy and the results of a benchmarking study of arts organizations by Devon Smith. The afternoon was jammed pack with six mini-workshops on the tactical and practical of how to use social media, including Location-Based Social Networks, Facebook, Twitter, Storytelling, Listening, and Measurement.

The next six months, 30 arts organizations will go through an intensive series of peer sessions, all working on a project that will culminate in sharing lessons learned. It’s a sort of social media lab where participants learn together in public. You can follow along on the wiki where these arts organizations are building social media their strategies and implementing action learning projects.

My background is in the arts, having studied classical flute over 35 years ago before moving into my first job as an arts administrator for a small arts organization. Whenever I get to design and teach workshops for arts organizations, it is always an inspiration.

While “smaller” arts organizations have fewer resources to work with, they have an advantage in embracing social media because their way of working is more agile and they are more willing to experiment. All arts organizations, no matter their budget size, should have a good affinity with social media because getting results is about sparking conversation. What great art doesn’t engage? And, as Joe Goode tweeted, the key to success is for arts organizations is to make their social media as human as their art.

Beth Kanter is a co-founding partner at Zoetica, author of Beth’s Blog, co-author of the Networked Nonprofit, and Visiting Scholar at the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

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In 2008, The San Francisco Foundation (TSFF) and Grants for the Arts/San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund (GFTA) embarked on a four-year funding partnership to encourage systemic and sustainable structural change in the relationships of Bay Area arts organizations to their audiences, supported by the Wallace Foundation. Community offerings during the grant period (2008-2011) included seminars, workshops, large public convenings, implementation grants, development of a regional shared mailing list, and expansion of the website.



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