In this episode, Adam interviews Ariel Thilenius from The Woodruff Arts Center about how nonprofits can use Social Media to grow. Ariel walks us through several best practices and Adam ends the episode with some practical tips on how a nonprofit can move forward with social media.
Intro by Adam: Hi, and welcome to the Good People Good Marketing podcast. A podcast about digital marketing and how to make it better so that good people at good organizations can have good marketing as well. I am your host, Adam Walker, co-founder of Sideways8, a digital marketing agency and https://48in48.org48in48, a non-profit dedicated to hosting events and building forty-eight websites for forty-eight nonprofits in forty-eight hours.
In this episode I talk with Ariel Thilenius from the Woodruff Arts Center and she shares with us a lot of information about how nonprofits should manage their social media some good tips on what to think about when doing you are social media, how to automate it, or better yet not automate it and some other real great information for nonprofits. Stay tuned and listen to the interview and hope you enjoy it.
Adam: Hi, I am joined today by Ariel Thilenius from the Woodruff Arts Center who is a marketing specialist. Thanks for being on the podcast.
Ariel: Thank you so much for having me. I am so excited to be here.
Adam: Give us a little more background on you, give us the thirty-second version, what else do we need to know about you?
Ariel: I started about a year ago as a Marketing Specialist for the Woodruff, which, for anyone who doesn’t know, The Woodruff Arts Center is located in Mid Town, here in Atlanta and it’s the supporting and overarching organization for the Alliance Theatre, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and the High Museum of Arts. I am a part of their marketing team, all digital, print, marketing efforts, that’s what we do.
Adam: I love that. Do you have a specific area of focus here on the team?
Ariel: All the day-to-day social media posts. You will see we are on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter right now. Got a little bit of Pinterest going on but Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are our main points. You will see us interacting on those platforms every single day. It’s a ton of fun. That’s my big contribution.
Adam: I have to ask then, before we dive into some of the questions. Of the three platforms is there one that you are most active on, least active on, what’s, is there one you get the most engagement on, least engagement, how does that pan out?
Ariel: It’s interesting to see, obviously being in Arts, that’s a very niche market but something that is very big on social media, people love looking at images, seeing videos of plays or fine art, contemporary art, all the different types of art you can see, people love to look at online. Facebook is great because we’ve got a really wide range of people that we interact with on there. Instagram has really come up in the last few years. That’s where we are seeing the most growth right now, which is really fun too.
Adam: I have seen a lot of fast growth on Instagram, it’s really fascinating.
Adam: Is there any specific strategy that you use that you can simplify for us in terms of facilitating growth on Instagram. Do you have a set number of hashtags that you use or anything like that?
Ariel: Since we started our Instagram account about a year ago, I have definitely been using local hashtags to just get people in the Atlanta community aware of what we are doing and what we have going on. But, of course, anything related to the specific art partner, if it is something with the Alliance, making sure to tag different theatres, or use different theatre-related hashtags. Something with the High, they have always got incredible exhibitions going on. So, making sure we reach out to the artist or that sort of community. It’s really about finding that authentic relationship with the post, with the picture.
Adam: I love that authenticity is key and all that sort of stuff. I love to ask these questions, so we are just going to start with the easy one. Tell me something related to digital marketing that you are currently excited about? Maybe something you are experimenting with or some ideas that you have that you are going to implement down the road or a new channel that you are looking at, something like that.
Ariel: We are super excited to be trying out social stories. Have you heard of those before?
Adam: I am not familiar with social stories, please enlighten me.
Ariel: This is a really cool idea for anyone who is wanting to get people to enter into their building in a new way or try out a new feature that they’ve got going on at their facility. Every few months or so we host these free family festivals. Anyone can come. They will have a ton of activities, mostly geared towards younger children but they’re really for children of all ages. There is something going on with all of the art partners.
What we want to do is say, if you have never been to the Woodruff before here’s how you take Marta to get here, here’s how you drive to the parking garage and park your car and come up the steps. All the different ways that you can access this building, or the different rooms, or register for the event. All the different ways that you can get here, we want you to be comfortable with. Right now we are working on these videos called social stories. You know when things are sped up, when somebody is walking through a crowd, and they are turning left and right and stuff like that. It is sort of like a sped-up video. Maybe we will set it to music or lay some text over it. I am really excited for us to be experimenting with those and just really contribute to the accessibility component.
Adam: Yes, I love that, especially because coming down here, I wasn’t exactly sure where the administrative offices were. It’s a pretty large campus and I did ask, I think, two to three people where I was going on the way in. I did find my way, which is great, but to your point, people do get a little overwhelmed and being able to see..ok go here, I park here, I walk up these steps, I turn left, I turn right. They can make visual landmarks along the way. It’s amazing, I love that. You’ve got to be more welcoming to people who come into your space, right?
Ariel: Absolutely, It’s all about accessibility. One thing, really on two levels accessibility is a huge deal for me. I want everyone in Atlanta, regardless of socio-economic background or what their interest is, I want them to be able to experience something and fall in love with something at the Woodruff.
Ariel: And then, on top of that, I want them to be able to physically access this space. It is really trying to merge those two things and make people see it is really easy to get here.
Adam: It breaks down the barriers.
Adam: Because there is mental barriers to where do I park? Like even just that one question, where do I park? To someone that doesn’t live in the city, it can be a little intimidating.
Ariel: It can, definitely, especially Midtown, Atlanta.
Adam: You never know where to go, then if you have missed the parking garage then you are really out of luck, and you’re doing all kinds of crazy loops and everything else.
Ariel: I would not want to get stuck down here.
Adam: I already had a backup plan when I was coming down here. I know a building down the block, if I miss where I can park, I’m good, I will just park there and walk back. I had a backup plan, ready to go.
Ariel: That parking costs $25
Adam: It absolutely does, it’s astronomically expensive. I found a good spot, so it worked out okay.
Ariel: As easy as we can make it for people. That’s what’s exciting us.
Adam: That’s great, that’s what you are excited about. Now tell me something that you have done that has been successful, that you might advise other nonprofits to consider doing from a marketing perspective.
Ariel: In the social media realm, sticking with that, just the different ways you can really engage with people. Really putting in the effort to make something different for each platform. Finding what you are good at on each platform. On Facebook, we love doing the carousels, the tons of albums and pictures that maybe baby boomers and gen X’s can swipe through and see pictures of their kids or grandkids at the festivals like I mentioned. On Twitter we love engaging with businesses. I always try to touch and tag those types of people and accounts that will interact with it and on Instagram it’s really all about the videos. It’s really about finding your niche on each platform and sticking with it so that’s been a lot of fun for me to experiment with, do a little of A B testing, what works and doesn’t work. That’s been really successful for us is finding the different touch points.
Adam: What I am hearing you say is, do not take one post and blast the exact same thing out to all social media networks.
Ariel: Oh my gosh, no. People can see through that instantly these days. People are smart.
Adam: It’s significantly less effective, right?
Adam: That’s what I think almost every non-profit is probably guilty of. I would assume even my own non-profit is probably guilty of that as well. I think we have to be really cautious about that. We’ve got these cool tools like Hootsuite, to make it easier to do that. I think that is where the danger lies. Instead, maybe it would be better to use all the native apps and customise every single post because it is so much more effective.
Ariel: One of my favorite ways to avoid that trap is I will organize all of my posts and when I want them to go out. I don’t schedule as much or as often as I used to. Before I realized I can’t post the same thing on every single platform. Now I just organize everything in one place. Then, the day, I say- what can I say on here that is different? It’s really just taking that extra minute or two and reframing the copy or editing the picture, the video in a different way. Just putting that extra second in.
Adam: Do you also try take into account what’s actually actively happening on the social network at the time, if there’s a specific hashtag trending on Twitter, you try to get involved in that as well, in that moment. Do you go that far?
Ariel: That’s a great question, especially being the third largest art center in the nations. It’s a delicate balance between wanting to be relevant and stay relevant, stay with the trends and not trying to buy into everything and attach it to our brand. At the end of the day we are an art center. We don’t serve every single person in the nation, we would love to but we don’t. It’s really choosing your battles in a way. Obviously, the bigger hashtags, like throw-back Thursday, the fun stuff where everyone can find their niche, we will join but we really try to stick to our base. That’s what’s authentic at the end of the day.
Adam: I like that, that’s smart. It’s interesting. You said you don’t necessarily schedule. You’ve got a batch plan and then you know during your day you know, it’s almost lunch, it’s eleven-o’clock, now it’s time to go and post this. Is that how you do that?
Ariel: Yes. I have got a few other people who I allow to send me stuff from the other departments. We’ve got a whole special events department. If you want to rent a space here, get married at the High Museum, there is a whole department that can help you do that. There are people in the special events department who want to advertise that on social media so I let them send me stuff. All day long I am checking, sort of like a Google Drive, it has constant updating. I am always checking that, does somebody want something to go out at this time. That’s where I fit in.
Adam: So, it’s very hands-on approach. That is wildly more successful I would imagine than an automated approach.
Ariel: Absolutely. Anytime we have really pushed organic material or day of stuff and really stayed on top of something, that is where we are seeing a lot of growth and a lot of engagement.
Adam: I like that a lot. So another tough question. What’s something that you’ve done or tried to do that was less effective that you might not advise, might advise against or you might advise trying in a different way for a non-profit?
Ariel: In the last few years, again with social media, we’re seeing people don’t want to read as much, to put it lightly. You want to present material to people in a concise, cohesive and exciting a manner as you can. Any time where I have tried to put a lot of text on something or a long caption explaining at the Alliance there’s this, at the symphony there’s this, at the High there’s this. I can tell people just gloss over it, they are not as engaged with it. If it comes down to it, what I would recommend to other nonprofits if you’re in a similar situation, if you’ve got a lot of programmes or a lot of activities going on, just really take the time and do a few different posts that really section what you are talking about, out. Say you’ve got activity A, B and C, do three separate posts and let people engage with what they are most interested in instead of asking them to take five minutes to read one Instagram. Does that make sense?
Adam: Absolutely, I love that because I do have a tendency myself to have that too long didn’t read mentality. I think that is pretty common and we try to cram too much in. You need to segment it out, be very specific, very short. Very, very, very short.
Ariel: You may get fewer people but you are going to get the right people.
Adam: What kind of investment do you recommend, in terms of time, for social media, to do it well? You’ve got to find images, you’ve got to take images, you’ve got to prep images, you’ve got to think about content, you’ve got to think about how you are going to engage, which hashtags you are going to use, and do research around that. What kind of investment do you think would be worthwhile, do you think, for a small to mid-size non-profit in terms of that?
Ariel: Social media is not the full part of my job. I definitely do other stuff. We talked early about doing more the brand strategy and that kind of stuff too. I think, all told, I spend maybe ten hours a week on social media and that’s including everything you just mentioned.
Adam: That’s fantastic
Ariel: Trend research, trend forecasting, finding the photos, talking with other departments and all of the art partners to make sure I’m giving out the right content. All said and done, about ten hours a week.
Adam: Considering the size and scale of what you are doing, then if you scale it down to a smaller non-profit, I think that is a very manageable thing that you are recommending.
Ariel: I think so too. It can’t be just nine to five I do this. Social media is all the time.
Adam: It’s all the time.
Ariel: That aspect of it definitely requires you to look at stuff, requires you to stay on top of it. As far as really creating stuff I think that ten hours a week is probably manageable for most people. Maybe five if you are smaller or just starting out, I think that will be fine. Just really checking in on it every day. The key is to just really be consistent.
Adam: I think even for a tiny one, fifteen dedicated minutes every day can make an astronomical difference if they are willing to carve out the time and really do it.
Ariel: On your lunch break, running to a meeting, you can be scrolling through and staying on top of it that way as well.
Adam: There is a last social media question then I will stop bugging you. So, wait, what was my question? I completely lost it, I had a great question there and I completely lost it.
Ariel: We were talking about time management
Adam: Time management, social media, engagement and, I guess I don’t have it. It’s all gone.
Ariel: It’s all gone.
Adam: That’s alright, it happens. What would be your parting words of advice for a non-profit that are a little bit into social media but they are not really engaged, they are just sort of automating it, right, calling it in, as it were. What’s your parting advice for those nonprofits?
Adam: Stop doing that.
Ariel: Yes. I completely understand I have worked with nonprofits, large and small, so I know that it is really a twenty-four seven job, especially when you’re first starting out. If you are the person in charge you need to where all of the hats. Like I said, just really take at least those fifteen minutes a day and just see what’s going on. It’s easier than ever on each platform to really see what the trends are, what people are talking about, what people are interested in. Just take a little extra time and do that research, it’s going to come to you, it’s going to be second hand to you eventually. You will find that is a lot of the process. You need to get that kind of stuff done.
Adam: Absolutely. That’s fantastic. This has been amazing and really informative. I really appreciate your time.
Ariel: This was great, thank you so much.
Adam: Thanks for coming on the podcast.
Ariel: Of course, anytime.
Closing by Adam: You have just been listening to my interview with Ariel Thilenius from the Woodruff Arts Center. In case you are wondering, that question that I forgot to ask her was, what kind of response time is appropriate on social media? In terms of when someone engages with you, how quickly should you respond to them? She let me know that, as a general rule, one business day is probably a good turnaround for that sort of thing. I think, just in general, be aware that you do need to respond quickly and one business day is probably appropriate, a little shorter would be great but I think most users are pretty understanding of that sort of thing.
I would like to end this podcast with a few takeaways in terms of how nonprofits can improve your social media marketing.
The first is block out fifteen minutes a day to engage on social media. It’s not hard, just first thing in the morning or midday or end of day, block out fifteen minutes, plan some posts and engage on social media.
Next, create content that is unique to each platform, don’t post the same thing every place. That was a critical part of this conversation, make sure you are engaging in a unique way on each platform.
Last, choose a social media platform that you can really own, do a great job, grow engagement, grow followers, grow audience and then move to the next platform.
Don’t do multiple platforms adequately, do one platform amazingly, and then move on to something else. Ideally, pick a platform that you are passionate about. If you love photography, then choose photography, use Instagram. If you love Facebook and you love diving in with comments, then choose that. Pick a platform that you love, own that platform, really do great at it and then move to the next one.
Thanks for listening to Good People, Good Marketing. Again, I am Adam Walker, co-founder of 48in48 and Sideways8. You can find out more about me at adamjwalker.com. I would love for you to check out my blog there, my blog about leadership and other fun things. Stay tuned for the next episode. Thanks.