Igniting connections across the globe.

A Night At The Symphony & Why Social Media Matters

By Ashley Sutherland

The scene is set on a warm, June night in Birmingham, Alabama at the Railroad Park, a new greenway in the middle of downtown next to the old and well-traveled Birmingham Railroad; once a hub for industry transportation. The Alabama Symphony Orchestra lead by Music Director Carlos Izcaray holds a performance from its summer series, Symphony in the Summer.  The Alabama Symphony Orchestra, which began in 1921, is the State of Alabama’s only full-time professional orchestra played music by Mozart, Liszt, Wagner, Verdi and Tchaikovsky.  Balmy Southern weather and a moonlit night greeted an estimated 5,000 listeners, including me and my family.  

The Alabama Symphony Orchestra like many around the world is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization offering free performances to the public, often outdoors in the Spring and Summer months.  These events are favored by patrons, due to the economical price tag, but also because it is an incredibly fun community event where families and single people can attend with friends, picnics, chairs, and partake in libations.

For many, attending free outdoor concerts might be the only time within a year that they are exposed to the arts world, especially symphonies. The large part of a symphony’s season is held indoors, in concert halls or theatres and sometimes ticket prices and busy schedules prevent patron attendance.  In the summer though, outdoor symphony concerts in parks under starlit nights are usually a favorite for patrons.

Someone once told me that you can support organizations (charitable and non-profit) in three ways.  You can donate money or your time or advocate on their behalf.  Many arts organizations are non-profit and they must raise money to support their operating budget. Often these organizations rely on volunteers to complete the majority of tasks within the organization.

For the average person, it is not possible to donate thousands of dollars to become a high-level donor and often time is too precious to volunteer offering hours of service. What everyone can do however, is to become an advocate on behalf of the arts or favored organization of their choice. This is where social media comes into the conversation and why it matters.

On large screens next to the Alabama Symphony Orchestra’s performance tent on the night of their concert, I noticed that all of the social media platforms on which the Symphony held an account were being projected.  These logos are not projected to make the organization look hip or cool for having a Snapchat or Twitter account, however, the organization is asking for help with promoting their social accounts and requesting advocacy.  Sharing photos of your experience and tagging organizations is definitely promotion and advocacy on behalf of the organization. It’s not only free advertising, creating social media posts is helping to support your community.

Social media reach and influence are complicated equations, but at a very simple level, the number of people that follow you on any platform can be considerable.  Let’s say that you post daily and out of your followers, 50 people “like” your photo, your mom or dad makes a comment, and the other 300 people that follow your account, are quietly lurking in the shadows. They are not liking or commenting on your post but they are simply reviewing the post and allowing it to make an impression.  In this scenario, 351 of your followers have seen your post on social media.  If one person shares your post or decides to repost, the visibility of your post may double. If ten people share a post, it may be seen by a 2,500 people or more.  This means that thousands of people have now seen the post of you having a great time at the symphony, ballet, or musical, and maybe five of the people think to themselves, “that looks like fun and I want to go to the next performance!”  Everyone can take one moment to advocate for a non-profit organization and all that you have to do is take a photo or make a comment and post it on the social media platform of your choice while tagging the organization’s social accounts.

If you run a non-profit or any arts organization and you do not have representation on all social media platforms, go ahead and open accounts today, with haste!

Snapchat is the most popular social platform for middle school through college age people, Instagram is the leader of the pack for 24-30 year olds, and Twitter and Facebook cover all ages after 30, while also touching a sprinkling of all the other age demographics. If you perform in a theatre or venue frequently, create a Snapchat geo filter. Geofilters are creative overlays that capture where you are or what you’re up to in a Snap (post on Snapchat).  You can create your own, and surprise Snapchatters in the locations you choose.  Here are two photos that I took on the night of the concert with one of the Symphony in the Summer Snapchat filters.


If you do not know how to create a Snapchat filter, ask a teenager that dabbles in graphic design. They will know how to help you and it might feel nice for them to teach you a new skill.  Once they have created an overlay graphic for you, you then submit it to Snapchat and they load it with the coordinates of your venue, then “boom,” you have a personalized filter.  Do not miss the opportunity for patrons to publicize your company and advocate on your behalf.

I challenge you to support the arts this summer and around the year. Find a concert or show near you whether you live in London, Sydney, Sweden, or Birmingham, Alabama. Raise the exposure of the arts and other organizations that need our support. Go ahead and show your patronage and advocacy for groups that deserve our attention.