Put These 3 Tactics in your Social Media Toolbox to Drive Audience Engagement

By Scott Hazleton and Rebecca Danis, Atlanta Opera

One of the best things I’ve learned from The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation’s Audience Building Roundtable is to stop trying to do everything. Have I been personally successful at implementing this lesson? Nope. Not even close. But, we have applied it to our social media strategy at The Atlanta Opera and seen wonderful results.

Let’s go back to 2015: Snapchat was disrupting, Instagram was T-Swifting, Facebook was Facebook Live testing, and The Atlanta Opera was conspiring. We pooled our resources (read: no budget, but an energized staff and good content!) to launch a social strategy that would engage new and existing opera lovers. Two years later, we’re bearing the fruits of our dedicated labor. Here is how we approached the social landscape, and a few tactical suggestions to add to your social media toolbox.


An Audit of our Social Ecosystem

We conducted an audit of our social ecosystem. We had to learn about the audience with whom we were speaking, and which content resonated deepest. Almost all channels offer a wealth of quantitative and qualitative information, allowing administrators to get everything from IP addresses to the most popular times to post. We spent 10 days analyzing our findings. We made the decision to focus on three primary platforms to drive audience engagement: Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. We tabled every other channel.

We got organized with a weekly editorial calendar. And we stuck with it! We posted daily, but did not saturate our channels. We ran with themes, like #ThrowbackThursday. Then stopped running them and moved on to fresh content when our audience stopped engaging. To guide our upcoming editorial calendar, we shared weekly and monthly reports that illustrated what we should keep running, and what we should ditch.


Finding our Voice

We found our voice. For The Atlanta Opera, we believe it’s important to demonstrate our values, speak authentically, and be consistent with our voice on social media. That said, we are diverse in what we say on each channel.

  • Facebook (9.4k followers / 67% growth since 2015): Content hub for news, discussions, and video. Recently, our Turandot behind-the-scenes video reached 26k organic views in 72 hours.
  • Twitter (13.1k followers / 25% growth since 2015): Used for quick shout outs, sharing info, and social takeovers.
  • Instagram (3k followers / 4,000% growth since 2015 (4,000% growth!)): Focus on photos with plans to introduce more video. We go behind the scenes and put our account in the hands of the artists via “social takeovers.”


Social Takeovers: Artists with Flat-Out Awesome Social Media Chops!

We’ve loved our “Social Takeovers.” We had talented singers come through Atlanta with flat out awesome social media chops and realized they could be our voice. I mean… they already kind of ARE our voice at the opera. We let them offer our audience a glimpse into their world and break down what we call “information and intimidation barriers” about opera. The artists took it and made it their own, including unique hashtags, boomerangs, and “Game of Thrones” viewing parties. We never instructed them to try to get people to buy tickets. Ever. This was completely authentic content shared in a conversational and intimate manner. We did, however, put in some work on our end and provided some parameters to guide the artists. More on that in the tactics right here!


What are three tactics you can implement right now?

  1. Learn your audience, then engage your audience by creating a custom audience on Facebook. It can be as simple as exporting your email list, then uploading to Facebook Audiences. Do this at the beginning of every season.
  2. Build and deliver social media monthly reports (like this) on your success, learnings and next steps. Present to staff or demonstrate the value of social to your Board of Directors. Run with the good, ditch the bad.
  3. Hand over your Instagram to your artists. Use this guide when sharing with them. Authenticity and trust is key here.


Here’s to more (and better) audience engagement! 


Keywords: Social Media, editorial calendar, facebook, twitter, instagram, artist takeovers, social media monthly reports, custom facebook audiences, email lists, "stop doing" concept

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