Weapons of mass collaboration – ArtsProfessional magazine article

30 Mar

Tuesday 30 March 2010

Home > The Magazine > Weapons of mass collaboration

First published in ArtsProfessional 214, 29 March 2010. www.artsprofessional.co.uk

DIGITAL OPPORTUNITIES

What is Twitter for? Marcus Romer employed Twitter itself to find out from arts professionals how it could and should be used.

Weapons of mass collaboration

This article will take you through the stages we went through to use Twitter to connect with whoever was out there, and to look at the responses and data about the reach and connections made during this day of ‘crowd-sourcing’. The data was collected for 24 hours from the time the first question was asked, so we are able to look at the impact during this time period. There were almost a quarter of a million impressions (this means how many times one of our messages was seen), and an actual reach of 39,000 people (the number of people who saw a message once) via 591 messages. Many of the 39,000 people whom we ‘reached’ saw many of the messages many times, which is why the number of impressions is so much higher than the reach itself.

 

image of tweets by ArtsProfessional

We started in the morning, when the @ArtsPro office started sending out messages about upcoming activity. These were then sent on by being ‘re-tweeted’ (RT) by interested parties. All tweets were tagged ‘#artspro’, which is known as a ‘hashtag’. This makes it searchable, and binds all the conversations under this banner or headline. We monitored activity for 24 hours, as a Research and Development (R&D) snapshot of Twitter. We didn’t publicise this through print media, mail or email in advance. We didn’t use any network apart from Twitter. We genuinely wanted to find out who was out there, who was listening, and, more importantly, who wanted to get involved. The first message was sent out by AP just after midday, and I RT’d it at 12.36.

What was clear from the outset was that this was a good time to do this. The requests to contribute were sent out and passed on 56 times. The questions then started at what was potentially around a lunchtime period for the UK. We first asked: “What is the best use of Twitter for arts organisations?” and tagged it with the #artspro hashtag, so we could follow the responses.

We began to get some traction and numbers started to rise. We had some great responses, and we started to see conversations develop. For example, arts administrator Kim Lofthouse

(@Lorelei_) replied and said Twitter is useful for: “Networking, conversation & as a way to find and engage with other creative throughout the country,” while a marketing assistant uses it “to keep abreast of arts news and get direction on great articles and blogs”. Another Twitter user believes that “the best use of any of these social media platforms is to build something of a community of interest around you”, and Megan Vaughan (@meganfvaughan) recommends using it for “proper audience/artist integration, not just [as] another marketing tool”. She highlights Hoipolloi theatre company (@hellohoipolloi) and Alexander Kelly who works with Third Angel (@AlexanderKelly) as good examples of this.

We were starting to create an online forum for ideas and sharing, and the input was coming from the tweeters who were then posting messages. These messages would be read by their followers, which allowed for more reach and conversation. The use of the #artspro hashtag gave users something to search for, and let them see anyone who was posting messages with under this banner. This Twitter search is a powerful tool. Try it with your own organisation, exhibition or show and see what is being said and discussed about your work or projects.

Louisa Martin, Digital Development and Marketing Assistant at Rational Rec

(@rationalrec) said: “am enjoying your Q&A #artspro – the consensus seems Twitter is best when it’s less about promotion and more about dialogue/sharing”. This is key. It is not about pushing your message out, but more about two-way engagement and dialogue. If people are discussing your work, you can listen, join in and also take the temperature of a situation at any given moment. Sam Scott Wood, Marketing Manager for Artsadmin (@SamScottWood) agrees: “Twitter is all about dialogue. No point asking questions if you’re not really interested in the response.” So, the next questions came full on, and with a personal touch, too.

With some responses, people started posting links and information to extend and deepen the conversation. This is where the argument about Twitter only being about 140 characters and therefore a limited medium is totally shattered, as it can be seen to be a gateway for sharing information and further links that are relevant to the discussion. Our final question asked: “Is social media good news for developing artistic practice, or is the democratisation of culture the death knell for decent art?”

What is interesting is that people are interacting, and then sending and sharing thoughts and links which provide a personalised form of a Google search. This is still word of mouth but more powerful and immediate in terms of help and recommendations – one person calls Twitter “word of mouth on steroids”. She points out that “most publicity is easy to ignore, something RT-ed by a friend catches my attention”. Arts and culture consultant Ben Pugh (@benpugh) likes Twitter because it “offers both the feel or being at an international industry conference and of looking at your local corner shop noticeboard”. So, does it work? Well a couple of comments here from some of the 591 Tweets in the timeframe that reached 39,000 people seem to sum this up well: Chris Hammond, Artistic Director of Full Circle Arts

(@chrissyhammond) said Twitter has “transformed my working life… some brilliant, witty, clever, interesting and generous people in the Twittersphere”, while Gary Hills, Chair of Earthfall Dance

(@garyhills) said, “This very process has connected me with arts people I didn’t know this morning. Does Twitter work? Yup!”

The interesting issues that are not in the data are the actual conversations and subsequent discussions that have taken place. This is a social networking platform, and as such it is about people, not technology. It allows meetings and sharings of thoughts, ideas, projects and information. We have found not only members of our team via this network, but also speakers and contributors to our ALT/Shift – Shift Happens conference, happening in July.

ALT Shift

Shift-Happens.co.uk

The full transcript of the 591 tweets can be found here

http://www.tinyurl.com/artsprohashtag 

 

Marcus Romer is Artistic Director of Pilot Theatre.

tw
@marcusromer

 

 

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