I've long admired Vancouver Opera's approach to its Blogger Night program and got the opportunity to experience it first-hand when Darren and I were invited as blogging guests to "Nixon in China", the Vancouver Opera's most ambitious project to date--at least financially. First, a little background. For the last year, social media manager Ling Chan has been engaging with online influencers, initially a radical approach for a traditional organization with an aging audience. Ling also launched the successful Vancouver Opera blog. Likewise, the Opera's Facebook page (more than 1500 fans) and Twitter efforts (more than 2200 followers) have grown continually, bouyed by the Blogger Night program.
Blogger Nights at the opera offer a way to introduce and engage a new audience with an old art form. Not only do Blogger Nights provide a reason for online influencers to write about the opera--either about their experience or to review the show--the program represent a genuine effort to educate a new generation of potential opera fans.
Educating our little group was what Vancouver Opera did best at "Nixon in China". Prior to the opening night performance, bloggers got a backstage tour of the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. Darren and I had a previous engagement so we missed the tour, but it sounded like an informative peek behind the curtain. Before the show and during intermissions (yes, two intermissions!), we were encouraged to hang out at the Blogger Night table. A surprising number of guests approached the table and chatted with us opera newbies. Personally, that set-up is a bit public for my liking--print reviewers aren't asked to write their reviews in-situ--but the other bloggers didn't seem to mind and it did provide a chance to chit chat with colleagues.
At Capulet we talk with a lot of not-for-profits about using social media effectively. Vancouver Opera's approach to new influencer outreach really is an example of blogger outreach done right. After seeing a Blogger Night up close we'll continue to tout this model as an effective way to build a new, real-world audience.