This post was originally written for the Culture Builds Florida Blog.
You may think that opera and technology don’t go together, but the arts are quite perfect for integration with all things digital. Here are 5 things that we use regularly that enable Palm Beach Opera to get the word out about what we do and further engage our audience.
1. Website – Everyone knows that having a website is imperative to any arts organization. However, a website is only as good as how well it is managed and the quality of information contained within. A few years ago, Palm Beach Opera switched from a traditional CMS (content management system) to WordPress, an open-source CMS. This small change has revolutionized how we are able to manage our website. You may have heard of WordPress.com which is a free web-based blogging platform but WordPress can also be used to create and manage a website on your own server. Any website is a kinetic entity that should be updated often to reflect upcoming events and using a web-based open-source CMS like WordPress allows us to do that quickly and easily from any computer or device with an internet connection.
2. Website Analytics – Website analytics are nothing new, with most people utilizing the powerful platform of Google Analytics to monitor website activity. (If you don’t look at your website stats at least a couple times per week, I highly recommend that you do. What you see will most likely be quite eye-opening.) In addition to the standard analytics, we use two other sites that give incredibly useful information: Chartbeat and Crazy Egg. Chartbeat shows real-time analytics so that we can see how many people are on our site at any given time and their activity as it happens. This ability can be especially useful to track traffic after an enewsletter or other email communication has gone out to ensure visitors are visiting the intended pages. It also is great for monitoring traffic during any kind of web promotion or contest. You will be able to immediately see if conversions aren’t occurring as intended and make the necessary changes.
CrazyEgg is a fantastic site that gives you heatmap data for any page on your website. In the past, heatmaps were available to only large for-profit companies because of the high cost. With Crazy Egg, heatmaps are now available to all and the cost is very minimal. Studies have shown that there is a very high correlation between eye movement and mouse movement and that is how Crazy Egg is able to give this sort of data. Heatmaps will show you where people are looking (and clicking) on any page of your website. This is especially useful in optimizing your homepage and landing pages throughout the site. When used in conjunction with an easily-updatable website, necessary updates can be made quickly and easily to improve performance.
3. Social Media Management – At Palm Beach Opera, we use Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube as our main social media platforms. (It is important to remember to only be on the social media platforms that work for your organization. Don’t feel pressured to be on too many if they don’t make sense or you don’t have time to manage them all.) It can be tough to keep up with multiple platforms especially if your organization has a small staff or the responsibility falls to one person only. To help with this, we use Sprout Social to manage social media activity. Sprout Social aggregates the activity on our social media profiles so that it can be seen in one place making it much easier to manage. It also gives stats and data so that you can have useful demographic information about your friends and followers as well as statistics about activity and engagement levels. Sprout Social is very nonprofit friendly as they offer a $9/month plan that will fit most organizations’ needs plus a 50% nonprofit discount.
4. Mobile – When we debuted our iPhone app a few years ago, Palm Beach Opera was one of the first arts organizations to have an app but now being mobile-friendly is becoming more and more important. We were able to build our app using InstantEncore’s platform and it is very cost-effective. It may not make sense for every organization to have an app but you do need to make sure that your website is mobile-friendly. More and more people are surfing the web using a mobile device and, whether it is on a phone or with a tablet, arts organizations need to be ready and keep up with the trend. If you happen to be using open-source CMS to run your website, there are a variety of plugins that will create a mobile version of your site quickly and easily.
Also, sites utilizing responsive design capabilities will do this automatically for you. The first step is to view your site using a smartphone or tablet to see what it looks like. Is all of your content visible? Does the navigation function? Is it easy to move around the site? If the answer to any of these is “no,” you will want to put a plan in place to improve the mobile viewing experience as soon as possible. You never know, your next ticket purchase may come from someone viewing your site on an iPad or Kindle Fire!
5. Tweet Seats – There has been a lot of attention on tweeting during performances recently giving cases both for and against it. There is no one way to do tweet seats, and they might not be appropriate for your organization depending on your venue or programming. We decided to try it out this past season not for our regular performances, but rather for our final dress rehearsals. We offered a small amount of seats to the dress rehearsal to people who signed up on our website who are active on Twitter with the understanding that they would tweet about what they were experiencing during the show. They were encouraged to be honest and use their own voice in their tweets and to give any thoughts or feelings that they had. The first event went very well and word started to spread and soon we had a great number of ticket requests for subsequent dress rehearsals. We were lucky to attract people who wouldn’t be considered “opera-goers” and many of those who came to tweet had never been to an opera before. Coincidentally, we also attracted some members of the media at local TV stations, which resulted in additional media coverage for the opera. Based on the success of the events this season, we plan on continuing to offer tweet seats in future seasons to bring opera to members of the community at large.