Your Artists on Social Media: An Essential Part of Brandraising

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By: J.R. Russ, Social Media Coordinator at Dance Place and Founder of “Hashtag the Arts

Social media is great when it works, and a headache when it doesn’t. But how do you get it to work? How do you stay on message? I would argue that with the right strategy, this isn’t a case where there can ever be too many cooks in the kitchen. Instead of worrying about the message right before it goes out, take care of inoculating your organization’s tone and values from the get-go with any and everyone that might be involved in the work, especially your artists. Then give them some tangible expectations, i.e. at least one Facebook update a week, a tweet before and after rehearsal, etc. and let ’em fly.

For the most part I have observed that most people seem to understand that social media has the possibility of being worthwhile. I’ve also observed that most people still aren’t sure how. Unfortunately, this has led to more than one experience where the extent of instructions and direction regarding social media, as an artist, has been simply, “do more.” This seems to be based in the mistaken mindset that social media works best when it’s organic.

That might be true on a personal level, but, if it is to be a part of a larger communication strategy, then it needs to be just as thoughtful and integrated in structure and guidelines. If anything, this might even help artists who want to do more but feel like all they end up saying to their own social circles is “buy more tickets.”

This might also be a particularly good opportunity to examine how much you do or maybe more accurately don’t diversify your organization’s content as a whole. What I mean by that is: how do you mix it up so that you’re not always asking for people to buy tickets, or make a donation? Do you have a schedule of institutional content to share? How about fun facts about your discipline or recent news in the field?

Which brings me back to Brandraising, a concept that has become an essential part of my own social media worldview, and was introduced thanks to a free training at the Foundation Center in Washington, DC, courtesy of Sarah with Big Duck. Because the moment you begin to think of your artists as another opportunity to market, then I believe you’ve squandered their greatest asset: the ability to simply express themselves and share their stories, and therefore your organizations’.

No, I’m not saying that they should share what they had for lunch. But once you understand them as part of your brand, once you value them as the faces of the organization, then you can help them recognize those extraordinary moments, breakthroughs in process, a rehearsal where things came together in a way that hadn’t before, and the like. Then give them the permission and opportunity to share those moments, as long as it doesn’t come at the expense of the process.

Yes, maybe this is where your communications person comes in, to help check-in with your artists, remind them, keep them on track, and keep track of their content, so you know how it fits into the overall narrative that your organization shares through digital and traditional media. And that’s the biggest piece: your organization’s primary brandraising content is already there. It’s simply about enabling and empowering your artists to be a part of sharing it.


  • What are the values of your organizations?
  • What is the tone of your organization?
  •  Does your organization implement this across the board?
  •  What would be the biggest challenges to asking your artists to be a part of the larger communication strategy?
  •  What would be the biggest rewards?
  • What content would you like to share as an artist?
  • What content would you be interested in seeing from artists?

About JR Russ

JR Russ is a Washington, DC native. Since receiving his B.A. in Dance from the University of Maryland, College Park, he went on to teach, perform, and administer in various performing arts organizations around the DC area. He went on to pursue his M.A. in Arts Management from American University. His thesis focused on how working artists defined community and Arts Advocacy. Since then, he’s continued to perform and manage, but has also produced original stage work and is currently the Social Media Coordinator at Dance Place. Connect with JR on Twitter and LinkedIn. Don’t forget to check out his blog, Hashtag the Arts.

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