The Art of the Business

A blog dedicated to artists who are serious about their business.

Mobile Tagging: Posters? September 29, 2010

In March, I got this cool package in the mail. It was called Stickybits, and here’s what was in it:

Stickybits are like little post-it notes that have barcodes on them. You scan the barcode and “attach” it to something: a website, a file, a video. Then, out in the world, someone sees your Stickybit, is intrigued, downloads the reader to their smart phone, scans your barcode, and is taken to whatever you attached to it.

My inner nerd was pretty excited about this, but the wind got let out of my sails, because the app was only available for Android and IPhone, and I have a BlackBerry.

Flash forward…

Recently, I was reading WIRED Magazine (yes, I’m a nerd), and came across this advertisement:

Interesting, right? These things are popping up more and more, so I did some more research. Microsoft has their own Tagging Software.

So, I got to thinking: you all know how I feel about posters. In a nutshell, I think they are a marketing tool that has a very low ROI, and the main reason is because there is nothing about a poster that you can take away. Will you remember the URL? Probably not. You might take a photo of it with your camera phone, or have your poster linked to a phone number you can text for more information.

What if we could attach or print a bar code on posters? People could download the software, scan the code, and be taken instantly to a website where they can find out more about the play, watch a trailer, and, most importantly, buy tickets.

It’s a great idea in theory, but this technology has a long way to go:

  • You have to have a smartphone to access the applications (although more and more people are getting them)
  • The technology only works on some smartphones (see my example above), while others are still in development, because it’s so new.
  • Does the technology actually work? I downloaded the reader app for the Microsoft tag and scanned it a dozen times, and it kept coming up with an error message. It never took me to wherever it was meant to. Meaning: it was a fail.
  • There is no across-the-board reader: for each of these tagging systems, you would have to download a separate reader app.

I really love this idea from a marketing perspective, but it feels to me like it still needs a lot of work before it works in the real world.

Has anyone used one of these tagging systems? I’d love to hear of your successes or failures. Or if anyone is planning on putting such a system into place, I’d also love to hear about that.



Social Media Marketing Offline May 19, 2010

I talk a lot about social media marketing: tips, how-tos, etc. But a new and increasingly interesting field of social media marketing is taking place off line, in the real world.

So, I’ve been doing some research on the topic, and here’s what I’m finding out:

Tracking social media hits is really challenging. A great deal of the resistance of businesses, in particular, to starting social media marketing is because it’s hard to prove the ROI. What I mean by that is, “If I have a facebook page, how many tickets will I sell?” It’s hard to prove, because of the ripple effect of social media. If I send out an invitation to a show, I know who that invitation goes to. But any one of those folks could pass it on to their friends, or their friends’ friends, and so the people that actually show up at my theatre may be the 3rd or 4th generation (or more) of that invitation.

This is part of the reason why I love social media so much, but it does make it difficult to track where people are coming from.

Using social media offline can help to track where people are coming from. For example, a couple of weeks ago, I saw an ice cream place on Twitter post a tweet that said they would be offering a 1/2 price discount on ice cream for the first 10 minutes after the Canucks scored a goal. So, if the Canucks score a goal, and someone comes in and asks for 1/2 price ice cream, you know that person is on your Twitter feed.

Another reason why social media marketing offline is starting to catch on is because of the prevalence of smart phones. Nearly everyone I know has an IPhone or a Blackberry these days. If you see a sign like this, for example:

You can immediately go to your smartphone, go on the internet or to your Facebook app, and “like” this business. And people “like” to get exclusive social media offers–which for the business is a win-win, because it offers an option to track where that business came from.

Our smartphones also make it really easy for us to offer immediate reviews. A while ago, when I went to buy a futon, and drove across town to find the store closed, even though I was there within the opening hours clearly posted, I immediately twittered the #fail. The opposite is true for positive reviews: great meals, extra special service, etc.

Online relationships lead to real-life meetings

Last week, I published my very first e-newsletter. In it, I talked about the experience I had at Northern Voice. Briefly, I argued that social media is not killing face-to-face relationships, but, in fact, strengthening them. You see, we get to know people online, and when we meet them in real life, it’s less awkward, and we already know things about each other, so it’s easier to find something to talk about. Many of these online relationships are leading to real-life meetings, or Tweetups. That’s when a bunch of folks who all follow each other on Twitter, and have something in common, meet in real life for coffee or a drink.

Stay tuned… I’m working on a post with tips about how to use social media marketing offline.

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Arts Reach: Are you Ready for the Wave of Change? (guest post) November 9, 2009

A couple of weeks back, when I heard that Kristi Fuoco was going to Arts Reach in LA, I was insanely jealous. I immediately emailed her and asked her if she could take some notes and share some of her learning with us. She kindly agreed to do so.

So, without further ado, here’s Kristi…

From October 8th to 10th I attended Arts Reach (, an annual National Arts Marketing and Fundraising conference that was held in Los Angeles this year. The theme of the conference was appropriately, Are you Ready for the Wave of Change? The first day of the conference was dedicated to Internet Marketing and I couldn’t wait to fill my mind with endless new ideas for social media marketing. The sessions on email marketing and websites were great, and inspired me to make sure that our website and our emails are relevant, interesting, engaging and capture the experience of what it is we’re trying to do whether we are a concert hall, theatre or dance troupe or a museum.


The social media session, “Fans, Friends and Followers: Facebook & Social Media”, was more basic than I’d hoped, but did bring up some ideas from other arts organizations in the US who are using social media in innovative ways.


Here are some of the most creative examples that I want to share:Dudamel


The National Symphony Orchestra ( experimented with tweeting programme notes during the Beethoven Pastoral Symphony. The notes were written in advance by the conductor and then sent out throughout the concert at the appropriate moments and included interesting, sometimes funny bits of information about the composition, composer and any other random facts. Apparently they had a certain section on the lawn designated for those interested in receiving the tweets, so that they wouldn’t distract the other non-tweeting audience members. Here is an article discussing how it went from the Washington Post:


Another phenomenon is the use of IPhone applications by arts organizations. They used the example of the LA Philharmonic ( and their new sensation, the Venezuelan 28-year-old conductor, Gustavo Dudamel. I was lucky enough to see one of his opening concerts with LA Phil that weekend, and with this new IPhone app you can actually conduct along with Dudamel and as you wave your arm in the air the music plays. They’ve launched an entire microsite ( in honour of Dudamel that allows you to download the IPhone app, play a Gustavo game where you can match your conducting skills with his, watch videos of him, listen to his music, and much more. It’s a whole new level of experience, and of feeling connected to a conductor. Is this the way of the future for orchestras? Can other arts organizations use these tools in similar ways?


The third example was the Brooklyn Museum (, one of the first “socially networked” museums, who now have an IPhone app that allows you to visit the museum virtually, and to learn about different works as you move through the museum as well. Here are some interesting blog posts about it:

The general trend from this session was for arts organizations to see social media for what it is: SOCIAL. We are moving back to connecting with people one on one, and arts organizations need to use their creativity and resources in order to keep up with this new way of connecting.

Kristi Fuoco

Kristi Fuoco currently works at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts at the University of British Columbia as the Marketing and Communications Assistant Coordinator. She holds a Bachelor of Music from Mt. Allison University and a Master of Arts in Ethnomusicology from UBC. She is a lover and supporter of arts and culture and a social media enthusiast. You can find her on twitter @kristifuoco

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