I like what I’ve learned about social networking. I’ve made friends, reconnected with old friends, and done some useful networking. And the communications we all set up are a lot quicker, a lot more direct, and also a lot more fun than plain old e-mail. In at least one professional situation, I’ve strengthened contacts with some of the younger people involved much more quickly than could have happened in any other way. Plus, it’s fun — and, I think, even professionally helpful — to give people a fuller picture of myself than they’d get from my in-need-of-updating website, or from this blog. By being on Facebook, I think I advertise myself as available for informal contact, in a way that wouldn’t happen in any Web 1.0 way, through an e-mail list, a website, or even a blog.
So in the midst of all that, I was fascinated to see that the New York Times and the Washington Post both have Twitter streams, and in fact many of them. I looked at the Post‘s streams, and signed up for one of them. Some are for news stories — I signed up for politics, and get maybe four to six links each day to politics stories in the Post. But I could also follow Post personalities, columnists and bloggers, which I’m sure would be much more fun.
Obviously these newspapers use Twitter to connect with younger people. So I was interested to see whether big classical music institutions do the same. I couldn’t check dozens of them, but I did look for the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera, both of which have made efforts to reach a younger audience. (Yes, even the Philharmonic, with what looks like success. Check out the search page on the Philharmonic’s website, and see from the word cloud of search terms that “student discount” and “student rush tickets” — and other student-related things — are among the most frequent searches.)
But neither the Met nor the Philharmonic currently use Twitter. That’s a mistake, I think, though I believe both institutions will be using it before too long. What concerns me, though, is that I don’t think either is using Facebook very well. They’ve both got lots of Facebook friends, but they don’t communicate with their friends often enough, or in the right way. The Philharmonic, for instance, mostly sends what amount to press releases. Yes, they’re livelier than normal press releases, which is a good thing. But what’s missing is any kind of personal touch, any sense that there are people involved in each institution who’d be interested in making contact with others outside.
Which, after all, is how social networking works! That’s why they call it social networking. If you ask me, the Met and the Philharmonic — and any other classical music institution that uses Facebook — should be sending out updates every day. Most of these updates should be something more than press releases, or attempts to get people to buy tickets, or participate in some other activity the institution has going on. Most of the updates should be more personal — news tidbits, quick anecdotes, snapshots of something behind the scenes, or, best of all, communications from individuals.
Ideally musicians, singers, staff members, and others would send out updates in their own names. The Philharmonic and the Met could do what the Times and the Post do, and have many Twitter streams, some from the institution, and some from people involved with it. Maybe this violates some sense these institutions have of their proper dignity, but I promise them — if they really do want to engage younger people, at some point they’ll have to do what I suggest. The world is moving that way, and classical music can’t afford to be left behind.
I’d love to hear from classical music people who use social networking the right way.
(And for an example of an organization that, I fear, doesn’t quite get it, see the comment to my first new culture post, from someone with From the Top, the radio and TV show that presents young classical musicians. They’re going to great lengths to get kids to participate, but if they were approaching kids in the right way to begin with, they wouldn’t have to do all that. Nothing on their home page suggests that they want people to contact them.
(They have a Facebook presence, but they don’t seem to take it seriously. They post just a few updates each month, all of them are press releases, and they have only 90-odd friends, many fewer than I have. For a show that’s been around for years, and is all about younger people, that’s not nearly enough. They don’t seem to be on Twitter.)