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September 15, 2009

5 Twitter tips for arts administrators

Only follow folks who post content you're interested in.

Only follow folks who post content you're interested in.

I usually write from the perspective of helping arts organizations in a promotional aspect, and I wanted to change lanes for a moment and talk about Twitter use by arts administrators as individuals who may be struggling with “why.”

“Why do I want to use Twitter?”

“What’s the point of knowing what somebody had for lunch? I really don’t care.”

“I followed everybody and now I can’t handle all the tweets.” (Or “twits,” perhaps if you’re referring the the people who tweet stupid things.)

To help answer these questions and more, I’m going to tell you a bit about how I use Twitter. Now, I’m coming from the perspective of using Twitter as a professional and artistic resource, not just another place to gab. More on that below.

1. Use Twitter as a human filter.

Many of you are I’m sure aware of Google Alerts, which is a service by Google that will deliver content via email to you, based on the keywords you select. I use Google Alerts to bring me all sorts of information. As an example, Google sends me alerts based on the keyword “Arts Marketing.” Most of the time, what is sent to me as something to do with the arts. But sometimes, Google does its best and sends me webpages about “Martial Arts Marketing” since it contains the keywords I told it to look for. That’s a little annoying, and I’m sure I could enter more information into Google to get it to subtract “martial” from any searches, but the point is, Google is programmatic and brings back literal results without any consideration to how valuable it will really be to me. Kung-fu is great, but not in my inbox when I was looking for something else.

My Twitter friends however, are smart. They come across a ton of interesting arts articles each day, they scan them, and then tweet about them on Twitter to spread the word. I do the same. Suddenly, I have a “human search engine network” of people that only pass along the really cool arts stuff that is exactly what I am looking for. That saves me time sorting through stuff that doesn’t matter, and fosters collaboration.

But what if your friends are tweeting things you’re not interested in? That’s simple.

2. Only follow people that post content you’re interested in.

The idea that you should follow everybody that follows you on Twitter is just a recipe for information overload. I’m sure you’ve seen people with 15000 followers, who are following 15000 people. How can you realistically keep track of the constant updates of 15000 people? It’s not possible and you shouldn’t waste your time trying it. I’ve always thought its a little rude actually — since I know the person is following 15000 folks, how important are my individual posts to them? Not very. So, follow those people who provide information you’re interested in most of the time, so that you can really use Twitter as a resource for information.

3. 90% of your posts should be information that is useful to those that follow you.

The lunch updates, the random quotes, the posts that don’t mean anything — just don’t post them. People follow other people for useful information, and I ruthlessly unfollow people who don’t post useful content or who I’m not personally connected to. On the flip side, I try to make each one of my Twitter posts link to an interesting article, useful website, great statistic or other resource that arts folks will find helpful. Cut the noise — make your posts helpful, and don’t follow folks who’s posts aren’t helpful to you.

4. Only use about 120 characters in each post, which leaves room for others to retweet.

Twitter gives you 140 characters, which I know is short. But for people to be able to pass your tweet on to their networks, they need to be able to “quote the source” and mention @groupofminds or @yourname or whatever as the originator of the tweet. If you use all of the available space for your message, there won’t be room for them to add their footnote. This drastically reduces the viral-marketing aspect of your tweets. Just use the Twitter character counter to tell you when you’ve used up 120 characters, and leave the rest.

5. Use a url shortener.

I’d like to hug the person who invented url shortners — you may have heard of one of the most popular: http://tinyurl.com. A url shortener is just that — it takes a really long url such as:

https://groupofminds.com/articles/arts-marketing/dear-facebook-want-a-new-revenue-stream-that-will-help-arts-marketing/685

and makes a shortcut to it that lives permanently on the web, that looks something like:

http://tinyurl.com/n4s7lw

because a shorter url means fewer characters used in Twitter. Pretty smart eh? There are many url shortening sites; a quick search of Google will reveal a bunch of them.

Twitter can be extremely useful to arts administrators, as a way to keep up with people they respect in the field, and as a source of knowledge about trends in the arts. With these simple rules of the road, you’ll be able to tame the Twitter information overload beast, and really get to using the system for the elegant communication it was designed to create.

Ron

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About Ron Evans

I am an arts marketing and consumer psychology researcher, and principal consultant at Group of Minds. I advise leaders on behavioral psychology, marketing & technology to nudge audience behavior. Get in touch via email, on Twitter, or Google+: +Ron Evans