On November 18th, 2021, CAPACOA’s Director of Research and Development Frédéric Julien and Cultural Strategist, Bridget MacIntosh presented “Your Digital Presence, Let’s Improve it” as part of CAPACOA’s Àndji Màdjitàwin / Reboot / Relance Virtual Conference.
As we designed this presentation, we asked ourselves: “if a performing arts organization could only afford to take one or two steps to enhance their digital presence, what should they do?” We considered the most recent research and development, as well as tried-and-tested methods. We considered the different stakeholders of the performing arts ecosystem and we came up with a short list of calls to action for each one.
This recap provides highlights of some of the steps presented:
Please note: CAPACOA has offered multiple iterations of this session and continues to revise contents as new information becomes available. Here’s an updated presentation deck prepared for the Western Arts Alliance conference, in August 2022.
Steps for Everyone
A website with lots of links
Yes, you definitely want to still have a website and you want to make sure that, in designing it, you follow good Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices.
The entire World Web Web runs on hyperlinks, so they are a very important part of online discoverability. Think of your work (i.e. your repertoire, your events listing, etc.) and the part of your website where you describe your work as being part of a larger hyperlink ecosystem. As Josée Plamondon points out, to strengthen your connection to this ecosystem, make sure to have:
- Internal hyperlinks pointing to the part of your website that describes your work or your main offer;
- Inbound and outbound links with your social media and streaming platforms;
- Inbound links from authoritative sources such as associations’ directories, online encyclopedias (i.e. Wikipedia), and open databases (i.e., Wikidata, MusicBrainz, etc.)
- Josée Plamondon et Fondation Jean-Pierre Perreault, Bien documenter pour favoriser la découverte en ligne; Travailler avec des métadonnées, 2019.
- Moz, The Beginner’s Guide to SEO.
Steps for Creators, Producers, and Agents
Release Images using a Creative Commons License
Images are one of the most sought-after types of information/content in the performing arts ecosystem. Yet, oftentimes it can be difficult to clear the rights to use an image.
To make sure that your best images can be easily reused by journalists, destination marketing organizations or associations, let go of some control.
A few ways to achieve this:
- Upload images to Wikimedia Commons;
- Release them under a Creative Commons License;
- Add lots of descriptive metadata so the images can more easily be found.
- The Linked Digital Future Initiative is presenting workshops on Wikimedia Commons on February 2nd and March 2nd. For the complete list of upcoming workshops and tutorials, visit: https://linkeddigitalfuture.ca/wikidata-workshops-season-2/
Steps for all Performing Arts Stakeholders
Publish open metadata
In a world where nearly all cultural consumption is mediated by digital devices and algorithms, content isn’t enough. You also need to exist in the form of data that can be found and processed.
What does this entail?
- A global unique persistent identifier
- Minimal descriptive metadata
Entering information about yourself into Wikidata is an effective means of meeting these digital presence prerequisites. Wikidata is an open database – everyone can use it for free – and it is trusted by search engines.
- Gouvernement du Québec, Guide des bonnes pratiques : découvrabilité et données en culture, 2021.
- Wikidata tutorials, workshops and resources by the Linked Digital Future initiative.
Steps for Venue Managers
Put your venue on the map
Location information is crucial for local SEO. You want to ensure that your venue information can be easily accessed by all context-aware recommendation systems, as well as by tourism offices and event listings.
If it doesn’t already exist, create a performing arts building item in Wikidata. Then:
- Make sure key location properties are stated: country, geocoordinates, address, etc.
- Upload images of the building to Wikimedia Commons and link those images to your Wikidata item.
- In April 2022, the Linked Digital Future Initiative will be hosting a Datathon to add performing arts venue information in Wikidata. Subscribe to the LDFI newsletter for more information.
- WikiProject Cultural venues
Steps for Event Organizers
Structure your events for maximum exposure
Performing arts events are ephemeral. So their digital discoverability is dependent on timely and accurate information.
At a bare minimum, create a distinct webpage for each event on your website. The web page’s URL functions as a unique ID for each event. And unique IDs are essential for digital discoverability.
Event plugins or other template-driven tools can also help. They provide a clear and consistent structure across webpages. This makes it easier for crawling bots to index your event pages.
Events can also benefit from structured data. Structured data describe the nature of the information on a webpage for crawling bots. Structured data can also be scraped (i.e. collected) and then reused in events listings sites.
- Frédéric Julien and Véronique Marino, Structured Data for Performing Arts Events, Linked Digital Future, 2021.
- Jai Djwa, Event Plugins and Schema, Linked Digital Future, 2020.
- Inga Petri, Why you need a web page for each event or product, Digital Arts Nation, 2019.
Let your association do the work for you
Associations play a pivotal role in providing data about performing artists, organizations and venues from across the country. Many Canadian arts associations are committed to publishing open data about their members.
To take advantage of this, take a moment to contact the associations that you hold memberships with and see if they would be willing to adopt open data practices.
Suggested resources: CAPACOA’s Open Data Strategy.
These aren’t the only means of building a strong digital presence and to become “discoverable” but we are confident these are good, effective starting steps so that performing arts stakeholders can achieve more control over how people can find them online – and what they can find.
In the end, a strong digital presence requires being present in multiple places on/in the web AND linking these individual footprints together to form an integrated, multi-faceted digital presence. No matter what the means, as long as there is some interlinking involved, you are doing the right thing.
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