Detroit Symphony strike plays out on facebook

Feb 25, 2011

As the fight between Detroit Symphony Orchestra management and musicians drags on for the fourth month, another fight of sorts is playing out on facebook.

Before the strike vs. now

The DSO  facebook fan page used to function like a typical fan page - stories about visiting conductors, upcoming concerts, and news about the orchestra’s Tiny Tots series.

But as the strike progressed, management has turned the DSO facebook fan page into a strike-update page, posting about negotiations and contract proposals. (The Detroit Symphony Orchestra musicians have their own facebook page and post their viewpoints there.)

Some, like DSO Executive director Anne Parsons, describe the DSO facebook fan page as "a pretty active place to be." DSO conductor Leonard Slatkin commented on the page's level of "vitriol" at one point in a Detroit News Article.

Social media is an "invitation to involvement"

Cornelia Pokryzwa is a long time fan and patron of the orchestra. She thinks the strike discussions on the DSO facebook fan page are valuable. She likes that  all kinds of people are participating in the discussion -  from musicians and DSO season ticket holders to people who've never even seen a DSO performance. But Pokryzwa thinks management could do more to interact with the people who post on the fan page:

"Social media is an invitation to involvement, and so once people are involved enough to comment, then it seems that the strategy should be to engage them and not just host a discussion board. There are a lot of angry people on there and I think they need to do something...to get their fans back."

Expert: "You cannot negotiate a labor agreement on the social media."

Christie Nordhielm, a marketing professor at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, says "you cannot negotiate a labor agreement on the social media. It doesn’t work." She calls it a "poor use of social media as a tool."

Nordhielm believes the DSO’s image will be hurt by the fight on facebook, but the question is for how long. Her advice for the DSO management?

"First: Shut up. Just stop. And then second: Wait quietly until people forget."

She says lucky for the DSO, the public has a short attention span. The question is: will the musicians?