How some arts organisations are (still) using Twitter

Over the past month, I’ve started using Twitter lists more to group the ridiculously high number of people I follow (over 2K) into more meaningful and useful feeds.

The effect has been striking, most of all in the way I’ve come to understand how some arts brands are (still) using Twitter. Here are some observations I’ve made.
1. Some brands on Twitter are noisy

Orchestras, festivals and concert series are often the noisiest, often the laziest and the most boring. When they all start name-checking each other in tweets, it gets even more boring. Brands need to reassess their strategy after shorter periods of time, implementing change of voice or editorial direction more quickly. I’ve unfollowed followed a number of high profile brands because of this.

2. Use a Live Blog

If you as a brand are tweeting more than four times in an hour, eight hours a day then you need to use a live blog (and only then if every single post is interesting – live blogs are phenomenally difficult to pull off editorially).


3. Engagement is a loose term

‘Engagement’ on Twitter (conversation) is a loose term for most brands, ranging from the basic narcissistic retweet of positive customer feedback to largely superficial back-slapping. There are some examples of good customer enquiries / feedback amongst orchestras, but I’ve not seen many. I can’t really see how meaningful conversations really can be had between a brand and a customer or how it really helps the brand improve their ‘product’ (unless it’s a particularly strong social media campaign – I’ve not seen many of them).

The Debussy Google Doodle: lovely, but because everyone was tweeting it and saying the same thing, messages soon became boring and the actual subject went cold.
The Debussy Google Doodle: lovely, but because everyone was tweeting it and saying the same thing, messages soon became boring and the actual subject went cold.




4. Some writers aren’t up to the job

There are still lazy writers out there – those who power the branded accounts a who think their followers can’t see through an exclamation mark or the desperate reliance on the word ‘excited’ or the phrase ‘looking forward to’. If you’re using either of these, then what you’re conveying is entirely the opposite.

5. Some tweets don’t add value

Listen to us playing a [C Major scale] * later on @BBCRadio3′  is getting really boring.

* Amend as appropriate.


6. Beware Ad-Hoc Reckons 

Invitations to tweet what I think about a particular issue, performance, chord or interview are infuriating.

‘What will you be doing?’ begs someone to respond with the answer ‘getting gacked off my tits and spending a fortune on hookers’; similarly, ‘What are you looking forward to?’. Such is the banality of both invitations for conversation. Such calls to action (broadcast and non-broadcast) are the present day equivalent of ill-thought ‘ad-hoc reckons’ sent via SMS, of which the Mitchell and Webb sketch so brilliantly ridiculed.



7. Passionate individuals are more important 

More and more I find myself steering clear of the personalities and gravitating towards those with whom I have some kind of personal connection. This way I find I’ve avoided the hype, the PR and the banal attempts at engagement. It’s also a good way of avoiding the inevitable disappointment when the attempts at engaging are met with a stoney silence. Those with a known passion, obvious knowledge and proven experience shine through for me: they are of considerably more value than a marketing tweet for a concert or a programme.


8. Avoid name-checking

I recently saw this tweet on my timeline (IDs amended to save embarrassment):

Well looking forward to @aconcert at @avenue with @agroovyartist @anothergroovyartist and @thegrooviestartistever.

Boring. It’s a series of shameless namechecks for the sole benefit of the people you’ve name checked. Any others who pay attention to this tweet are left with a distinctly sour taste in their mouths.

Don’t do it. It’s dumb.


9. Be interesting, be playful, but don’t be smug.

Back at the beginning of Twitter, BBC technology correspondent Rory Cellan-Jones repeatedly warned green journos dabbling with the service by saying that he never said anything on Twitter he wouldn’t be prepared to say on-air. Whilst we’re not all journalists and we don’t all have an opportunity to go on television or radio, the principle still applies six years on: if you saw or heard yourself or anyone else saying what you’ve tweeted on television or radio, would you sneer at it, dismiss it or sit up and take notice? Like television or radio, social media can amplify all the best and the worst elements of an individual’s personality. Banality is even more shameful. So remember: Tweeting is blogging;  Blogging is writing; Tweeting is a special kind of headline writing. It’s an art.


10. Retweeting is spam

A significant number of people just retweet things that have been sent to them. Again, annoying (and a bit stupid) as its spammy, misses any kind of context and only encourages me to switch off retweeting in my Twitter client.




One thought to “How some arts organisations are (still) using Twitter”

  1. Hypocritically, I agree about the name checks. Photographers are worse than bands. “I’m shooting @LOOKATMYBIGNAME tonight!” It’s narcissistic. I know it’s narcissistic because when I mention walking by someone of note I tweet it because I want to feel cool, if by proxy, if only for a second.

    I disagree about the retweets. I’ve found some of the best articles and memes via retweets. I also like to think it’s a vague analogue to a Facebook “Like.” However, you’re talking about brands, and I’m just a humble individual. I suppose I agree that brands and branding should create originality as part of their, er, branding.

    Then again, can the current Fruit Pastilles campaign, a classic advert from the 80s, count as a sort advertising equivalent of a retweet? Pastilles for thought…

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