Perhaps the biggest obstacle facing the groups that make up Sweet Adelines International is the challenge of gaining (and retaining) new, younger members. Right now, SAI has somewhere around 24,000 members worldwide (give or take a few thousand), and while that number has been holding fairly steady, it’s the same number of members the organization had around 1968, after growing to over 35,000 members at the high point in the early 1980s. The need for new, younger singers is evident.
I would speculate that the ideal new member is a recent college graduate who wants to continue their school-days hobby of singing in a choir. They are settled in their town with a career and/or a spouse and are reliable for the long run. High-schoolers all too often leave to go away to college, or lose interest once preoccupied with university life.
The best advertising, they say, is word of mouth. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always translate in the SAI world. Consider this – a 25-year-old hearing about barbershop from another 25-year-old is great. This member obviously thinks it’s a cool hobby, why not spend a Tuesday night with her and see what she does?
But hearing about barbershop from a 60-year-old is decidedly not cool from many 25-year-old’s perspectives. There is a disconnect there. You and I know barbershop is awesome, but they may need to hear it from a peer. So, while word of mouth is always the best marketing tool, other methods must also be employed.
I suggest that the online world is not just an answer, it is the answer.
The Pew Research Center did a study last year related to social networking. The results showed that a full 80 percent of Americans between 18 and 29 have broadband in their homes, a number that drops to 43 percent for those 65 and older.
Of those who have the internet at home, 89% of users aged 18-29 use social media daily, along with 82% of users aged 30-49. Interestingly, age seems to be the only demographic that matters when it comes to use of social media with gender, education, and salary not playing much of a role.
Breaking those numbers down to which types of social media being utilized is telling:
As of September 2014:
- 71% of online adults use Facebook
- 23% use Twitter
- 26% use Instagram
- 28% use Pinterest
- 28% use LinkedIn
While this is probably not news to many of you reading, unfortunately it is news to many members who run the websites and social media pages of the Sweet Adeline world.
The good news is that many, many of those same members seem more than willing to work on improving their region’s or chorus’s websites and social media presence, and it’s really not that hard to do.
I decided to take the top 50 choruses (according to my ranking system) along with the 24 SAI regions and grade them on their web presence and social media effectiveness. The following is the formula for my grading scale.
I began my research with that ideal candidate in mind. Someone wanting to find a local chorus to join, but who was unaware of Sweet Adelines. I also considered someone who had been told about SAI, and was searching the web to learn more.
I divided my research into 10 categories. They include:
1. Google – I searched Google using the keyword of the chorus name and organization and also a more generic search. For example “Scottsdale Chorus Sweet Adelines” then “Choir in Scottsdale Arizona”. From these I examined what came up. Did it show the website? Videos? Photos? Meetup groups? Pinterest or YouTube pages? Local news articles? In other words, what could I learn about the chorus/region just by searching Google.
2. Website – Then I went to the group’s website. I looked at overall quality of design. How modern is the page’s look? Is there vital info on the site like rehearsal location, videos, photos, a good contact page? Is there definite branding using the chorus/region logo effectively? What does the chorus look like to an interested candidate? Do the photos show any younger members? Does the group highlight their accomplishments?
3. Website Upkeep – How up-to-date is the information on the website? Is the event calendar still showing performances from 2013? Is the director listed still the director? Is your newest photo from four years ago? Do you have clickable links that no longer work?
4. Facebook – Do you have the correct type of Facebook presence? The ideal format is the Facebook Page. It allows fans to follow you, interact with you, allows you to create events, and many other cool features. If you have a Facebook Group, one has to “join” the group, and only once they are accepted can they see much of your information and interact with you. Why be exclusive? Social media is all about being social. This is a huge problem in the SAI world. As a non-member of the group, people can learn very little about you, and they may not want to join a group they are only curious about. The FB Group was all the rage about 5 years ago. Its day has passed. The worst option, however, is being represented as a person on FB. This is just like your personal FB page where people ask to be your friend and you can accept or decline. It’s the worst because not only is it incorrectly identifying you as a person rather than an organization, but also because due to privacy settings, little to nothing can be learned about the chorus. Think of yourself as Coca-Cola – the more access people have to you, the more they can try you out, the more they can see and hear about you before making a commitment, the better. Sell yourself like Coca-Cola.
For Facebook profiles, I looked at your number of followers, your photos, your FB page design, and your “about” page.
5. Facebook Upkeep – How up-to-date is the information on your Facebook page? Do you have future events listed? Do you have recent photos? Are the last 200 photos all from the same event? How often do you update your status? What percentage of your posts are just memes? Do you share other group’s statuses?
6. Twitter – I looked at overall design of the group’s page. Are the photos pixellated? How many followers does the group have? How many other groups is the chorus following? Is the page professional and visually appealing?
7. Twitter Upkeep – Is the information on the page up-to-date and correct? How often does the group tweet? How often does the group reply to other’s tweets? Many groups choose to link their Facebook and Twitter pages so that anything they post on Facebook will automatically post an abbreviated version to Twitter.
8. Instagram – I chose Instagram over Pinterest, YouTube, or LinkedIn for a reason. Pinterest, while being very popular among women, does not offer the same appeal to a new member candidate that Instagram can. People want to see the product. They want to get an idea of what they can expect to experience if they join. That can be done through photos better than pins. LinkedIn is a site for careers more than than hobbies. Also, although LinkedIn is gathering new users at a fast rate, the number of active users is lower than most of the biggest social networks around. So more people are signing up, but they’re not participating and engaging.
Did you think TV was the best way to reach the masses? If you’re after 18– to 34-year-olds in the U.S., you’ll have more luck reaching them through YouTube because the social network reaches more adults in that age bracket than any cable network. Of course, one video won’t necessarily reach more viewers than a cable network could, but utilizing a platform with such a wide user base makes a lot of sense. If you’ve been putting off adding video to your strategy, now’s the time to give it a go. You could start small with simple five-minute videos explaining what your chorus does, showcasing how you look and how you sound.
I did not dismiss these other social networks completely, but integrated them into my grading for the Google category.
Check out this good getting started on Instagram tutorial.
The biggest reason I chose Instagram is because it is growing like crazy:
9. Instagram Upkeep – Having an Instagram or Twitter page is useless unless you engage your followers. I looked at number of followers, how often a group posts photos and the quality of those photos.
10. Linking – This represents the linking of all your web identities. Does your website have links to your Facebook page? Does your Twitter account link to your website? This is essential to transitioning someone searching you on Google into someone who follows you on FB into someone who attends a rehearsal. Give them access to all your identities.
The first five categories are more important than the last five. Having a great website is essential and with Facebook having such a huge following, I felt that a weighted scale made more sense. So the formula works like this:
You receive a grade from 1-10 in each of the ten categories. I then multiply the total of the first five categories by .75 and the total of the final five categories by .25, thereby giving 3/4 weight to the first five and 1/4 to the next five. The total adjusted number is your score.
I then curved the scores to be better represented by the traditional A, B, C, D, F grades with which we are all familiar.
I have also added a listing of the chorus’s social networks that earned a total of 15 or more of the possible 20 combined points between the main category and its upkeep (for example – earning an 8 in FB, and a 9 in FB upkeep = 17) to show what a chorus is doing best. I also included a listing of the category in which the chorus has the most room for improvement. At the bottom, you will see the groups who were at the top of the list in each category so that you can look at what they are doing well and emulate their success.
Please let me know if you find any errors.
If you would like the full breakdown of your score, or if your chorus is not listed and you would like to be graded, or if you would like to discuss your grade, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org – I will be happy to speak with you. Please keep in mind that this is intended simply to help and encourage ALL Sweet Adelines groups. By helping each other succeed, you can keep Sweet Adelines International strong and growing in the future.
|Lions Gate||A+||Website & FB|
|Song of Atlanta||A||Website & FB|
|Scottsdale||A||FB & Website|
|Metro Nashville||A||Website & FB|
|Capital City||A-||FB & Twitter|
|Toast of Tampa||A-||Website & FB|
|Pride of Toledo||B-||Website|
|Tune Town Show||B-||FB||Website|
|Pride of Baltimore||C+|
|San Diego||C||Website & FB|
|Pride of Portland||C||Website|
|Harbor City Music Company||C|
|Alaska Sound Celebration||C||FB|
|Bay Area Showcase||C-|
|Pride of Kentucky||D+||FB|
|Stockholm City Voices||D+||Website|
|Sound of New England||D||FB|
|Region 15||D||Twitter & FB|
|Spirit of the Gulf||D||Website|
|City of Lakes||F||Website|
|Harmony on the Sound||F||None|
|Spirit of Detroit||F||None|
*Regions acknowledge they are in the process of redesigning website.
Best Websites (in no order):
|Song of Atlanta|
|Toast of Tampa|
|Pride of Portland|
Best Facebook (in no order):
|Song of Atlanta|
|Toast of Tampa|
Best Twitter (in no order):
|Song of Atlanta|
|Pride of Baltimore|
Best Instagram (in no order):
|Tune Town Show|