The Natchitoches-Northwestern Symphony Society offers a new way for the public to engage with the beloved institution: www.nnssla.org. The company’s recently launched website provides information on the season’s concert schedule, the director of the symphony and the origins of the symphony over half a century ago.
Website designer Jesse Poole described the process of creating the Symphony Society website. “We work with a few different platform builders,” he says. “We provide photography and all the design services that websites would call for. This would include video, graphic design and photography. It also suggests that the website is functional, but incomplete. “Websites are never finished,” he asserts. “You build a website and it has to grow with the organization or entity, brand (or) person.”
The development of the website required that a majority of the 19 members of the board of directors of the symphonic society vote in favor of funding the project. Attorney Jacob Ruppert led efforts to launch the project. It describes the impetus behind creating a website. “Years ago there was no way to contact anyone about the symphony,” he says. “Whether it was a symphonic evening or not, you didn’t know, you just had to introduce yourself. There was no way we could communicate.
Ruppert saw things improve when the Symphony Company turned to Facebook to provide its customers with a question forum, and he eventually became the point of contact. “We had a Facebook page which I took over, which certainly helped satisfy the public’s need to contact us and get a real-time response, but of course that was only limited to those on Facebook.”
The symphonic society had outgrown its Facebook page, suggests Ruppert. “We were big enough to need a web presence,” he says. “I wanted a place where someone could quickly check, when is the symphonic evening? What is the repertoire?
Ruppert points out that in addition to the information and communication tools, the website will soon offer spectators of the symphony the possibility of purchasing 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 I thought there’s a lot of people who don’t even have a checkbook because they don’t ‘don’t need it. That part of audience development that I want to tap into, because it’s the new audience members coming in,” he says. “I can sell tickets, like season tickets and individual tickets online .”
“It’s about dealing with change (and) introducing new audiences to the symphony as well as growing into the ways of commerce that are prevalent today in the 21st century,” says Ruppert. “Besides, it’s an advertisement. This is our online ad. It is our web presence. This is where we will look for information and make contact. He points out that the Symphony Society website will have a wider reach than many people realize. “(It’s) not just the Natchitoches community, but the parents of the musicians. I think the parents of these musicians are from the internet age.
Poole explains the importance of the Symphony Society website. “You have to be available wherever they are. If you have a client who wants to talk to you on a platform you’re not on, well, you’ve missed an opportunity to connect with someone. Whether it’s having a website, Facebook, Instagram or any social account,” he says. “With the symphonic society, only the board members knew who they were, but Natchitoches itself doesn’t know there is a Natchitoches-Northwestern symphonic society.”
Poole also offers insight into how the Symphony Society website can maintain a high profile. “Your website and your social networks 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 area,” he says. “If you are active on Facebook and Instagram and have linked them to your website, your website will appear above someone who is inactive.”
Poole offers examples of how the website can maintain meaningful activity over time. “Your brochure will be different every season,” he suggests. “As you change managers, or change your style, or change what you do from this quarter to next quarter, that should continue to grow with you.” He sums up the role of the website. “It’s a place to present and store information about the society’s annual activities and the activities that take place there,” he says. “They will grow and they will have new members, but it is something that will require consistency.”
Ruppert is already formulating ideas for getting the most out of the website. “I want to have a link to the list of musicians on the homepage and when new fellows are announced we might like to 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 said. “We do a lot. We wrote a check for $45,000 to the university to fund scholarships to help the string section.
With the launch of the symphonic society’s website, Ruppert warns that his work has only just begun. “Websites are not a done deal. It’s still a work in progress, and you’re still expanding and that’s the creative part of it. I’m sure it will be fun,” he said.