Bowery Poetry, previously known as Bowery Poetry Club, is a non-profit located in lower manhattan. As the name suggests it is right on Bowery street, surrounded by bars, galleries and other event venues. Though they once had the space to themselves, it was renovated in 2012 and they now share it with a high-end burlesque themed restaurant. The restaurant has the place from Tuesday to Friday and Bowery Poetry Club from Sunday to Monday.
Bowery Poetry is a creative space meant to bring together artists and poets in NYC. The stage is open for all sorts of events that are meant to give poets, writers and songwriters somewhere to share their work and meet like-minded individuals. Bowery Poetry was established in 2002 by Bob Holman (Melnechuk). With a rich history of fresh talents and famous poets, this creative space has been a part of New York City’s rich art scene for almost 20 years.
One of the first things you will notice about Bowery Poetry Club when you walk in, is how elegant yet welcoming it is as a space. Poets come together to share their work with a friendly audience full of artists and art lovers. When looking at the Instagram of Bowery Poetry, before I came in as their social media manager, they typically posted pictures of people on stage and around the space. Although the images were great quality, the posts were repetitive. At times a picture of the same person, taken from slightly different angles, would be posted back to back. Other times, the posts would capture a moment where people are having fun in the space. Showing smiling, happy customers is always a good idea.
Regardless of how great the image quality was, or how well some captured the ambiance, their social media strategy was lacking. As a business, they were not using Instagram to their fullest potential. Instagram as a social media tool is meant to be aesthetically pleasing and dynamic or else you risk losing followers and attention. The point of using Instagram as a marketing strategy is to convey the meaning of your brand into videos and images that will keep your audience engaged long after they have left. Those images were doing the exact opposite. The page sadly looked more like a camera folder than an Instagram page due to the lack of diversity and the overwhelming homogeneity. The Bowery Poetry Instagram felt more like an afterthought rather than an active part of the marketing strategy.
For starters, although there was a consistent theme, there was nothing captivating about the theme chosen.
Secondly, the images were static and the repetition did very little to nothing for the followers.
Finally, the previous method did not augment neither what Bowery Poetry stood for as an organization, nor how Instagram is meant to be used.
To change this, I decided to look at the space and try to make sense of it by looking at it from the angle of what Instagram is meant to be. I also asked the Bowery Poetry team what their objective in using social media as a part of their social media strategy is. From our conversation I gathered they aimed to use it in a way that would attract the attention of future customers for both
Bowery Poetry and another platform, called Slam Find, that aims to be like Netflix for poetry performances. Now that I know their reason for integrating social media, including but not limited to Instagram, I must create an Instagram strategy that honors it.
When brainstorming ideas on how to improve their instagram account I thought back to what I learned from other scholarly sources. Even though the Colliander source talked mainly about a fashion specific instagram, I felt their results on snapshot vs studio instagram aesthetics might prove useful in this scenario as well. The previous instagram style used high quality images that one might use for major campaigns. Although they were great quality they did not fit the purpose and general aesthetic of instagram for the aforementioned reasons.
I decided to try the snapshot aesthetic instead. For this new creative strategy, I took images and videos on my iPhone just like I typically would for my own personal account. In the case of instagram, it is best to use a high quality snapshot aesthetic rather than a studio/professional aesthetic. For example, when you look at H&M’s instagram, although they might be using high quality cameras they still aim to emulate the general fashion snapshot aesthetic, in an effort to maintain the authenticity implied.
After deciding on what kind of image quality and style I would be using, it was time to ask myself what kind of grid/ layout/ or overall theme to employ. I made a couple mock layouts to try and brainstorm the best methods to use. After some more deliberating I finally settled on the idea of using a pattern/grid layout. I would post a video of the performers on the stage, then get their information so I can get their permission to post their work. If they say yes, I post the video and tag them. Then I would take a quote from their performance and post that as the image.
I felt a video would be best for Bowery Poetry because their goal is to attract customers to both Bowery Poetry and another video platform. Since the space invites artists of all ages to come in and share their poetry, I felt it was best to share some of what was happening in house on the platform. However, I did not post full performances, simply 60 second videos. This way, in most cases the follower would never get to hear the entire poem. In doing so, potential customers get an idea of what they might get from the space, while also being kept at the edge of their seat as they are left wanting more due to the unfinished poem. Although this style leaves the follower wanting, it gives enough to keep them engaged and cause them to want to come in to see a real show at Bowery Poetry Club
I wanted there to be an element of consistency in the page’s layout while still telling a visually engaging story. The first mock up I created involved using a video then posting an image of a quote from that video. It looked like image 1:
However, I was still not satisfied because the page looked bland. After some more brainstorming, I decided to use an app called Glitche to do visual manipulations to the quotes from the poems performed in the video. The resulting layout can be seen in image 2 The visual manipulation would vary every week, but the idea would stay consistent. I would take one word or sentence that I felt was powerful and do something to highlight it while also creating a stimulating image. Bowery Poetry aims to be a space that welcomes poets of all ages, in hopes of helping them find and build their poetic, creative voice. I loved this strategy because I felt it was doing everything a good social media strategy should do. It is visually engaging, while also showing what Bowery Poetry is all about.
This method was immediately successful. The first image I posted received over 170 likes versus the usual 20-30. This change in strategy increased the engagement on the page much more because followers now had a good reason to follow besides the fact that they like Bowery Poetry.
Additionally, those who were featured on the page felt naturally inclined to post about it on their personal accounts, which in turn, spread the word of Bowery Poetry’s existence to those who might not have known. Also, people would sometimes comment about how a performance made them feel. In one case a follower said “Wow, she makes me feel brave to try and perform my own poetry without having to memorize it” in response to a video I posted of a girl reading her poem from her phone.
To better show how effective this strategy was, I created the graph below.
This graph shows how the Bowery Poetry posts were doing before I took over the social media account (blue) and what happened after (red). As you can see, there was an immediate large increase in engagement from the very first post. At times engagement would drop and in most cases I anticipated when it would happen. I found that the main reason why a post might not do well was usually because the performance or quote chosen were simply not that interesting. I sometimes had to post these anyway because of lack of content due to the limited resources I had. I wanted to stay as consistent as possible with the posts since the idea relied on the theme of the image manipulation changing every week.
For the @poetny page I decided to go down a different creative route. For this profile I felt it would be best to use the name poetny (pronounced Poet-N-Y)to the marketing strategy’s advantage. My idea was to create a sort of poetry version of people of New York. My aim was to create a page that would showcase the work of a new poet every week. Each week I would meet with a new poet, talk to them about their work, take a picture of them in front of the Bowery Poetry Club sign and a video of them writing poetry somewhere in the city. This style proved to be useful because it also improved the engagement of this profile. For this profile I did not want to use a grid layout. I wanted things to be posted organically. The only patterns I employed was always giving each poet 9 posts for the week. I always make on of them a picture of them in front of Bowery poetry, and i always post at least one video of them writing somewhere in the city.
This method was also great because it engages poets and makes them want to tell their own personal followers that they are being featured. I noticed that the amount of followers poetny had gradually began to increase while I was using this strategy.
These strategies also used the potential customers in an honest way. I aimed to either bring the poet’s work to life, or give them a platform to spread their creations. This level of relatability made the work I was producing unlike any other. It became more about the people, and less about the business. In doing this, I am giving power back to the followers, the main reason instagram exists. The entire time these posts are being made, there is a constant and implicit marketing message. Just like followers would comment their desire to come in, poets would message us about their desire to be featured.
It is also important to note that the posts that did the best on the @poetny account were ones of the feature poet of the week in front of the Bowery Poetry Club sign. This noticeable difference in engagement made me aware of just how effective the use of real people can be. Although the page was no longer only about Bowery Poetry, but about the people, the mention of Bowery Poetry still sparked engagement with the account followers. Like the images that were posted before I came in, there was consistency and homogeneity. It was always a picture of the poet if the week in front of the same sign standing in similar positions to the rest. However, because the image was posted sparingly, with an average of 8 other very different posts between each, followers were less likely to get bored of the repetition. Thus proving my point that visual stimulation is a key part of Instagram theme related marketing.