Social media and community engagement at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival

Ariel Fielding’s passionate involvement with culturally diverse performing arts led to an extraordinary work experience last summer with the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington D.C. Creating and implementing the Festival’s social media and community engagement strategies–no small task to undertake during a four-month fellowship supported by the Metcalf Foundation and the Ontario Arts Council–was all the more daunting in that this was the Festival’s (one of North America’s largest) first coordinated venture into the world of social media!

Ariel shared these challenges, and her on-the-spot solutions at a fascinating workshop with Creative Trust members on January 26th. What came first? Deciding on her goals (guiding people to a wealth of festival events); her audience (primarily attenders and their community of contacts and friends); her resources (limited for the most part to her and her small team’s untiring efforts); and her tactics (using Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and QR codes to create a growing affinity group highly engaged in a daily blog and crowd-sourced photo gallery with “faves of the day” and prizes.)

The results were increased and diversified attendance at events and a palpable buzz and excitement that bodes well for future Festivals. While there was not enough time to fully integrate a collaborative community outreach model into the work, Ariel’s policy recommendations for year-round grassroots community engagement and the symbiosis of social media and community engagement, set the stage for more growth and sustained engagement of diverse audiences in years to come.

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