A Reality, A Challenge, An Adventure

Performing Arts Marketing Online

I’ve been working here at Schipul for almost a year now. I came here after 4+ years of working for the Society for the Performing Arts in Houston, TX. During this time, my mind has not strayed far from trying to find better ways for performing arts organizations to harness the power of the Internet to enhance audience development and, more importantly, sell more tickets.

This post is a first step in helping performing arts institutions to better understand and use the Internet for their organizations and their artists. I welcome your feeback, and hope you forward this on to anyone you know that works for a performing arts organization if you find it useful.

A Reality: Performing Arts needs SEO

You probably think an organization like Lincoln Center wouldn’t need Search Engine Optimization.  You’re wrong.

Despite being quite familiar with their site, I had to Google them first to find their site. Today’s web user is very reluctant to start slapping .com on anything you want on the web.  For instance, try typing whitehouse.com into your browser. You will not find our President.

Need more proof? Take a look at this report from Google Insights about searches including the words lincoln and center. NOTE: These results are from New York state.


I don’t know about you, but I know Lincoln Center is in New York City. Yet above you can see that many people actually search for “lincoln center nyc” or “lincoln center ny”. Again, these are searched from the state of New York. The point here is that regardless of how strong your brand or position is in a patron’s mind, they will more likely be Googling you or the performer first.

Wait! Don’t go optimizing your performances just  yet. You need to develop your strategy first. You’re probably thinking you’ll succeed if you start optimizing around the same time you start marketing the performances through your other outlets. That’s not going to work. You need at least three months of continuous optimization to start getting attention of the great and powerful Google. This means your online marketing should not, in any way, be tied to your other marketing plans. Why?

Newspapers are dying because they thought reprinting their paper on the web was all they needed to do. They were wrong. You must market to an online audience (i.e. Google) if you want people to find your web site. This means you need to start treating Google like your oldest subscriber and donor.

A Challenge: Performing Arts needs Video

Do you remember when we all thought how crazy it was to have a camera on a cell phone? Now we have phones offering HD video! But there’s a HUGE drawback as it’s not so easy to transmit video via today’s web. However, as the Internet continues to become more mobile, and the transmission lines get faster and more widespread, sharing video is going to become as ubiquitous as photo sharing is today.

Today, many performing artists rely on photos to tell their story. Take this image from Diavolo’s Trajectoire.

But doesn’t this video do a better job of telling their story?

Of course, it’s not just about presenting it, it’s HOW you share the video. Take this video I’ve embedded from Alvin Ailey Dance Company. NOTE: Alvin Ailey has restricted our ability to share their videos to this format.

Revelations from AlvinAileyAmericanDanceTheater on Vimeo.

Not very impressive, is it? If you do decide to click on it, you will bear witness to one of the greatest displays of American choreography the world has ever seen. But if you’re like most web users,  you are more likely to trust the Diavolo video link  (32K+ hits) over the link from Alvin Ailey (26K+ hits).

Proving a picture is worth 6,000 clicks.

Artists and presenting organizations have to work together to provide better opportunities for patron video consumption. It’s not about showing entire pieces or performances, it’s about whetting the appetite of an audience that is starved for good content. And like we’ve seen above, how you allow your patrons and fans to present is important as well.

An Adventure: Check in, Experience the Performing Arts

Do you remember your reaction when you first heard someone talk about Twitter? It was probably the same reaction you have had listening to someone talk about Foursquare, Gowalla or SCVNGR. I must admit, I long fought against the location-based check in services. However, the more I learn about them, the more I begin to see the dawning of a new level of personal interaction.

The purpose behind these services isn’t to alert people of your location, it’s to tell a story about a location. Every time you walk into a special place, like a performing arts venue, a memory is made. You are not the person you were after you’ve walked into one of your special locations.

For a performing arts organization’s patrons, this is a regular experience every time they walk into your performance hall. The hall is your sandbox, and you now have some pretty amazing toys to play with in it. Whether you create photo contests with Instagram or Hipstamatic, or offer discounts to patrons who check in via Gowalla or SCVNGR, you now have the ability, generally for FREE, to create memories and expand your patrons’ experiences beyond the stage and performance.

Performing Arts Online

I want to explore these and other ways the Internet can be used to tell the story of performing arts over the course of this year. I can tell you now, the performing arts groups are not fully utilizing the power of the web to further their mission and vision. My goal, my New Year’s resolution, is to help change that.

I hope this is a first step in the right direction.

Friday Fun Post: In Ur Interwebz

When I started blogging several years back, it was considered a cardinal sin to devote an entire post to nothing but pictures of your cats. It was a standard bored blogger fallback. Nothing interesting to say, but still want to put up a post so your readers will check in? HEY GUYS, LOOK AT THIS CUTE THING MY CAT DID! Perhaps understandably, to many people those posts signaled a blogger who had just lost all street cred. [Blogger “street” cred being so very important of course.]

Funny how times have changed. Now it’s not only acceptable to post pictures of your cats, if you slap a silly saying on top of it you have the potential of becoming an internet sensation overnight. If you’ve ever visited the Schipul office, you know that we have a fondness for these four-legged furry creatures. Some of us have cats that are so talented they tweet! LOLCat images find themselves in just about every office-wide email thread, and some of us [not saying who] might have a small collection of the images prepared for any occasion that might arise.

We’re also big fans of (client) IKEA. From delicious lunches to roaming the aisles looking for that new great thing we just have. to. have. So naturally, when we got wind yesterday of a marketing experiment from IKEA UK that involved dropping 100 cats in a store overnight, just to see what would happen, we fell in love. It’s a very creative campaign and as you’ll see, resulted in some lovely images. We can’t wait to see what the final product looks like.

UPDATED: Here’s the final product! Thanks @McTello for the link!

Another big event in Schipul-land this week was the introduction of Google’s new instant search. Now that we’ve all gotten a chance to play with it, it’s interesting to look at how this new move from Google will change the way we search, and as a result, the way we build websites.

But you didn’t want to hear about any of that stuff right now. This is FRIDAY FUN time! So instead, check out the fun application of the instant search from Urlesque.

Now that we’ve killed your afternoon workplace productivity… Have a great weekend everyone!

Trend Tuesday: Free Office Software on the Internet

With the rising popularity of smart phones and tablet devices, the business world is undoubtedly moving towards a mobile driven workforce. Since we are now constantly connected to the internet, the idea of   “cloud based” computing is becoming more practical. Google capitalized on this by creating Google Docs – a word processor accessed through the internet, rather than the traditional local program found on your computer, like Microsoft Word.   Google Docs was the first   web based word processor that allowed users to create and edit documents from any computer across any network. Naturally, Microsoft and other companies followed suit in order to keep their software relevant (and affordable) because of the fact, Google Docs is free. This led me to ask, Which one is best?

Google Docs– A free web based processor, presentation, and spreadsheet application. Users can create and edit documents online while collaborating in real-time with other users (meaning multiple people can edit a document at the same time). Includes a simple web interface that allows users to either save the file to a local computer, email it, or save it online. A downside is that there are limitations to the size of a file you create.

Open Office software logoOpen Office– A completely free and open source offline office application. While Open Office doesn’t have the advantage of a web based application like Google Docs, it includes advanced features that compete with Microsoft Office. Open Office includes support for the .doc format allowing users to create and edit Microsoft Word files.

ZoHo– A web based application, similar to Google Docs. Features a richer interface than the other two and like Open Office, can import many different file types like Microsoft Word. ZoHo doesn’t include as many features like Footnotes and Headers, which can be a big drawback for academics. Still, ZoHo is an adequate web based alternative for people looking to manipulate Microsoft Word files, something Google Docs can’t do.

The next version of Microsoft Office 2010, competes directly with Google by including cloud-based web apps that supplement the standard apps, Word, Excel and PowerPoint. The biggest drawback however is that Microsoft Office costs over $100 while the word processors listed above are completely free. Users must decide between the unquestioned advanced features of Microsoft Office and the convenience and price of web-based apps.

If you would like to explore this topic further, please read Mashable’s article on Microsoft Office

Google search page gets a facelift

We love seeing well though out updates to tools we use regularly.   Google’s latest search page re-design makes finding the content online you want even even easier.   While many of these features are not exactly new, it’s nice to see them placed a bit more in the forefront so many might be new to you!

Here are a few Google search options to know about – you can click on the image above to blow up our labeled screenshot or watch this handy video to learn from the mouths of Google all-stars themselves:

  1. Universal Search options – the Web is an enormous place and narrowing down what you’d like to search through can make it easier for you to find relevant content.   Search through the entire Web, news items, blogs, images and more.   Your time is valuable and Google is helping you reclaim some of that 🙂
  2. Set your preferred timeframe – if you only want content added recently or want to take a step back in time and look up Web site results from 2009, Google helps you make it happen.
  3. Location location location – given how important location-based marketing is these days, Google lets you   select where your information is coming from and that doesn’t just mean geographically speaking either.   You can also select to search your ‘social circle’ on Google for content, which will pull in links from you Google chat pals and contacts, direct connections linked from your Google profile and even content from your Google Reader feeds.   Learn more about Google Social Search here.
  4. New or re-visited sites, you decide – sometimes you’re hungry for something new and refreshing.   If you don’t want to go back and visit sites Google knows you’ve already visited, you don’t have to.   Here’s to new adventures!
  5. Pick your view, any view– Google even lets you customize your own search results page view:
    1. The Google Wonder Wheel breaks down your search term into different categories or clusters, giving you some more search ideas
    2. Google timeline gives you a different view of search results, for the more linear-minded
    3. Related search gives you extra search ideas that may help you find the information that you need (hey, we could all use a little help now and then)
  6. Something different – Google is pretty darn smart and these ‘something different’ search options might help give you an extra boost into other search possibilities in a similar category of your original search.