Don't Even THINK about Social Media until Your Web Site and E-news Are Working WellWe have a family membership at an upstate New York sculpture center featuring outside exhibitions. It's a unique and beautiful place; one we can't visit that often (it's an hour away) but a venue we want to support. We joined for the first time this year.

The center has an incredible reputation — because it's so unique and beautiful — which has carried it far. So as a member, I expected to have the pleasure of a compelling series of communications, online and off. Didn't happen. Here's what did:

  • We received a thank you note for our membership (thumbs up) but it didn't mention any upcoming exhibits or events (where was the call to action, the opportunity to get involved at the next level?).
  • I went to the Web site but saw only an incomplete calendar of events for the next week (there are lots of concerts, tours, child projects there). The center is more than an hour away from the NY metro area, so most visitors have to plan ahead. It's not a drop-in experience. That's hard to do without advance notice.
  • So I emailed requesting to be put on the e-news list (didn't see where to subscribe online). But there's no e-news! Instead, I was told that they do have a twice-yearly print newsletter, the next issue coming in a few months but they'd be pleased to send me the last one.
  • Yet, the center has an active Facebook fan page (for those members and interested others who are even on Facebook), with 1,045 fans to date. I wonder how many members that includes; Storm King never told us about its Facebook page in any member communications.
  • Then we just received a full-color 16-page annual report, printed on heavy paper, featuring 10 pages of donors names. Expensive to produce and mail, but it has no value to me.

Even though we can assume every org has a range of target audiences, members have to be a priority for every arts and culture organization. For this one, we don't seem to be.

Here's what I recommend to the center:

  • List out the three or fewer target audiences you need to engage more effectively in order to meet the center's current goals. Members should be on the list. Then learn their habits and preferences (e.g. e-news vs. Facebook fan page).
  • Figure out how to engage current members so they become even more loyal. Make it easy for them (i.e. with advance notice of events) to become more involved. Make them/us want to be marketing messengers for the center.
  • Ensure your Web site and e-news (and despite the challenges of getting attention via email, you gotta have one) are tight, focused, timely and working for your organization…before you even stick a toe into social media waters.

Please share your suggestions for the center. What would you do if you were them? Tell us by clicking Comments below.

NOTE: Here are some brief guides to strengthening your Web site and e-news. For more, subscribe here to the Getting Attention e-update!

Flickr photo: al binami

Nancy Schwartz in Case Studies, Nonprofit Communications, Planning and Evaluation, Social Media | 3 comments
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