Category Archives: social media

Online forums: blessing or curse?

A recent* thread on an online forum leads me to think about the dangers of such forums – or are they blessings in disguise? A communication from a Cathedral to a visiting choir implied a significant change in what such choirs would be permitted to do. An online discussion of the implications of its content caused consternation at that Cathedral. It turned out that this communication had left out a couple of relevant points, and the original poster ended the discussion by posting a correction.

I understand how organisations must fear social media and forums with their power to spread information, possibly altering it in the process. But there are benefits for them. Firstly, an awareness that the content of communications may quickly become public may cause greater care in the wording of those communications and on how they are delivered; in my experience Cathedrals can be quite casual about this. It may mean fewer messages coming from ‘on high’ with the originator of a decision getting someone else to deliver the actual message, with the attendant risk of distortion, misunderstanding and lack of transparency. Better communications all round can only be a help.

Secondly, the internet is making the sort of discussions members of visiting choirs have always had among themselves (there is a large overlap in membership) more visible. In other words, it is now possible to eavesdrop on these discussions, scotch false rumours, correct inaccuracies, and even reflect on the actions which sparked off those discussions. These points seem relevant to a wider world outside the rather restricted one of Cathedral visiting choirs.

* I have backdated this thread so as not to reveal any identities, which is not the point of this post.


An idiom which has spread all round social media is to add a string of words jammed together, prefaced by a hashtag, at the end of an utterance. It often expresses the author’s attitude to what they’ve just described, e.g #baffledblogger

This must have started on Twitter, where the character limit means that extreme concision is necessary. Prefacing the string of words with # means it can potentially be taken up by others as a tag, although the vast majority remain hapax legomena or little used; the longer they are the more likely they are to be unique. I can find three instances of #baffledblogger on Twitter, all apparently independent of one another.

The idiom has spread to other media such as Facebook, where there is no need for concision. Let me now explain why I don’t use it. I’m quite capable of expressing myself, feelings, attitudes and all, within the character limit and retaining spaces between words. Nor have I pretensions to starting viral hashtags, so I only use tags for plausible search terms, or ones which are well established in use.

does Twitter work?

I’ve taken over doing social media for a couple of organisations including a local choir. This choir has posted over 4,000 tweets and now has over 1,500 followers. I have a rough rule of thumb to follow half of those who follow us.

Is this translating into extra ticket sales and new choir members? It’s very hard to quantify this. I would say that only about 1 in 6 of the new followers we get are individuals rather than organisations. Some of these individuals are agents, musical promoters and others with a professional interest in what we do; others live overseas so are unlikely to join us or attend concerts. Does this matter?

I think it is less important than it seems:

  • Behind every organisation who follows us there is a person or people possibly seeing our tweets
  • The professionals may be useful to us at some point
  • There are still enough interested individuals out there to make it worthwhile
  • Retweets broadcast our information much more widely

Perhaps the real value is just in our presence, which tells the world we’re there and raises awareness of us.