Habit is making the work of digital engagement feasible day after day, month after month. This means creating a steady flow of content that will be present and discoverable—a habit of content creation.
Your habits feed and overlap with your audiences’ habits. As users, we have our own patterns of media consumption related to where (at home, at work, on the bus), how (using certain websites or apps) or when (first thing in the morning, over your lunch break, or to procrastinate). By developing a consistent habit of content creation, you can encourage your audiences to engage with you over time and look forward to learning what you will share next.
Some journeys are spontaneous explorations, but for digital engagement, it’s helpful to have a map.
|15 minutes to skim
2 hour exercise
1 hour reflection (min)
30 minutes to explore links
15 minutes to read again
4 hours minimum, across several days
Practitioners on Their Process Interviews
We recently had a video go viral and it’s now at 3 million views. That kind of thing is rare (that’s the 2nd time this has happened) and we’ve had to make plans and scramble to respond quickly to the international press inquiries that come in. It is a good idea to have a plan in place.
We spoke with Amanda Moren from BANDALOOP (California) and Melissa Higgins from Sozo Artists (New York) about collaborating on BANDALOOP’s digital engagement from opposite sides of the country.
We don’t have a message or a product we’re pushing. We’re pushing conversation, curiosity, and exploration, which means that people feel welcome to share what they’re doing, to ask questions, and to feel like their ideas can contribute.
We reached out to Erinn Batykefer, Laura Damon-Moore, and Holly Storck-Post to learn about how they manage digital engagement as a team and how they find ways to streamline their work with Library as Incubator Project to efficiently project manage on top of their other jobs.
Create an Editorial Calendar Exercise
Step 1: Explore scheduling tools and editorial calendars
Using software to schedule and release your content on specific times and days, allows you to create posts in advance. There are many tools to help you with this, both free and paid. One of the most widely used is Hootsuite, which has a free version allowing you to manage Twitter, Facebook, and other social platforms on a single screen.
Below is an example of a simple editorial calendar created by the Detroit Symphony staff to use at their Monday morning planning meetings. Elements of the Symphony’s mission are mapped against the organization’s key activities each week. Then the social media staff (of one!) draws on these ideas to create the week’s social media content.
Filling in a planning grid, such as the one below, can be incorporated into weekly or monthly staff meetings. If you work alone, create one yourself to stay on track.
For longer-term planning, use a tool like Google calendar. Color code entries for different social channels to enable multiple people to see what’s planned and add their items. Add attachments to your calendar entries such as photos, press information, sample posts, biographical details, or other content—and develop these resources in advance. Larger organizations frequently have a “media asset file” to share material for use in the future.
If an electronic calendar is not for you, use a gridded whiteboard.
Step 2: Make editorial planning a regular agenda item
If you work alone, set aside time each week for planning ahead. If you work at an organization, include the editorial calendar in your regular staff meetings. Keeping an agenda item helps to efficiently plan with everyone who might contribute present. At first, it may take a little while to begin the conversation, but as it becomes routine, the process will flow more efficiently.
Step 3: Decide on a timeframe
Select a week (Monday-Friday or Sunday-Saturday, depending on your organization and needs) to use as a sample week for building your first calendar (make it a real week with real activities, not an imaginary week).
Step 4: Draw the structure
Draw a grid on a large piece of paper or whiteboard. On the left-hand side of the grid make rows for each of the main categories you want to share that week and on the top write the days of the week. Categories could be things like your own exhibitions, performances, or classes, or contextual information like “artists to watch” or organizations doing inspiring work. Think beyond the transactions you want (like selling tickets) and consider the kinds of conversations you want to have with someone interested in your work, someone you want to get to know.
Step 5: Fill in the structure
Consider the key things you can share that week, including information, images, or links. Also think about where your audience could contribute and the conversations you want to have online. Spread these items across your grid, thinking about how the days and posts could build on each other.
Step 6: Make a plan for media you have or could create
Review the photos, links, text, commentary, or anything else you already have on hand, and consider what things you will need to assemble or create.
Step 7: Make a plan for community
Make a list of people or organizations whom you would like to engage in your work each week. Who might you tag, cite, link to, or invite to participate?
Step 8: Assign keeper(s)
If you work alone, make a plan for gathering any materials needed for your posts. If you are part of a team, discuss who in your organization will be responsible for developing the elements within the grid you just created. Who is responsible for photography? For text? For links? For biographies or other factual information?
Step 9: Debrief
Wrap up your first effort by debriefing about building your sample editorial calendar—what has been helpful or difficult? How can you make the process simple and part of your ongoing work?
Note: If you are feeling stuck, trying Googling “editorial calendar images.” You’ll find that many organizations and people post and share their editorial calendars online.
Mining your daily work Reflection
Set an alarm or reminder on your phone or email to ask yourself this question over the course of one week. Sometimes we go on autopilot when we really should be actively engaging in the world and our work. Practicing mindfulness can help keep you grounded—and find good content along the way.
You do not have to share what you notice. Rather, the purpose of this reflection is to make a habit of looking at your environment with a lens towards sharing and to note patterns in what you find.
Resources on Creating Habits Go Further
Because people interact with media as a habit, we are expected to create content to feed such habits. That can be a challenge. In other sections we’ve shown ways to stockpile, plan, and pre-populate a content calendar. Here we share resources to inspire your creativity and make creation a habit you can sustain.
# 1 – The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life by Twyla Tharp
Tharp’s orientation is that the creative life is within the reach of anyone willing to make creativity a habit by integrating it into everyday practice.
# 2 – Unstuck
Unstuck features free tools and advice as well as subscription and fee-based applications to use when you feel stuck. Unstuck offers practical resources for coping with everything from trying to do too much, to holding yourself to an unreasonable level of perfection, to rekindling your inspiration. When you sign up for Unstuck’s e-newsletter, you get a weekly bundle of ideas that help keep you focused and productive.
# 3 – Morning Pages, Julia Cameron
Morning Pages is a daily habit for creativity that asks you to write—free-form and longhand—for three pages every morning. The purpose is to clear your mind of things in your immediate consciousness to open pathways through which creativity and insight can enter.
# 4 – The Power of Habit, Why We Do What We Do in Life and in Business, by Charles Duhigg
This compilation of stories by journalist Charles Duhigg reflects on the science of habits and the conditions necessary for changing them. Even if his specific examples don’t resonate, his explanation and guide to the ways you can adopt habit-forming and habit-changing behaviors is practical and based in research.
# 5 – If You Want to Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit, by Brenda Ueland
“Whenever I say ‘writing’ in this book,” Ueland says, “I also mean anything that you love or want to do or make.” If you ever feel short of inspiration, we advise an afternoon with this important book.
Curbing distraction and burnout Think Deeper
How will you keep from burning out?
Digital media runs 24/7. With this constantly in the background, it can be difficult to log off and take the time you need to relax or cultivate space for yourself. How can new digital engagement projects feed you energetically rather than taxing limited attention and time? What boundaries might you need to draw? How will you decide to say “no” and how might saying “no” ultimately help you do your work better?
What role is your organization playing in distraction culture?
Having the virtual world at our fingertips is an alluring distraction from the world that surrounds us. Individuals are interacting with one another online more and more, but these forms of engagement also draw us into our phones and devices and away from in-person relationships. As you expand your digital engagement, how might you think about your role in this “distraction culture”? How could your digital engagement foster connections both on- and off-line?