Facebook 10K: Race to 10,000 'likes' highlights importance of social media

By: media Krissi Khokhobashvili, Journal features editor
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Social media stretches across all ages, interests and locations, and arts councils nationwide represent just a small part of organizations using the tool as an inexpensive way to increase their clientele. Craig Watson, executive director of the California Arts Council, said that when he came on board in August 2011 he wanted to to assess the council’s commitment to social media. “Our mission is to reach Californians, and particularly to spread good information about not only our programs, but the amazing opportunities available to artists and arts groups,” Watson said. “Social media is a good way to do that.” While researching what other states had going for them on Facebook, Watson was surprised to learn that a few had only a few hundred “likes,” or fans, while others, like Arizona, had thousands. He contacted Bob Booker, executive director of the Arizona Commission on the Arts, and issued a friendly challenge. He wanted to see who could get to 10,000 “likes” first, and even offered to give Arizona a handicap – Booker would win if he could get 7,500 “likes.” “He said, ‘No way, we’re in and we’ll race you to 10,000,’” Watson laughed. The District of Columbia joined the race as well, pointing out that at the beginning of the 10K the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities already had more “likes” than either California or Arizona. As of press time Tuesday, California was in an easy first with 9,575 “likes,” followed by D.C. with 7,258 and Arizona with 5,908. The winner, Watson said, will get the joy of victory and perhaps a piece of state artwork. Increasing “likes” for the California Arts Council has meant staff training and strategic planning, Watson said. A team designed a graphic for the race, showing three soapbox derby racers neck-in-neck, with the winner changing as the numbers roll in. “The 10K race has just really broadened our outreach,” said Mary Beth Barber, information officer for the California Arts Council, “whereas advertising and any other kind of traditional outreach like that would be quite expensive.” The success of the campaign is due in no small part to local arts councils, Watson said. At PlacerArts, Karen Killebrew oversees social media and said the local page has encouraged its followers to “like” the California Arts Council as well. Killebrew said an important factor in having a successful Facebook page is reliable updating – she posts at least one new item per week. Posts have been more frequent in preparation for this weekend’s Autumn Art Studios Tour, highlighting the artists who will open their studios. PlacerArts is working to draw its existing fan base and new visitors to an updated page, PlacerArts 360. PlacerArts has even found a way to combine the changeover effort with the upcoming tour: This week, people who share the page with friends will be entered to win two tickets to the Autumn Art Studios Tour. “I find it fascinating how expansive the reach is,” Killebrew said. “Even my sister, who lives in Texas, follows PlacerArts 360.” Reach Krissi Khokhobashvili at ---------- join the race Like the California Arts Council at ---------- Facebook lingo Like: Show your support for an organization Wall: Home page where friends can write greetings Post: An entry on a wall Tag: Label friends in a photo Status: A message letting friends know what you’re up to Event:?Application used to invite users to RSVP to a social gathering.