The Natchitoches-Northwestern Symphony Society is sporting a new way for the public to engage with the beloved institution: www.nnssla.org. The society’s recently launched website provides information about the season’s concert schedule, the symphony director, and the symphony’s origins more than a half century ago.
Website designer Jesse Poole described the process of creating the symphony society’s website. “We work with a couple different platform builders,” he says. “We provide photography and any design services that the websites would call for. That would include video, graphic design and photography.” He also suggests the website is functional, yet incomplete. “Websites are never finished,” he asserts. “You build a website and it should grow with the organization or the entity, brand (or) person.”
Developing the website required a majority of the symphony society’s 19 member board to vote in favor of funding the project. Attorney Jacob Ruppert led efforts to initiate the project. He describes the impetus behind creating a website. “Years ago there was no way to contact anyone about the symphony,” he says. “If it was symphony night or not you didn’t know, you just had to show up. There was no means through which we could communicate.”
Ruppert saw things improve when the symphony society turned to Facebook to provide its patrons with a forum for questions, and he eventually became the point of contact. “We had a Facebook page that I took over, which definitely helped satisfy the need of the public to contact us and get a real-time response, but of course it was only confined to those on Facebook.”
The symphony society had outgrown its Facebook page Ruppert suggests. “We were big enough that we need a web presence,” he says. “I wanted a place where someone can quickly check, when is the symphony night? What is the repertoire?”
Ruppert points out that along with information and communication tools, the website will soon offer symphony-goers the option to purchase tickets. “There’s a lot of people who want their flyer in the mail, and they want to write a check and that’s fine, but my thought was there’s a lot of people who don’t even own a checkbook because they don’t need to. That part of audience development I want to tap into, because they’re the new audience members coming up,” he says. “I can sell tickets, like season subscriptions and individual tickets online.“
“It’s all about meeting the change (and) of introducing new audiences to the symphony as well as expanding into the means of commerce that is now prevalent in the 21st century,” says Ruppert. “Plus it’s an ad. It’s our online ad. It’s our presence on the web. That’s where you go to get information and make contact.” He points out the symphony society’s website will have a broader reach than many people realize. “(It’s) not only the Natchitoches community, but parents of the musicians. I think the parents of these musicians are of the internet age.”
Poole elaborates on the importance of the symphony society’s website. “You have to be available wherever they are. If you have a client who wants to talk to you on some platform you’re not on, well, you’ve missed an opportunity to connect to someone. Whether that’s having a website, Facebook, Instagram, or whatever social account,” he says. “With the symphony society, really only the board members knew who they were, but Natchitoches itself doesn’t know there’s a Natchitoches-Northwestern Symphony Society.”
Poole also offers insights into how the symphony society’s website can maintain a high profile. “Your website and your social media work hand in hand. If you have one and you don’t have the other, you’re missing out on search engine optimization and targeting that business specifically in your region,” he says. “If you’re being active on Facebook and Instagram and you’ve got those tied to your website, then you’re website is going to show up above someone who’s inactive.”
Poole offers examples of how the website can maintain meaningful activity over time. “Your brochure will be different each season,” he suggests. “When you change directors, or you change styles, or you change what you do this quarter to the next quarter it should continue to grow with you.” He sums up the website’s role “It’s a place to showcase and hold information for the society’s annual doings and the things they have going on,” he says. “They’ll grow and they’ll get new members, but it’s something that’s going to take consistency.”
Ruppert is already formulating ideas for making the most of the website. “I want to have a link to the roster of the musicians on the homepage and when the new scholarship recipients are announced we would like to maybe highlight one once a week… We also want to highlight people who say, ‘Hey, I want to sponsor a student with a scholarship that I will maintain every year,’” he says. “We do a lot. We wrote a check for 45 grand to the university to fund scholarships to help out the strings section.”
With the launch of the symphony society’s website, Ruppert warns that his work is just beginning. “Websites are not a fait accompli. They’re always works in progress, and you’re always expanding and that’s the creative part of it. I’m sure it’ll be fun,” he says.