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Not Just Butts in Seats…Eyeballs on Screens

Tim Mikulski

Tim Mikulski

I have now successfully attended four Americans for the Arts Annual Conventions (Philadelphia, Seattle, Baltimore, and San Diego) as a member of the staff.

In my previous two roles, I worked with the dedicated members of the State Arts Action Network while in the Government and Public Affairs Department and I managed the Arts Education Network under the Local Arts Advancement Department.

While in those positions, I was happy to attend conventions as a way to get to the know our members beyond email addresses and phone numbers, but it was through Twitter that I was able to network with my new arts education colleagues from across the country before I even met them.

It’s amazing what kind of relationships you can build 140 characters at a time.

I began using Twitter as a method to gather information for the newsletters that I write for the organization. I hadn’t even thought of using it in such a way — just following people, organizations, newspapers, etc. — that I could get quick access to arts articles from the internet without having to rely on my old standby — the Google News Alert.

Suddenly, I was accessing information that supplemented the 15 alerts I have coming to my inbox each day.

On top of that, I was able to share my news with members of the arts education community (a community I was joining for the first time) just by sharing it with the #artsed hashtag.

So, that’s how my Twitter branding happened.

Since then, I’ve leveraged @artswatch as vehicle for general arts news — it’s named after our free, bi-weekly newsletter Arts Watch — and I post items to it throughout each weekday.

So that leads me to my current position as communications and content manager.

Going back to my original point, this San Diego convention was a little different for me for a few reasons.

First, I spent a lot of time manning our new Social Media Bar. It was a table set up near our Americans for the Arts Resource Center, where I was able to take questions about Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, etc., and demonstrate how we utilize all of those things — providing some advice to those who were looking for new ideas or were afraid of trying something new.

Second, I was offered the chance to host a Career 360 session about building your personal social media brand. The discussions were excellent and each one was a little different thanks to the varied people sharing their input, insight, and questions with me and the other participants.

All of that led to me to:

Seven Simple Social Media Tips

  1. Start with something new. Try a new type of social media that you haven’t attempted before. Just sign up for a Twitter account or create a local business Facebook page for your organization. Observe how others use it and see if you find it helpful. If it’s not helpful after a few months, drop it and move on. We don’t have staff time to waste on methods that aren’t meeting your objectives.
  2. Ask lots of questions. Talk to friends inside and outside the arts about the tools you are currently using — or those you want to use. There’s nothing better than an honest opinion from someone you trust when it comes to social media advice.
  3. Cross-promote. Promote your Facebook page via Twitter. Use your blog to send people to your Flickr photo stream. We’re not talking butts in seats, we’re talking eyeballs on screens.
  4. UPDATE. UPDATE. UPDATE. The way to gain more traction in this realm is to update your content. I don’t encourage Tweeting 25 times in an hour or uploading new blog posts every 10 minutes. For example, I try to space out new blog posts by an hour or so and I may Tweet a lot in the morning when I know people are around, but then slow down by the end of the day (just remember that your COB, isn’t COB in every U.S. time zone).
  5. Self-Promotion is okay. People know you and want you to share their knowledge with them. I know your mom always said not to brag, but sharing information and experiences is not bragging.
  6. Experiment. I learned most of these tips (and others) just by trying it out and looking at my analytics. On the blog, we now have several hundred views by mid-morning. That is something that has changed since I took over in February. In the beginning, I might have waited to post until around 11:00 a.m., but now I know people visit our site while they ease themselves into work, so I try to provide content by 9:30 or 10:00 if it works out.
  7. Bit.ly works. When posting to Facebook or Twitter, always use bit.ly to shorten your URL and make sure you create an account with them. They track the number of clicks on a link by number and time, so you can better determine your social media posting strategies.

I am definitely not an expert and welcome any additional tips, comments or suggestions below.

See you in San Antonio!

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