Our online presence is much more than a message board or a way to let people know recent news. It’s how we recruit, fundraise, engage with our community, and most importantly, it’s how we celebrate and advocate for our organisations during both the good and bad times.
Getting your band, orchestra, or music school online has never been easier or more important. In 2021, the challenge is not a lack of tools or platforms to promote on, it’s developing a strategy that is simple and effective and doesn’t become yet another difficult or tedious task for your management team.
Most musicians or organisations do have some level of online presence these days, but in many cases, it can be inconsistent, ineffective or even dated or irrelevant. We’re all guilty from time to time of creating and posting content on an “in the moment” needs basis without any real direction or strategy. This kind of work can be stressful and normally doesn’t yield the sort of results that you are hoping for.
Below are some very simple steps you can take right away. They’re free, easy to understand, and won’t take more than a weekend to accomplish. Let’s get to work!
Let’s start with establishing exactly what presence you already have online. This might be more difficult than you first imagine. Perhaps you have old accounts on social media platforms set up by former committee members or maybe there’s an old website that has never been taken down. Perhaps someone posted the history of your band on Wikipedia 10 years ago but it hasn’t been updated since.
Google your organisation, talk to your members, committee, and former committee members. Make a list of everywhere the organisation has an account and then delete anything that you clearly don’t need anymore.
Before you go any further you need to establish whose contact details should be posted on your online platforms. Your website will allow for as many as you wish of course, but many social media platforms will only allow one and in some cases it’s required.
It’s very common to come across old phone numbers, abandoned email addresses or broken web links on many organisations’ social media platforms. This can cost you a potential enquiry from a new student or sponsor and can cause frustration for those looking to engage with you.
Before we dig a little deeper, go and make sure that your contact details and weblinks are all up to date. This is the quickest and easiest fix to get started with.
Branding is a term we’re all familiar with but sometimes it can be a little daunting for us in the amateur arts world. Marketing and branding seem like activities that are going to cost money and best left to businesses that can afford professional services, but your brand is at the heart of your online (and offline) presence.
Your brand is something that you’re already creating, so let’s make sure we have a plan for it.
Does your organisation have a colour it identifies with?
Does your choir have a font that it uses on all of its programmes?
Do you have a band uniform that is instantly recognisable in your town?
This is your brand! Let’s build on it.
What are your brand colours? Green and gold? Well what kind of green and what kind of gold? Are you being consistent across all of your online and offline material with these colours?
You can use a free tool such as www.colorhunt.co to help you decide on a colour palette which will over time become part of the image people identify with you and your organisation. This site also gives you a Hex Code for each colour. This code is a universally used method to select exact colours and is used by graphic designers, web developers, and printers as well as many of the free programmes I mention in this article.
I know many of you will already have a crest or logo for your organisation. It’s important however to make sure that you have full high-resolution versions of your logo for use on profile pictures, website design, and to be able to send to sponsors and partners when they’re looking to promote you.
Your logo is one area that I would recommend engaging with a graphic designer on. This is most likely going to be the most used image your organisation will have and is something that will last you for years. Logo design can cost anywhere between €200 - €500 and is a great investment. For those who might like to try designing a logo themselves, there are many free online resources for great graphic design.
Now that we have our brand colours and logo, we can start putting them to work. Your online posts on social media should where possible reflect your brand. Unfortunately, social media platforms don’t really give you many tools to create a brand image, but we can do this using some super easy (and free!) online tools.
Canva (www.canva.com) is the easiest tool for most amateurs to create graphic designs with all of the important tools available on the free account. Here you can find templates for your social media posts and even your offline material such as posters and flyers.
Canva comes with hundreds of great templates so you don’t have to design anything from scratch. Just import that new logo, some great photographs, and make sure you’re using those new brand colours consistently and you’ll be creating daily posts that are hugely engaging and instantly identifiable with your organisation.
You’ll also find that Canva has some great additional tools and a bank of images and videos that you can use on the pro account which you might upgrade to when you’ve got comfortable. Alternatives to Canva include Pixlr and Crello and of course there are also advanced tools like Adobe InDesign and Affinity Designer for those of you who might be a little more advanced or adventurous.
Posting photos and videos to your organisation's social media accounts is the best way to engage with your audience and showcase what you do. We all know how to do it and we have access to a great camera in our pocket nearly 24/7. However, you should put some thought into what you’re posting and when you do it.
All too often I come across a post with 20-30 images, many of which aren’t a great showcase for that organisation. Examples of this might be a choir looking glum at a performance, a marching band out of step, or even just an image that’s out of focus, or really isn’t a capturing anything at all.
As the social media manager your job is to curate. Select only those images that show your organisation at its best. Happy faces, colourful pictures, and good quality images. These images will help to sell your organisation to parents, local businesses, supporters, and younger members.
The same rules apply to your videos however you also need to be mindful of your sound. It’s important that you consult with your musical director and other musical leadership here. One of the biggest difficulties we have as amateur musical organisations is tuning and this can be highlighted and even exacerbated on recordings.
The solution can sometimes be simple. You can shorten the video to eliminate a problematic section or, if you have the skills to do so, you can even edit a nice fade out just before this section.
My rule is simple here – if you and the musical team aren’t proud of the sound, don’t use the video.
With Facebook being as dominant as it is these days, I see many groups putting their entire online strategy into that platform and forgoing a website, or perhaps not updating or refreshing their site. It’s understandable, Facebook is free, its audience is huge, and most of us instinctively understand how to use at least the base functions of it.
Think of your website as your online home, free of any individual social media branding and structures. It’s a hub for all of your activity:
- It’s your brochure, presented in a way that reflects your branding, achievements, and values.
- It can be an archive of your history, and an easy to search gallery (Facebook is bad for this) for photos and videos.
- It can and should outline your organisation's governance. Your committee members, your mission, and your policies and procedures.
- It can be your best recruitment tool. Set up an online form (that you can share on social media) and recruit new members right there on your site.
- Members only: these days you can easily add a section that only members can see for more sensitive information and announcements.
Set up correctly, your website will be the first result on Google when people search your organisation. With time you can even optimise the site to appear when people search for music lessons or community groups in your area. This is probably the single biggest advantage of a good website over social media.
Websites used to be expensive, as in many cases they needed to be customised for every organisation. Today however web developers (and amateurs) can use simplified tools such as Wix and Squarespace to create polished and professional sites with all of the tools I’ve outlined above.
In many cases, a simple and effective site can be built in a few hours by an experienced developer once they are provided with all of the relevant content.
What you should try to avoid is a situation where you are relying on a developer to update and add pages to the site. This can very quickly become the biggest barrier to you using the site regularly.
Ask your developer what platform (Wordpress, Wix, etc.) they are using for your site. Make sure that there’s an interface that you or a member of your organisation can easily access and use on a daily basis. If needed, ask the developer to provide a training session. It might cost you to do this, but in the long term will save you time and money as you won’t need to ask the developer to make every change.
Lastly, friends and committee members often have the skills to help with the initial website set-up, but you also need to consider the long-term maintenance of the site. Appoint a web manager to keep pages up to date, add content, and when needed engage with the developer.
This used to be a lot easier. We had our website and our Facebook page. These days however, building an online presence can be a lot more daunting with ever more social media platforms and rules. Here’s some of the most important online platforms to consider:
Facebook: still the largest and most important social media platform, and the easiest to share content from your website. Most groups have a Facebook page and/or group. Don’t forget, your Facebook page is your public profile, if you want to share detailed internal information you can do this on Facebook by setting up a private group for that purpose.
Instagram: this is where Millennial parents meet the elder Gen Z teens and twenty-somethings. Its very image focused, so if you have a good camera or amateur photographer in your organisation, this is a great platform and may be a way to get teens in your organisation to start sharing and celebrating their involvement.
YouTube: Facebook is not an effective way of archiving and storing videos. YouTube offers you a way to create a channel with playlists organised in whatever way suits you. You can also easily share these videos and embed them on your website. Just remember to curate your videos – you don’t need to post everything!
Twitter: used effectively, Twitter can be a useful way to engage with local and national businesses, politicians and network with important decision makers. You may not attract your largest following on this platform, but it’s a great tool for advocacy and getting your organisation's voice heard by the people that can help.
The online and social media landscape changes constantly – I haven’t even mentioned TikTok! Don’t be afraid to experiment with new platforms and apps. Perhaps consider building a small social media team and make sure you include those older youth members too, they will often understand the trends that will get your group noticed.
Build a team, experiment, and have fun!