Engagement Principles: Relationships

Katya Andresen writes a very good (if somewhat breathless–she has committed to posting every day) blog about nonprofit marketing, cleverly titled Katya’s Nonprofit Marketing Blog. In a recent post, Thriving in the social media gift economy, she discussed some important social media concepts, comparing the market economy with the “gift economy,” especially as it relates to social norms. (To paraphrase one example she gives, we bring a bottle of wine to dinner at a friend’s house, not a $20 bill. We all understand that former is good, the latter is rude.) As part of that post, she quoted Harvard Business Review blogger Mark Bonchek‘s essay How to Thrive in Social Media’s Gift Economy dealing with effective branding in social media. He cites three categories of evaluation:

1) Build relationships.
• Push out information to drive transactions: Base
• Create relationships with individuals: Better
• Help people create relationships with each other: Best

2) Earn status.
• Celebrate your own accomplishments: Base
• Celebrate the accomplishments of others: Better
• Enable people to celebrate each other’s accomplishments: Best

3) Create social currencies.
• Focus on discounts and promotions: Base
• Think of your product (or mission) as a social currency: Better
• Create new social currencies related to your brand: Best

These strike me as good lessons for the use of social media. However, if you look at the three lists, they also offer insight into effective engagement. In each category, arts organizations have typically operated in the “Base” mode.

I have written about two-way relationship building as a key to engagement. I love the idea of being a catalyst for relationships between others. The “Best” category in “Earn status” suggests an intriguing way to relate to our communities: providing a means through which others can celebrate each other. And in “Create social currencies” the “Better” category is where we offer to use our expertise to improve community life. The “Best” is where we discover (through dialogue with others) new ways to serve and enhance relevance.

This construct provides for me a new way of thinking about the relationship between the arts and the communit(y)(ies) they serve. I don’t know where it might lead, but exploring the options strikes me as a fascinating project.



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  1. says

    Doug, I like these three areas of evaluation a lot. They overlap considerably with the principles of the psychological sense of community put forth by psychologists McMillan and Chavis in the 80s, which I believe have a lot to teach the nonprofit arts about audience development: membership, integration and fulfillment of needs, influence, and shared emotional experience. We too rarely see the need to build communities within our cultural institutions, but data show that social experiences are what attendees seek. This adds to the rubric by which organizations can evaluate their efforts to address this desire on the part of audiences, and build audience for the institution.