Follow Friday: Boston Symphony Orchestra

Sarah Manoog, the BSO's Director of Marketing, shares how she uses social media to keep followers entertained outside of Symphony Hall.

Keith Lockhart and the Holiday Pops

Photograph by Stu Rosner

 Follow Friday, At a Glance
Connect with the Boston Symphony Orchestra on social media:

facebook  Facebook
twitter  Twitter
youtube  YouTube
instagram  Instagram
google-plus  Google+

From summer at Tanglewood to the holidays with the Pops, the Boston Symphony Orchestra is without doubt one of Boston’s most noted cultural institutions. The BSO knows that classical music can’t hook everyone, but that’s where fun events like movie screenings, pop-up concerts, and other special programming come in.

To keep you posted on the goings on at Symphony Hall, Sarah Manoog, the BSO’s Director of Marketing, takes charge of its various social media accounts to keep followers entertained outside of the historic venue. Ahead, she shares with us the ins and outs of the social presences for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Boston Pops, Tanglewood, and more.

How do you manage the BSO’s various social media accounts?

It’s actually a shared responsibility between marketing and the press office. That might be kind of unique. Our BSO press office tends to disseminate information that’s newsworthy—in particular, information about reviews and things of that nature that come out about a concert, or upcoming unique events that we might be doing.

Marketing focuses on pushing out content that might attract people to go to the hall and concerts. It is a good two-pronged approach. We work collaboratively. In the beginning, we met all of the time and talked. Now, it’s a seamless collaboration and we don’t need to meet or post at the same time—we have a nice rhythm. I think we have a really clear sense of our brand so that when we communicate, we communicate in one voice.

What are the goals for Boston Symphony Orchestra on social media?

It’s a shared goal between generating newsworthy information, not only things about the BSO but also noteworthy things going on in our world, in the orchestra world, or even [news] in general.

[We want to be] a source where people can get a pulse on orchestra information across the country and certainly across the world.

The second goal is to try to engage the current audience and new audiences to come into the concert hall and enjoy the concerts. Ultimately, we like to get people here.

What do you do to attract a younger audience?

This is conveyed in social media, but we have really great promotions where, for $20, anyone under 40 years old [can attend a show].

Another thing is the BSO college card. It’s a card that you can buy for $20 that can get you in for free any time to any of the concerts—with the exception of a few blackout days we know will be sold out. For the most part, most of our concerts are available. We have a variety of ages here mingling with one another. We call it the 20 under 40 program.

In three words, describe the voice and tone of the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s social media.

I would say they are: exciting, unexpected, and attractive.

We’re curious to know more about the viral “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” clip from the World Series last fall. How did that come together?

BSO trumpet player Mike Martin had the idea and got in touch with a friend of his in the brass section of the St. Louis Symphony. It all came together very quickly, and of course it helped that Seiji Ozawa, the BSO’s Music Director Laureate, was actually in town to see a Sox game! The rest is history. It’s had over 300,000 views on YouTube.

Photograph by Stu Rosner

Photograph by Stu Rosner

Which social media account is your strongest channel? If you had to pick, which one is the “must-follow”?

Facebook is our core channel because it really is what’s going on in our institution throughout the year. We cross-promote the Pops stuff on both pages—we cross-promote everything everywhere. We do contests on the Pops page to go to BSO concerts and Tanglewood, our summer venue.

How do you interact with followers?

We respond to everything. If somebody had a bad experience, we would invite them to have a more in-depth conversation [via e-mail], but generally we stick to responding publicly to whatever channel they initially responded.

It’s very rare we get negative responses. We have a customer service e-mail that people use to voice complaints.

What’s the weirdest, most surprising, or most outspoken feedback you’ve received via social media?

I am continually struck by the worldwide reach and world-class reputation of the BSO by the sheer numbers and varieties of requests for auditions we get via Facebook. We get music submissions and audition requests from all over the world, from tiny villages in Armenia to towns in China and especially throughout Europe. It’s humbling, really.

Since you’ve been with the BSO, what’s been your personal favorite story to share on social media?

For this year’s July 4 Esplanade concert, we live-streamed the Pops show for the first time ever. To promote this live stream, we had a huge Twitter contest using the hashtag #WatchthePops, and we took the Pops musicians on the road in a wrapped bus for “Pop-Up Pops” performances at Logan, in Stamford, Connecticut, in Times Square, and here in the South End. It was a blast. This was all thanks to a grant from the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism.

The winner, a school teacher from west of Boston, will have the chance to conduct the Pops live on stage this spring during a Pops concert. It’s very rewarding, personally, to see projects unfold like this. One of the great things about social media is you can really interact in real time with fans from all different walks of life. It’s very rewarding for me to see all this positive energy around the Boston Symphony and Boston Pops.


Responses have been edited for clarity.