Creating compelling, share-friendly content for your arts organization

by Meg Fowler Tripp for National Arts Marketing Project

For busy—and often solo—arts marketers, the task of creating engaging, thoughtful social media content can seem daunting at times. You know your social audiences want a post that gets them excited about what you do, that inspires them to interact with you … and maybe even share your post with their own networks. That’s why they followed you in the first place, right? Right.

But when you’ve got a mile-long to-do list, inspiration doesn’t always strike when you want it to. Sometimes it doesn’t strike for days. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to make the process of developing social content simpler, more straightforward … and maybe even more fun.

Adopt a “mosaic” mindset

The rise of social media networks put many marketers in an uncomfortable position—a position we knew we were always in, but now we had to acknowledge it to be a reality: we aren’t totally in control.

Yes, you can select your words, images, channels, timing, and responses carefully, for all manner of promotions, campaigns, and asks. You can build websites and print brochures that tell your story with panache. You can create media that goes viral … even just in your local arts community.

But you still can’t control everything that gets said about you, or how everyone thinks of you. Your reputation isn’t an oil painting: finished, final, and hung on the wall. Rather, it’s a mosaic: a set of tiles in the midst of many other tiles that seeks to convey a particular idea or shape. The risk is that those other tiles can distract from or confuse the shape you’re trying to create.

 Your reputation isn’t an oil painting: finished, final, and hung on the wall. Rather, it’s a mosaic: a set of tiles in the midst of many other tiles that seeks to convey a particular idea or shape.

That’s why your best bet is to place your own tiles in such a thoughtful way that they’re not only a compelling representation of who you are, but they influence how others place their tiles around you—letting your mosaic shine through.

It takes some effort and consistency, but it’s worth it.

Put yourself in your audience’s shoes

Sometimes there’s a bit of a gap between what we want our audiences to see, and what they want to see. We might create a post to achieve one of our goals: promote a particular show or event, thank a particular donor, or fulfill a particular administrative function. And while it might be information we want out there, it probably won’t do much to engage or grow our audience.

That’s why the most magnetic marketing channels and profiles balance their content types to suit their audience … not just their to-do list.

Here are a few ways to ensure you’re truly giving the people what they want:

  • For every administrative/task-oriented post, put up a post that has no other purpose than to delight or engage. In fact, if you do them both within a short timeframe, you’ll be more likely to get eyeballs on your administrative post, too.
  • If the information you’re posting is for a particular segment of your followers, establish your target audience up front in your post. That way, readers can skip over posts that aren’t for them, and the readers you want to reach will know to tune in.
  • Do your best to balance text-heavy posts with image posts and multimedia posts. Different people consume information and entertainment in different ways, and the more variety you can offer, the more likely you are to grow your audience.
  • Don’t be afraid to share content that isn’t strictly about you. Most people have a variety of interests, or have interests that link closely to others they possess. Try sharing content from artists your organization features, or articles about subjects your organization addresses. Just because it’s not strictly about you doesn’t mean it can’t be “on brand” (more about that in a moment). And just like your mom always told you: no one wants to talk to someone who only talks about themselves!
  • If someone shares content about you, ask if you can share it, too! It might be their experience at your organization or an event you put on, or how they feel about something you are showing or sharing. You’ll want to stay on the side of positivity, sure, but it’s a nice way of showing your supporters you appreciate them.

Build your brand as you build your audience

In our noisy, demanding, and often fragmented social media world, it can be easy to lose sight of our larger marketing goals—and the fundamental task of building our brand.

That’s why it’s important to give our social media channels a look through our brand lens on a regular basis. With your brand messages, attributes, and visual guidelines in hand, ask yourself:

  • How does this post reflect / not reflect our brand personality?
  • Does this post target an audience we’ve identified for ourselves?
  • How does this post contribute to our story as an organization, or reflect our attributes as an organization?
  • How do the visuals on the post interact / compare with the other visual posts I’ve put up? Would our followers see “us” in it?
  • Can we give our followers more context for how this post relates to what we do?

Don’t forget the ‘social’ in social media

The final step in creating engaging social media content is actually inviting your followers or readers to respond: to leave a comment, to vote on a poll, to share their own story alongside yours, to offer a thumbs-up, to share the post with their own community, and so on.

If you’re not sure what kind of response you want, or what sort of response people might have, your content might not be ready for prime time. You want to foster interaction … not an awkward silence.

Don’t be afraid to be explicit about the types of responses your followers could give you, or to ask them to respond in a particular way. They don’t have to follow your instructions … but they don’t have to wonder what you’re hoping for, either!