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Now is the Time to Add Social Media to Your Arts Advocacy Toolkit!

Jocelyn Phu (Theatre Calgary) shares social media tips from her advocacy work with the Creative Calgary campaign.

As technology continues to advance rapidly, changing the way our society communicates, it is vital for arts organizations to invest in building greater digital literacy, infrastructure and capacity.

The emergence of social media has significantly impacted how we share information and motivate our patrons and elected officials alike. As citizens turn to social media to learn about and debate important political issues, policy makers are paying closer attention to how various platforms can be leveraged to engage with the public, disseminate key messages, and generate support. As a result of this shift, there is a lot of potential for arts organizations to extend their influence in virtual networks using social media as a vehicle for public engagement and advocacy.

Serving on the Working Group of the grassroots, non-partisan, citizen-led Creative Calgary campaign I found great success in arts advocacy through Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Below are some tips and brief examples of how Creative Calgary effectively leveraged our online presence using a targeted digital media strategy to help prevent another arts funding freeze (or worse, a 5 per cent cut) and put forward an argument in favour of increasing the base budget of Calgary Arts Development Authority (CADA). Following the results of the November city council deliberations, CADA’s budget will grow from the current $6.4M to $12.4M in 2019, with an additional $1M added to the base each year until 2022.



Above: Creative Calgary took advantage of a free Facebook feature that allows you to create pages for your events. Attendees can see your event on their Facebook Events tab and are able to share it with their own networks.

When you’re creating social media content, generally keep in mind the following:

  1. Share experiences and insider knowledge
  2. Describe and promote special events and programs
  3. Share news, announcements, photos and videos
  4. Build understanding (and excitement!) of your organization’s key messages


Above: Twitter is a free platform you can use to immediately engage with your community – during the week of budget deliberations, we used this opportunity to live-tweet highlights from public speakers, ask and answer questions using key hashtags, and share memorable moments with folks who couldn’t attend in person.

Content writing tips and best practices:

  1. Let your personality and “voice” come through. Use a conversational tone and write about what you know and what you’re most passionate about
  2. Try to include visuals such as eye-catching graphics, photos or videos in your posts. There are many free online graphic design tools, such as Canva, if you want to try adding graphics to your blog entries and social media posts
  3. Vary your content. Writing is often at the core of a Facebook or Twitter post but visuals such as photos and videos enhance the post
  4. If you are creating video content, consider adding captions and annotations to make your content more accessible to all audiences
  5. Shorter posts (a brief paragraph or two and image) often gain more traction across all platforms. Click here for more tips on this subject.
  6. Use relevant keywords or hashtags for greater Search Engine Optimization! We used #yyccc to get the attention of councillors and policy makers and mobilized our arts community with #yycarts and #creativeyyc (don’t forget to encourage your followers to tag you as well!)


Above: Make your content high quality, super engaging, and extremely valuable for your followers by including visuals that people can recognize uniquely as yours – don’t forget about the captions as well! Your captions can also be used as a way to have a conversation, build trust and nurture relationships with your audience.

Canadian theatre companies are comprised of natural storytellers and social media is another tool that can be used to give our community a voice. At the heart of it all, digital storytelling requires everything it takes to make great works on stage; stories that make the most impact are honest, sparking conversations and allowing audiences to connect emotionally. Using the tips above, you can begin to build a customized social media strategy to connect your organization’s value proposition with policy makers as well as your patrons.

For any questions, feel free to connect with me @JocelynPhu.

Jocelyn Phu
Executive Assistant, Government Relations Coordinator
Theatre Calgary

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