This article is reposted with permission from The Social Business Blog:
The Tower Theatre in Bend, Oregon was originally built as a movie house in 1940, and now entertains 50,000 visitors a year with performing arts, civic, educational, and social events. Ray Solley, the Executive Director of the Theatre spoke with about how they are reaching out through social media to engage with visitors and encouraging them to share their experiences. We’ll highlight the key business results they have observed and provide good examples of how non-profits can use the social web to build membership communities around their brands.
Social Business Summary:
- The Tower has a solid mission statement and sense of purpose that directs their use of social media, which is a significant achievement in itself. They aren’t looking at social media as a marketing channel. It’s about creating a dialog with their visitor community online.
- The Tower has built an online presence for their business by posting event listings on their website and directing customers to interact with them on Facebook.
- They engage with their community through social media and semi-monthly newsletters, and encourage visitors to publish reviews and share their experiences online.
- They use email and Word of Mouth Marketing to drive new membership, and they have seen response shift away from traditional direct mail in favor of online marketing.
- There are opportunities for them to create an active blog on their website, leverage location-based social networking tools, and monitor the social web for brand mentions and activity from past artists and performers.
The Tower Theatre has built an online presence for their business
“We began our social media campaign with a goal to raise enough funding from individual membership sales to reach our annual budget of $84,000,” said Ray. Since the Tower traditionally has used personalized letters, email, and phone calls, Ray saw social media as another channel that offers personal contact with their visitors. As a result, they are transitioning from a website that tells you about the Tower Theatre Foundation (the non-profit that is responsible for operating and maintaining the venue) to an online social presence where anyone can connect to the Tower and share their experiences. Their goal is to build emotional connections with visitors, so that they return or become season subscribers, which leads to becoming a member or annual contributor, then business sponsor.
The Tower’s brand is about the entire experience a visitor has, including the pricing of the tickets, the website, the service in the foyer, the quality of the performance, the comfort of the seats, and the walk to the parking lot. Tower is one of many options for a person’s entertainment dollar, and they need to stay attuned to customer satisfaction and value perception. They appreciate the significance and value of peer recommendations, and they want visitors to spread their comments, opinions, and criticisms on Facebook as a way of attracting more visitors to the Tower. Facebook also gives people a way to find out what’s going on, including tourists from outside the area.
They engage with their community through Facebook and semi-monthly newsletters and encourage visitors to share their experiences and review their brand
They’re able to manage Facebook comments with one person on their staff who also makes regular updates to the page. They’ve been able to provide customer service to visitors who leave comments on Facebook, and people also use a contact form on their website to send non-public feedback and other requests, which is important because it’s private. They once had a visitor complain about the ticketing system which they agreed with and were able to address it quickly.
The Tower’s newsletter goes out once every 10 days or so to members and patrons. With all of their attention focused on managing the website and Facebook communication, they haven’t yet created a formal blog on their site and Twitter is currently a secondary priority for their team. They hope to hire an intern to help with monitoring the social web for reviews and accurate business listings, but in the meantime they keep popular local sites such as VisitBend.org updated weekly with new performance listings.
They use email and Word of Mouth Marketing to drive new membership
They have 50,000 visitors per year and want to build advocates from this customer base by using promotions to foster dialog. Ray added, “we’ve discovered Facebook works well as a background marketing tool (as opposed to an active marketing tool) that helps spread the message of ‘why’ the Tower is a great place to visit rather than the ‘what’ is happening, which the website can do.” For example, they recently found an unusually high level of people ‘liking’ a post where they announced a band who had played at the Theatre won a Grammy. This indicated people were paying attention, and liked to hear about things related to artists/performances at the Tower.
While they haven’t measured the impact of their social media efforts yet, they are seeing good progress towards their membership goals. For example, they are seeing a 29% return rate from online contributions based on their email campaigns. Last year, direct mail response was 28%, this year it’s 13%. As a result, they are moving away from direct mail and plan to spend more on email and social media, and will eventually incorporate the newsletter into a Facebook tab.
The Social Business Recommends:
- Consider adding a blog to the website as a way to highlight performing arts in a more detailed way than is appropriate for Facebook. This will help drive commentary, improve search engine ranking, and help convert visitors to subscribers for the monthly newsletter.
- Ensure the Tower has a presence on location-based social network tools like Facebook Places, Foursquare, and Gowalla, which could help drive repeat visits by providing social incentives (a Tower Theatre badge) or discounts to frequent visitors. These are low-cost or free for the business and can be an effective way to recognize supporters.
- Facebook fans have shown they are interested in hearing about important activities of the artists who have performed at the Tower. Look at actively monitoring the popular news articles for those artists (consider iLike.com) in addition to monitoring for comments related to the Tower that may be written by bloggers, on review sites, or other news outlets.
The Tower is a great example of how non-profits can use the social web to build a membership community around their brand.
Do you have an opinion about the Tower or what other non-profits can do to leverage social media? Please share your thoughts!