Our Exec's Interview on Digital Engagement

Eugenia Bowman, AXIS Dance Company's Executive Director, had a recent interview on learning to build and run a Social Media engine!

Here's a snippet of that interview with Lutman & Associates, who had developed a course for organizations having difficulty developing of digital and web presence for AXIS Dance Company. 

Eugenia (pictured right) and Rebecca Fortelka (On Screen) discuss Social Media reach and strategy in weekly meetings. 

Eugenia (pictured right) and Rebecca Fortelka (On Screen) discuss Social Media reach and strategy in weekly meetings. 

I: What is the role of fear in your work?

    E: I sat in trepidation having some real barriers because I was ignorant, frankly, about how easy it is to use social media. Prior to coming to AXIS I never had the benefit of working with a Social Media Coordinator. Rebecca Fortelka, an AXIS Board Member, had a degree in marketing and management and was hired as an independent contractor. I started Skyping with her once a week and she started bombarding me with resources and tips. That helped me to become a little more familiar with the terms and trends and what was necessary.

    So what I did to circumvent that fear and ignorance was to read everything I could, attend webinars, go to boot camps, and then just start plugging at it. I brought on an amazing marketing specialist as a volunteer, Sharon Fletcher, who skyped with Rebecca and I almost weekly for the initial build out and continues tracking and supporting our progress. I learned how to write concisely (we try to avoid getting the “read more” prompt).

    In advance of “East Bay Gives,” a day of nonprofit fundraising, the East Bay Community Foundation did a social media boot camp and they provided a template to work with around the campaign and two 1-2 hour trainings. The most important lesson during the boot camp was the importance of “link campaigning.” They shared how important it was to find like-minded people and organizations, sharing content, and building an expanded community network.

How did your organization get started on social media?

    Rebecca pushed the organization early on to start, but perhaps no one had the time or bandwidth, or understood how important it was. I made some strategic decisions when I came in. I hired for Systems, IT, and Finance capability and took on the responsibility of learning our audiences and content issues. I think it’s one of the best decisions I made.

    Rebecca did some analytics and found which hashtags had the most juice for us. We picked 3 or 4 that we pretty much stay consistent with (#SpokesPerson, for instance) and then, depending on the programmatic part, we alter them a bit. When we’re on a tour there’s a certain hashtag, when there’s an education event for youth there’s another. We also looked at national trends for big campaigns that related to our mission, divvied them up, and then became consistent. We keep our hashtags current, and continue to experience and learn what content relates to our audiences. Now we’re testing times of day, making sure there is always a picture, article, or video.

    For East Bay Gives we did a step-by-step with our board—how you invite people to like our page, where to find our events, this is how you invite people, this is how you share our post on your wall. We hosted a National Convening on the Future of Physically Integrated Dance in NYC in May. We got organized ahead of time and created a hashtag campaign. We hit 495,000 timelines!  We have regional meetings now following along on the future of physically-integrated dance and created a toolkit and modified it later for our summer-intensive scholarship recipients to become brand-ambassadors [alongside our board, volunteers and staff]. It was clear for the regionals we needed to do a lot more training, and now we have a program for that.

Was there a tipping point when you became comfortable with using social media? 

    To get started, Facebook was enough for me, but Rebecca divvied Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter up and figured out which was the best based on our analytics. The minute one of my posts hit 1,000 views I was hooked! And then 5,000 people would see a post and then we got up to 15,000 people seeing one post. I could see it spread like wildfire.

     Now we’re watching our website. We’re tracking the time they spend on it; what interests them. We’ve gone from people spending 45 seconds to spending 2 minutes, looking at the history of the organization, our bibliography, etc. Our big concern right now is landing pages and calls to action...

    I had a goal of reaching 100,000 people in 6 months. We reached 100,000 people in 4 months! Two months later we reached over 450,000 at the convening. Collaborative campaigns were our next step, so we have been reaching out and creating partnerships with other organizations, doing joint posts and sharing blogs.

Have you ever made a mistake?

    One mistake was over-saturating our channels. We were on a roll, hitting 1,000, 2,000, 5,000, 15,000. East Bay Gives happened and, since we had prizes we were competing for, we had timed posts scheduled for every prize we wanted. But the Kimbia network slammed… We still had something every hour on the hour and it was too much. That was a lesson. We’re now regaining our post hits, keeping most at a minimum of 1500 again, being more selective, not ramming things down people’s throats on a constant basis!

What advice would you give to someone who is just getting started?

    Rebecca says, “It's just a pound sign people!” There's nothing to be nervous about. Even if you over-saturate and you watch your numbers go down, you’ll figure it out. You just pull back, and become more selective. Leave people wanting more! And think strategically. And have fun. I’ve learned a lot and feel like AXIS is creating the foundation for great things in the future.

Lutman & Associates is a consulting enterprise working nationally with philanthropic, cultural, and media organizations. The Philadelphia-based Wyncote Foundation commissioned a report on digital innovation in legacy cultural institutions in early 2015. The project highlighted how organizations have trouble getting started in digital, so they decided to create a free online course to help folksThey noticed AXIS, and wanted to learn about how AXIS built its programming with such great results in a short period of time.