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Blogger Interview: Justin Fair

1 Nov

I recently conducted a phone interview University of Maryland alumni, Justin Fair over the phone who created the SoulStrong Arts blog and was the content manger for, and occasionally coordinates guest blog entries for MyGatewayArts. SoulStrong is a blog Justin created shortly after graduating form Maryland and focuses on the arts in the DC area, especially Prince Georges County. On the other hand MyGatewayArts’ goal is to be “a focal point for art activities of all types” for the Prince George’s County Gateway Arts and Entertainment District (pictured below).

The Prince George’s Gateway Arts District consists of four main towns: Mount Rainier, Brentwood, North Brentwood and Hyattsville.

My interview with Justin revolved primarily around art blogs, local influential art blogs, the advantages and weaknesses of blogging, other social media and last but not least, the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center (which, as a former Terp with a double degree in Studio Art and Theater, Justin is very familiar with). Below are the main questions I asked Justin and his (paraphrased) responses.

Q:How is the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center viewed by the arts community?

CSPAC is a potential “great asset” for the local arts community. It has a state-of-the-art facility and is a magnet for talent in the arts. However, it does little to reach out to or promote the local art community. Despite being a studio art and theater double major at Maryland, he was largely unaware of the Hyattsville art district, despite the close proximity to campus.  Justin also noted the un-utilized potential of CSPAC as a community better “community engine” for the arts. What Justin means by this promoting the local arts not only informs students and those following CSPAC of the local arts talents but, the local arts would in return promote CSPAC and draw more performers and potential students.

How can CSPAC use new media effectively?

Building off the previous question, CSPAC could better utilize social media by engaging and interacting with local arts in the Hyattsville arts district. Justin’s main point was if you reach out to the local arts, you’ll build a relationship and people will promote you if you promote them. Retweeting local acts builds the arts community and would garner promotion from the local arts community as well, bringing more people. Another concept Justin had for better using new media is keeping in touch with Maryland alumni. For example, by offering performing arts alumni free tickets in exchange for a blog post or even something as simple as a tweet would give CSPAC promotion. Keeping in touch with performing arts alumni would also bring in more performers or lecturers if those alumni stayed in the arts.

Any general advice for engaging your public?

Justin’s advice for engaging your community/public is to just go out and talk to people. If CSPAC sent a representative to local arts events, not only will it express CSPAC’s interest in the local arts, but adds credibility to CSPAC itself. As a result, because the community will see CSPAC’s commitment to the arts. From these relationships you build, asking local talent to write guest blogs for CSPAC is method of engaging your public with new media.

What other influential blogs could CSPAC reach out to?

Unfortunately, Justin didn’t believe there were many influential blogs devoted to the arts in the Prince Georges County area, although there are plenty of arts blogs devoted to DC arts. He thought a dedicated arts blog for the College Park area could drastically help the community and engagement of CSPAC and the community. Despite a generally weak local blogging community, Hyattsville Patch is a good launching point for arts blogs in the local area. Hyattsville Patch occasionally works with MyGatewayArts (which, Justin Works with).

As Justin alluded to in the first part of the interview, there is little community and engagement between CSPAC and the local arts. Justin believes the lack of actual community and engagement reflects on the state of the local blogging community as well.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of blogging about the arts?

Justin believed blogging was a great platform to creating change and fostering a community. In Justin’s opinion, the most important aspect of blogging in the content. The content must be of high quality for people to care. High quality content, on any platform shows the public that you are passionate about what you’re blogging/talking about and keep them coming back for more. As Justin mentioned before, it is unfortunate  that the College Park and Prince George’s County does not have a dedicated blog community for the public to connect with.

Another negative Justin cited for blogging about the arts was the lack of experience among bloggers. For example, Jason said people need to make sure to implement links, photos and videos into their blog posts. Justin said people are more likely to watch videos and look at photos than read a wall of text, so by using these elements, you can make blog entries more engaging for your public and gain more exposure.

That concludes my interview with Justin, I’d like to thank him for his time for this interview. Please check out MyGatewayArts, which Justin coordinates blog entries for.

Despite some initial hiccups, my interview with Justin gave me a new perspective on social media and how it can effect an organization and their public, both on a local and more wide-spread level. From this interview I gained an appreciation for what a blogging community can do for an actual community. If CSPAC and other local art blogs engaged one another, myself and Justin believe it would foster a better real life community. Much of Justin’s opinions and thoughts on CSPAC, social media and how the two interact could be put to use in growing CSPAC’s social media presence.

Through this interviewI became much more informed about the local arts community and its relationship with CSPAC. For example, I was completely unaware we had such a thriving art community so close to campus.  I only learned of the Gateway Arts district because of this interview with Justin. Originally we set up a face to face interview in the arts district. i was unfamiliar with the area and where he wanted to meet, so to become more knowledgable about the area, my girlfriend and I got dinner there a few nights before the scheduled interview. I was shocked that there was such a nice area around Hyattsville (after three years going to Maryland (one living in Hyattsville) my opinion of the area was, well, lets just say “not the highest”) that catered to the arts. Because a scheduling issue occurred, and Justin and I had to conduct the interview over the phone, I have yet to return to the arts district, though I plan to soon.  What’s most surprising is that the students of CSPAC are also unaware of this arts community, despite the close proximity to campus. I believe the student’s lack of knowledge about this great, close resource is a direct result of CSPAC not engaging with their community physically and on new media. Instead, the arts district is a mythical, Narnia-esque place CSPAC students would love to visit and become more involved with. Like Justin, I now think that if CSPAC would reach out and engage the local arts district, students would be more informed about their local art community and potentially bring in new talent, and more importantly attendees to CSPAC.

Like I said, I learned a lot during my interview with Justin, however there are some aspects of my interview that I would have ultimately liked to have changed. First, I ideally would have liked to conduct the interview in person, instead of over the phone, I was forced to do the interview over the phone due to a last minute scheduling conflict between Justin and I. I would have liked to ask Justin about how CSPAC (or any other organization) can be more engaging on specific other social media platforms other than blogging. I personally think CPSAC can improve its use of Facebook and Twitter, and I would have liked to gain his insight on how to effectively use those platforms.

That said, I did learn a lot.

Additionally, it was both exciting and interesting to see my classroom experiences ring true with what much of Justin was saying. Justin echoed a lot of my personal experience and what I have learned in the classroom about how to effectively engage your public on new and social media. Justin’s main point of how to effectively engage your public over social media is high quality, sincere content. I couldn’t agree more. If you become a great resource for your public, they’re going to come back to get their information. Justin and I mutually agree that the use of photos and videos in any social media platform, not just blogging, is vital to be engaging and have people actually view all of your content. The bottom line is people are lazy and have short attention spans and they are far more likely to watch your video or look at a picture than read your wall of text (This begs the question, “why am i writing this?”). If CSPAC posted images and/or videos of their events, they could engage their audiences much more effectively and help create a community.

The most striking piece of social media I took from my interview Justin was the lack of an arts blog community dedicated to this (newly discovered) arts district in Hyattsville. I would assume because of the strength of the arts community, a online community would follow. I believe the lack of online community about the local arts in general hurts the actual community. Social media is one of the most effective methods of promotion today, not utilizing it stunts the growth of a community.

Some of the blame for this lack of social media community can be placed on CSPAC. CSPAC is a great resource for the local arts and yet it does nothing to reach out to the local community. This is evident by its own students being unaware of the arts district. Something as simple as retweeting or blogging about a local show could help the local arts. I believe if CSPAC took it upon itself to help uplift the local arts community, it could make a serious difference in the exposure of the community and CSPAC’s exposure to the community, which ultimately helps both sides.

Justin Fair brought a lot of information about blogging about the arts to the table. His level of insight comes purely from the experience he’s gained from going out to shows, engaging with his public and putting killer content on his blogs.

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CSPAC & YouTube Utilization

1 Nov

YouTube is the second most trafficked new media platform next to Facebook, so it is vital that an organization knows how to best utilize this social networking resource. This rule does not exclude CSPAC, who I believe, drastically needs to improve their presence on YouTube. The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center can create more content for YouTube to better engage their public but to start… they can advertise they use YouTube.

On CSPAC’s website, they have their links (which are not prominently displayed…)  to their Facebook, Twitter and.. Vimeo(?) account. Vimeo, for those who don’t know is essentially YouTube, but not nearly as universally used. A good analogy is that Vimeo is to YouTube as Myspace is to Facebook. Basically, a fraction of the people who use Youtube use Vimeo, according to Alexa, YouTube is the third most trafficked website, not social media platform, but website, and is only outranked by Google and Facebook. On the other hand, Vimeo is the 126th most trafficked website, which means about 10 incarnations of google are ahead of it.

From CSPAC’s website, it would appear that they use Vimeo for their video content. The kicker is, they use YouTube, and they have more content on their YouTube channel. CSPAC needs to advertise their YouTube channel, even if it is alongside of Vimeo. However, if they choose to use both of these video-based new media platforms, CSPAC should probably post the same content on each site, which they do not do.

In terms of content, despite being different, CSPAC primarily post “feature piece” videos to their YouTube and Vimeo, focusing on the individuals who work at CSPAC, its students or other performers. This content is great. It gives CSPAC a face and allows its public to better identify with the organization. However, I believe CSPAC could still do more to improve their YouTube presence. As, I mentioned in a previous post, CSPAC could post videos of portions or full performances to YouTube:

“YouTube allows those who missed the event to view it, or allow those who did attend to re-watch or share the event with friends. CSPAC can upload performances, lectures or workshops (with the permission of the artist), to YouTube for viewers to share.”

As I mentioned in that post, uploading videos of performances can allow those who could not make the performance still view CPSAC’s content. Additionally, by posting performances, it allows CSPAC’s public to comment on performances and say what they liked or didn’t like. This information could be useful for CSPAC to see what their audience is responding well to, or not responding well to.

Niche Social Media & CSPAC

1 Nov

It seems that today everyone and organization uses Facebook and Twitter. Other organizations have fully bought into the social media bandwagon and started to use new media platforms like Foursquare, Instagram or Pintrest. This is obviously a smart move on their part, as most of the population, in every demographic, is on at least Facebook and most of the time on another new media platform. However, what if you want to talk to a specific demographic? That my friends, is where niche social media comes in.

Niche social media is a a new media platform for people to specifically talk about one common interest or activity. This can range from people who love dogs to writers to sports enthusiasts. I believe that niche social media could be a great asset for CSPAC. For example, CSPAC  could focus on performing arts niche social media platforms, specifically ones centered around the DC arts community.

An example of a DC based niche social media site is the Performing Arts Network (or PAN). While PAN isn’t exclusively based in DC, it does have a DC/Baltimore (in addition to other arts communities) section for people to talk about that specific arts community. PAN is a community for those in the DC arts community to interact and reach out to one another. For example, one can post or apply for jobs, find housing or sell/buy things related to the arts. Additionally, members of PAN can talk about performances in the area or talk about the audience.

This is obviously a great asset for CSPAC. CSPAC could use something like PAN to not only promote its events directly to a market that is entirely interested and devoted to the performing arts in the DC/Baltimore area, but also just to see what the community is talking about and interested in. Niche social media is also another way CSPAC can engage their audience, which is something Justin Fair (a blogger I recently interviewed) said CSPAC desperately needs to improve on:

“…Justin also noted the un-utilized potential of CSPAC as a community better “community engine” for the arts. What Justin means by this promoting the local arts not only informs students and those following CSPAC of the local arts talents but, the local arts would in return promote CSPAC and draw more performers and potential students  …  CSPAC could better utilize social media by engaging and interacting with local arts in the Hyattsville arts district. Justin’s main point was if you reach out to the local arts, you’ll build a relationship and people will promote you if you promote them.”

As Justin pointed out, CSPAC does not engage with its local community outside of campus effectively. Something like PAN, or I’m sure countless other niche social media sites could be an asset for CSPAC to keep in touch with its community.

Entertainment Case Study: FreeFest (Part II)

7 Oct

Virgin Mobile also used social media to enhance FreeFest during the event and after the event effectively. They used Freefest to gain more followers and get people interested/talking about the event.

Virgin utilized Instagram, FourSquare and event create and app for the FreeFest. Concert attendees could get pictures of themselves on the jumbo-tron at Merriweather by posting photos of themselves and their friends at FreeFest and using #FreeFest. Virgin’s implementation of FourSquare was much more impressive. For every check-in a Merriweather, Virgin Mobile donated 5 dollars to charity and once they reached 1,000 check-ins, Virgin Records billionaire CEO, Richard Branson made a surprise appearance and showered the crowd with champagne (not sure if this was a positive, but the crowd seemed to like it). In addition, Virgin designated “secret” check-ins around the concert grounds. If someone found one of these check-ins, they could win a free t-shirt or food.

Finally, Virgin created a app for smart phones to implement all aspects of new media. The app gave users the basics of the concerts such as a map of the concert grounds and the schedule released before the concert and any line-up changes and updates. However, the app also streams music from the artists featured at the concert and serves as a pop-culture blog. Creating this app allowed Virgin Mobile to give concert goers up to the minute updates about their concerts and favorite artists.

CSPAC could use some of these new media concepts in their day to day operations. For example, CSPAC could use “secret” (or perhaps not-so-secret) check-ins for discounts on concessions or ticket admissions. For example, if someone checks in at a play CSPAC hosts or becomes the mayor of CSPAC, they could receive a discount on tickets to the next show they attend. Alternatively, they could give discounts on concessions if someone checks-in at one of CSPAC’s concession stand. The main takeaway CSPAC could use from FreeFest is the creation of an app. I think CSPAC could create an app to better connect with their students and those interested attending shows. A CSPAC app could feature a schedule of events, video clips of performances and news about CSPAC’s students, teachers and performers. I think this hypothetical app could increase event attendance because those interested in seeing shows at CSPAC have a schedule readily available to them and they can learn more about the performances to further build interest.

After the FreeFest, Virgin Mobile asked what people were doing after the event via Twitter and Facebook, and posted photos of the event for concert goers to see. Asking what people were doing after the concert was another effective way of generating conversation over social media. However, posting photos of the event was a good way for those who attended the event to relive their favorite parts or allow those who could not make it to FreeFest to experience some of it.

A photo Virgin Mobile posted of Skrillex after the concert.

The posting of event content is the main take-away for CSPAC from how Virgin handled post-FreeFest. As I mentioned in a previous post, posting videos and photos of an event can generate conversation and followers. As noted before, if content from an event is posted, it allows people to relive an event or experience the event for the first time.

Entertainment Case Study: FreeFest

7 Oct

FreeFest logo and information

Yesterday, on October 24th, 2012, Virgin Mobile hosted the 4th annual FreeFest, at Merriweather Post Pavilion, located in Columbia, MD. FreeFest is a free concert for the general public. However, once the free tickets are sold out, the public can purchase a ticket for a donation to or volunteering for at-risk youth. Jack White and Skrillex headlined this year’s festival, with appearances by Nas, ZZ Top and 16 other artists. This is another example of how an organization in the entertainment industry can use a major event to build a social media presence and enhance an event.

Virgin Mobile effectively used social media before, during and after the event. I think CSPAC can implement some of these tactics, albeit on a smaller level. To begin, The only way to get a free ticket to FreeFest is to get a code that Virgin Mobile posted  on their Facebook and Twitter. After all the free tickets were given away, Virgin Records also gave the public a chance to win tickets through a  Instagram contest, where people posted pictures of what “free” meant to them and tagging Virgin Mobile in the picture. This is a great way of acquiring new followers/likes. Virgin Mobile forces the public to interact with them over social media in order to get tickets to their concert. To further build hype about the event, as the event drew closer, Virgin Mobile constantly updated their cover photo for a countdown to the event. Virgin Mobile did an excellent job using an event to expand their social media following and building excitement for FreeFest.

While, CSPAC does not have the same appeal that Skrillex and Jack White have, they could still use some of these principles to bolster their social media following. For example, before a play or any other event CSPAC host that charges guests for tickets, they could have contests for sharing or retweeting a post about the event and the winner could receive a free ticket. Additionally, CSPAC could incentivize liking or following them on social media. CSPAC could post promotions or coupons for a dollar of admission prices on their Facebook and Twitter. The only way the public could be informed of these discounts is to follow, like or interact with CSPAC over social media.

I will split this case study into two parts, with the next part detailing how Virgin Mobile used new and social media to improve the FreeFest experience and to followed up the event.

CSPAC: Carrying The Conversation Forward

24 Sep

The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center is the host of more than 1,000 diverse performing arts events every year. I believe CSPAC can effectively implement social and new media to carry the conversation forward about the event, even after it has ended.

According to the Social Media Examiner , there are a plethora of new media platforms CSPAC can use to keep interest about their events going. Storify is the first platform that CSPAC can implement to keep interest about an event after it ends. Storify allows organizations to “curate” social media. Organizations can take Tweets, Facebook posts or YouTube videos in one place to better “tell the story” of their event. After creating a story, CSPAC, or any other organization could embed and post it to their website or blog. Personally, I think this is an effective way of giving those not able to attend the event to experience it, or give attendees the power to actually share the event with their friends. Being able to actually share an event through Storify allows more people to become familiar with an organization and what that organization does, in addition to potentially bringing in new people for a future event.

Another method the Social Media Examiner  lists as a way to continue the conversation about an event after it ends and to share it with friends is to upload performances or lectures to YouTube. As I mentioned with Emmys, uploading content to YouTube allows those who missed the event to view it, or allow those who did attend to re-watch or share the event with friends. CSPAC can upload performances, lectures or workshops (with the permission of the artist), to YouTube for viewers to share. Similar to Storify, if someone shares a YouTube video with a friend unfamiliar with CSPAC, it could potentially bring new viewers to future events.

Another tactic the Social Media Examiner gives is uploading presentations such as SlideShare to reach audiences who are unaware of your organization, in this case CSPAC. SlideShare is essentially the “YouTube of PowerPoint.” SlideShare users upload their presentations and then other SlideShare users can search and view your presentation. For example, if CSPAC hosted a workshop on sculpting and the event featured slides, those slides could be uploaded to SlideShare. If a SlideShare user is interested in sculpting, they could view the slides and about CSPAC. This could potentially lead to new attendees for CSPAC at their events.

These tactics to continue the conversation forward after an event could help CSPAC gain more visibility in the entertainment or education industry. Fans or attendees of CSPAC or their events can share the experience with their friends who may not have been aware of CSPAC or what it does.

CSPAC, The Emmys & Social Media

24 Sep

The Emmys are one of the biggest nights on the entertainment industry’s calendar. It highlights excellence in all aspects of television. The best acting, writing, set design and soundtracks are on display. Obviously, the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center takes note.

The Emmys do a good job of utilizing and combining new media to get TV fans across the country to get involved with the show. The Emmys use Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, and to get people to talk about the Emmys and generate interest.

ABC and the Emmys used Facebook and Twitter to post photos of the celebrities as they arrived at the show and of winners with their awards as they won their awards. This allowed fans of those actors/writers to talk about whom they think would win or give their opinions on which nominees they thought should have won.

On Twitter, ABC used the hash tags #Emmys. This allowed anyone watching the Emmys to use #Emmys quickly join the discussion and voice their thoughts on the awards. Not only did the hash tag allow anyone to quickly speak about the awards on Twitter, but because #Emmys was trending, those not watching the awards, might see the trending topic and start watching/tweeting about the show.

ABC and the Emmys also used YouTube to connect towards with their fans. They used their YouTube channel to post videos of interviews of nominees when they arrive at the event, after they’ve won an award or any other noteworthy content from the award show. Posting video coverage of the Emmys on YouTube allows fans to watch or share videos of the Emmys on Facebook, Twitter, Blog or any other social media.

While, it is impressive how the Emmys use social media to engage fans, how they bring all of these platforms together is the most effective. As mentioned before, ABC and the Emmys use YouTube to upload video coverage of the Emmys, but then link to those videos from their Facebook and Twitter accounts. Another great example of how the Emmys are converging social media is on their website. They have a instant messenger chat that views can participate in by using either their Facebook or Twitter account. ABC also displays a backstage camera for fans logged on to their website. By bringing together from Facebook and Twitter, and in addition to streaming exclusive coverage of backstage allows the Emmys to connect more of their fans together. Streaming backstage coverage to both their fans on Facebook and Twitter is a great example of how an organization can use new media together and more effectively.

The Emmys are a shining example of how those in the entertainment industry can utilize social media, especially for an event. While some of these tactics are not applicable to CSPAC, most are. For example, CSPAC could post photos and videos of events they’re hosting on their social media outlets to both inform students and their publics of events and build hype and discussion about them.