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Arts Festival Launches Social-Media Push

on June 18, 2010 7:58 AM

On Twitter and Facebook, through YouTube and its own blog, the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts has gone digital.

The festival has maintained an informational website for years, but organizers this spring have pressed forward with their first comprehensive social-media campaign.

"We feel that if (festival visitors) are more engaged in the festival, they will be more engaged in the community overall," said Dana Marsh, of State College, who attended the festival as a child.

She pitched a social-media-outreach vision earlier this year to festival Executive Director Rick Bryant, who supports the concept.

Since May, Marsh has started building content and engagement through a Twitter account, an enhanced Facebook page, a blog and a YouTube channel. She hopes the effort help to draw in more visitors and improve the experiences of existing festival fans, connecting them with a wider variety of festival events and attractions, she said.

"An engaged visitor -- to be completely crass -- spends more money in the area," and the festival wants to have a positive impact on the local business community, Marsh said.

In addition, she said, the electronic outreach will help the festival reach and engage would-be visitors who can't make it to central Pennsylvania this summer. The five-day festival will begin with Children and Youth Day on July 7.

"It's all about frequency," Marsh said of her approach to social media. As volunteer director of social media for the festival, she is centering online content largely on vignettes about how the operation works and its history; short stories about the artists and people "behind the scenes"; event promotions and reminders; and other highlights.

"Festival Banner," the name used on the festival Twitter account and blog, echos the title of its more traditional newsletter.

"We're using Facebook as the primary medium to expand all the other channels we've created," said Marsh, who holds an MBA and an undergraduate degree in journalism, both from Penn State. By Friday morning, the festival had nearly 2,800 "fans" on Facebook -- up about 25 percent over the past month.

The festival is estimated to attract more than 125,000 attendees each year.

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