Published on: October 7, 2008by Michael Sansolo
In the age of Facebook, there’s nothing more valuable than teen-aged children. Although I use Facebook, I understand the culture like an alien. My kids are the real deal.
Now the odds are that many of you have no use for Facebook, although the MNB audience usually boasts unusual technological savvy. However, I promise you there are parts of Facebook none of us understand - and that is to our peril. Facebook (and the other social networking sites exploding on the web) is not about business, or at least not yet. But it’s coming closer every day.
Consider the case of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra (or BSO.) Orchestras and classical music may not seem the best use of Facebook, but the BSO has good reason to ignore conventional wisdom. My son, who is studying to be a classical musician, told me about a major North American symphony that recently sent out renewal notices to its loyal subscriber base. The return mail told a sad story: a large percentage of the audience had died. Classical music has a demographic challenge.
The BSO isn’t taking this lying down. As my son explained, the BSO formed groups on Facebook to talk to students about classical music, about upcoming concerts and about the deals and discounts they offer for students. In short, the BSO is trying to build that next generation of fans and it’s not something they are doing lightly.
The BSO is the most prominent American symphony conducted by a woman. The BSO has two home concert venues about 50 miles apart to expand its reach. And the BSO plays unusual concerts, such as the music of the Grateful Dead to win over Baby Boomers and the music of video games to win over their children.
In other words, the BSO isn’t just fighting the demographic wave; it is diving in headfirst.
Understanding how to do the same seems a critical issue for every business, but we have to start acting now. I have no doubt that every reader of MNB has access through work or home to a young person who knows how to use Facebook. Well, it’s time to ask them to give you a tour to help you speak the language of this new age.
Ted Leonsis, one of the founders of AOL, discussed the power of the Internet in a short address to the CIES Future Leaders Conference this past weekend. Leonsis talked about how the Internet has changed the way we do nearly everything, whether it is a child using Wikipedia for a school paper or how adults make purchases. Leonsis told a story about how his interest in a topic led him to a book recommendation on Amazon.com, which of course led to additional recommendations and therefore more purchases.
(As an aside, Leonsis explained that in the world of the Internet, increased usage has meant cheaper pricing or virtually free services. It led him to question why the interchange fees charged retailers for credit and debit cards manage to rise despite increased use. Considering the anger retailers have on this issue, it might be time to visit Leonsis’ Revolution Money web site to see the alternative he is trying to launch.)
Now when it comes to Facebook, don’t just jump in blindly. For while the new realities of the new world mean powerful new choices, new opportunities and new avenues to pursue success, they do come with peril. The world of Facebook is also ready to evaluate you like never before. If you aren’t authentic, they’ll figure it out and blast it widely in no time.
But dive in you must, because just like the Baltimore Symphony, you have to get out there and build that new audience. It won’t be easy, but nothing really good ever is.
See you on Facebook.
Michael Sansolo can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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