To tweet to or not to tweet that is the question. Well at least it’s one question facing theatres today.
In fact, with social media becoming more and more integrated into the way we communicate, interact and do business, the possibilities for theatres and theatres companies to use social media to promote, innovate and engage are limited only by their imagination (which for creative theatre types means the possibilities are endless).
But there’s more to a successful social media strategy than tweeting (or facebooking) endlessly about ticket sales and good reviews.
Social media is a unique medium with its own set of tools, behaviours and etiquettes. So to really make an impact, theatres need to be prepared to invest time, manpower and most importantly, imagination, into their social media strategy. Then, and only then can they expect to see real results, both financially and artistically.
But where do you get started? Here are a few ways of the more creative ways theatres around the world are using social media to engage their audiences.
As a promotional exercise and to build conversation around a show, many theatres are now inviting influential tweeps (twitter people) to come along to premieres and tweet their thoughts, emotions and questions while the production is occurring (from a segregated section or back row of course). This can create quite a buzz around a show and encourage more people to come along to subsequent shows.
Other theatres have gone a step further by encouraging patrons and actors to tweet or by creating tweetzones where live tweeting is welcome. Some shows have even incorporated tweeting into the show via live feeds, audience onstage participation and even story development.
Of course the live tweeting phenomenon is quite controversial. While many complain that tweeting takes away from the enjoyment of the show, others herald it as a new form of artistic expression, which allows theatres to interact with their audiences and create communities around a show. One of the most innovative examples of this is Coney – an agency, which creates interactive adventures through texts, phone calls and emails with their audience.
One of the most creative ways theatres are using twitter today is as a virtual stage to perform adapted versions of their plays. For example, in 2009, Broadway production Next to Normal released a twitter version of their play over 35 days, whereby characters delivered lines via 140 character tweets.
After about one week the production had 30,000 followers. This steadily grew to 145,000 by the time the production had finished. But it didn’t stop there. With cast members tweeting and interacting with followers numbers continue to grow and now sit at well over a million followers.
Currently, the Royal Shakespeare company is putting on a twitter performance based on Romeo and Juliet called Such Tweet Sorrow. In this twitter tale, six actors have been given a detailed narrative, which they are using to live out their stories over five weeks via improvised tweets.
Collaborative content generation
One of the most successful social media strategies for the stage is to involve followers and audiences in content generation. Not only is it a great way to interact with your audience and generate ideas, but it also has a knock-on effect encouraging your followers to share your brand with their friends and social networks. Done well, a good content generation campaign can go viral and attract a lot of media attention.
A great example of this was the Your Life, Our Stage contest from La Jolla Playhouse. Here people were asked to submit their life stories via photos, blogs, art or video, with people encouraged to vote for their favourite and the winner’s entry adapted into a play by Pulitzer prize-winning playwright Doug Wright.
This competition had a lot of legs from a social networking perspective. As well as creating a buzz because of it’s fun, quirky, newsworthy nature, it also benefitted from a marketing push by contestants. By encouraging contestants to gain votes from their extended networks, La Jolla Playhouse effectively had some 345 contestants working as their dedicated marketing managers.
This contest resulted in 5,407 reviews, 10,079 votes and 138,019 views. Not to mention the idea itself!
Use your imagination
When it comes to a creative genre like theatre, the possibilities for social media are literally endless so use your imagination. And remember, while it’s necessary to invest time, resources and creativity, it doesn’t have to be a massive or expensive campaign.
Above are some of the most creative ways social central has spotted theatres using social media. But there are also some more basic principles including:
- Adding value
- Creating industry communities
- Targeting niche social networks
- Basic competitions
- Daily deal sites
- Fan prizes
- YouTube clips
We will be covering these in a later post. So stay tuned. And in the meantime give us some of the best examples you’ve seen by commenting below.