Delete Twitter Theater Profiles

04.18.10 | 21 Comments

CATEGORIES audiences, conversation starter, ideas, major regional theatre, marketing, non-profit theatre, social media, storefront theatre, theatre festivals, theatrical ecosystem

If Rocco Landesman claims that artists are entrepreneurs, I think it is important to look at other entrepreneurial models, outside the theater world, to see what they are saying about the work they do, and how their work connects to customers and community. On person I follow pretty closely is Gary Vanyerchuck. His is very theatrical, and one that would fit well in the theater community. His passion comes from wanting to connect with people and bring back a Thank You Economy.

People have underestimated the value of a thank you and you’re welcome. I show people comments, on lets say Twitter, where people say “mmm, I just tried this product and it was delicious” and then watching these brand people look at me and say “Well, what do you do with that?”, you say thank you or you say you’re welcome.

You Can Not Scale Caring
Lets stick with Twitter. As the E is for Effort post explains in detail, I think many theater organizations are not using Twitter in a way that puts the customer or audience members first. Theater companies have a twitter profile, but it is usually run by an anonymous individual in the marketing department. Twitter, at its core, is about conversation and last time I checked I can have a conversation with a theater company or a business, but I can have a conversation with an individual. Instead of one Twitter profile for Theater X, why not have multiple professional twitter profiles for various staff members within Theater X.

The goal for the marketing department should be not only to use Twitter, but show/convince the other members of the staff why it would be important for them to use it. I hear all the time about theater companies polling their audience members to get data and insight on various aspects about the theater season, patron services, etc. While that is important, if one wants to see real time data, jump on search.twitter.com and see what people are saying about the show that is currently running. If an audience member posted that they enjoyed the show they saw that night, and the Artistic Director sends them a tweet the next day saying thank you, the audience member feels they have a personal connection to not only the theater, but the people that work at the theater.

Well, what if not enough of our audience members are using twitter to make it worth it? Tell them to use it, promote that staff members are using it and want to hear from them.

What if they bash the show or the organization? Even Better! That can lead to a conversation and relationship. Ask what they did not like, or what needs improvement. Offer them a free ticket to the next show. Show them that you care about them and value their relationship.

Experience Has Value And Content Is Cheap
I delete emails sent to me by theaters promoting their shows. I don’t read press releases. “Maybe” is the new no on Facebook. Content is cheap. I will go to a show if someone I trust posts a message on twitter saying that the show is good or worth my money and time. I am hearing on Twitter and Facebook that Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson at the Public Theater in New York, is great show. It’s on my list to see. A good experience trumps any content a theater sends me.

Experience can by synonymous with relationship. If someone I know is working on the project, that will get me to the theater. There are many #2amt people on Twitter that I have never met, but if I am ever in Chicago, Portland, or Kentucky I will make it a priority to meet them and see their show. Theater staff members should get to know their audience personally through the use of social media, and in turn audience members will get to know the theater staff members. If audience members know the staff, they start caring about them, and if they care they will go see the work that is being created. It has always been about relationships. Unlike the past where one could only interact with the people they saw through out their day, social media provides an avenue to have genuine conversation, and build a community, with people you don’t see on a regular basis.

Dennis Baker lives the ultimate freelance life as an actor, teaching artist, fight director and also working in web design, web development and search engine optimization. You can follow him on Twitter: @dennisbaker

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Dennis Baker

Dennis lives the ultimate freelance life as an actor, teaching artist, fight director and also working in web design, web development and search engine optimization. You can follow him on Twitter: @dennisbaker

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  • Dennis. Right on the money.

  • devonvsmith

    Agreed. Although rather than deleting (which will make it harder for fans to mention the theatre when they're tweeting), just add/curate a twitter list of the theatre's employee on the brand's twitter profile. Zappos is awesome at this. The article is surprisingly old, but everything still applies: http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/zappos_twi

  • I disagree that a theatre's company profile cannot be personal.

    Deleting is not the answer. Encourage engagement. Discourage broadcasting.

  • I have seen some companies put individual twitter profiles on the background of the company twitter profile, or more commonly in the bio. While I think this is better than nothing, as I read the tweets, I still don't know who tweeted what.

    Another option is to put name, or initials in tweet, but as @WillActForFood mentioned that can be difficult with 14o characters, hashtags, etc.

  • Michelle,

    Thanks for your comment. What do you think about the marketing department spending more time helping the actors, directors, designers, other office people to create content through twitter, facebook, youtube, etc than sending all through one company profile?

    I know that might be a little crazy at first, as its easy to manage one account than to manage multiple accounts, but do you thing the direct connection between audience and theater staff worth it? Being an artist, I know if can be difficult convincing other artists why social media is important or why it deserves their time, but also as one who does online marketing, I spend a lot of my time showing/convincing potential clients why it is important and how a direct connection to the audience make all the difference.

    Love to hear any insights you have to how you are using social media within a theater company, on or off the record.

  • devonvsmith

    but if i want to tweet “just went to awesome play #x at @theatre y” it gets real awkward if instead i have to say “at the theatre that so and so works at.” And if I'm a new customer, how would I know to search a staff person's name? Even if I'm a current customer, who would I look for on twitter?

    Actors theatre experimented for awhile putting #staff initials on tweets coming from @actorstheatre, but i haven't seen that so much lately.

    While I totally agree that tweets should come in a person's voice, and we should know who that person is, I totally disagree that theatres shouldn't be tweeting under their own brand name.

  • From a small org pov, I know if I didn't tweet for us, no one would. But I'm really tweeting for me, with information to share about my company on occasion.

    You're right that we (mktg dept) should push ourselves more to push others in our company into the social space. I try, but too often they see social as my job and they don't see how it connects and adds to what they're already doing in their duties. I need to make that connection more apparent!

  • Yes. And Twitter gives brands and theatres alike an opportunity to present their human voice and interact. We're just figuring out how to take advantage of it. We shouldn't throw it away now just because you're not completely sure who wrote every tweet.

    At least a who wrote it and didn't automate it!

  • Yes. Actors Theatre of Louisville seems to have a single voice much of the time for general news–and that voice itself could be more interactive–but from time to time, I know Amy A. from the apprentice company and Sean Daniels, associate artistic director, take turns using the account and always note themselves at the end. Others have joined in sometimes, but they're the primary guest tweeters.

    One idea might be to highlight all the folks who may Tweet on the account using the background image of their Twitter page itself–Staples does this rather simply–and maybe you could have a schedule. First week of the month is Bob, second week is Jane, etc. And through that week, once every day or so, you might say, “Hey, just a friendly reminder, this is Bob in props tweeting this week.” No one would mind that, I don't think.

    Obviously, I don't mind tweeting under my own theatre's name, and no, I probably don't do it as well as I should. On the other hand, not very many people in our local audience are even on Twitter yet. As we grow and spread the word about it, that will change. And the style of tweets will no doubt change as people engage and interact.

    A bland institutional voice isn't necessarily a bad thing, either. An unresponsive voice on the other hand…

    It's just like any tool, it's all in how you use it.

  • monicareida

    I know that some larger theaters, like Steppenwolf, have some engagement with their Twitter accounts. I have a Twitter account, but I wouldn't use that to interact with audience members at the shows that my theater does. I would set up a Twitter account to let people know about events, but to also interact with the audience and those that haven't even attended one of the productions.

    Theaters don't need to delete Twitter accounts, they just need to use them better. (See: Do not link it up to your Facebook and only do that.)

  • Devon, I think this idea has a lot of merit. 'Consistency of message' the old organisational model is being challenged by the multiplicity of voices and angles + the opportunity to engage in more public conversation that Twitter provides. The organisation that I work with uses the company profile but is experimenting with individuals within the organisation taking the Twitter helm on various projects. Early days …

  • I also think it harder the mid-size theater organizations with 1-2 person marking departments. You are big enough to have a marketing department so others detach themselves them from that work, but probably not big enough to fully optimize all avenues of social media. (Say this without knowing exactly the size of theater staff.)

    Where as, the smaller theater, the artists are using social as there is no marketing dept and minimal budget, and the bigger theater there is more people in the marketing department to get into the minute details of social media.

  • The only exception to this is if the generic company account solely offers rare, objective information — specific ticket deals, specific season announcements — the kind of factual information that doesn't need a personal voice. Even then, it could be “2 for 1 tickets for WOOLF previews this weekend: [link].” No exclamation marks, no voice, just information.

    It's a similar issue with bars and restaurants: Rick Bayless is worth following, but the marketing person (or intern, or whoever) is not. However, if Frontera Grill occasionally–not every day, maybe once a week–posted deals, and nothing but deals (“Free bottle of wine with dinner on Tuesdays.”), then the “company” page could be an easy reference for simple, factual, deal-based information.

  • Eric,

    Could the professional Twitter profiles of the theater's marketing, managing or artistic director give that same information? Thanks for your thoughts.

  • We don't have a Marketing Department. We have a me. I was speaking in general to marketers.

    We have 9 company members total. So we fall in the very small category. Which makes me think I should be pushing social on them harder.

  • To outsiders/patrons unfamiliar with theatre company organization, that could get confusing.

    Those sorts of accounts should be giving that information as well. But the “official” theatre account would be the most trustworthy, easy-to-find source. When people are clicking links that take them to places to purchase things with their credit cards, they shouldn't have to check (for instance) @michellemarie 's twitter bio to see how she is supposedly affiliated with the @MortarTheatre

  • The A.R.T. has an institutional profile, and it has been very successful for us. The idea is that it creates a connection between the audience and the theater – it enables us to give more of a personality to the theater, so instead of being a nondescript building in which art happens, we're an organization which interacts with people on a daily basis. As a staff member in marketing (@kerryisrael), I do my best to keep the social media about engagement and not about sales – which will ideally follow if people are engaged – and it seems to be working. I encourage other staff members and artists to become more active in the social media front, but find it more effective for them to maintain their own identities, and for the @americanrep feed to act as a funnel for the others. Someone writes a blog? I post it. The composer of a show tweets? I retweet it. It engages people without the confusion of too many voices.

  • I am glad Twitter is succesful for connecting ART and its audience. Thanks for sharing. I hope this post, and 2amtheatre.com, can be a place to share ideas of what is working with theater and social media.

  • Yes and. . . . . .
    You can do both!!! I, Natalie-the-promotions-manager, tweet @pcsghost as the official twitter voice for Portland Center Stage. BUT our artistic director, grants manager, graphic designer, marketing director, pr manager, multimedia designer, individual giving manager and community programs manager all are active tweeters and talk about the theater in their twitter communication. And it all works together beautifully. They retweet my posts when they want to and direct their followers to me often.

    When people want to talk about the theater, they send it @pcsghost. I'm the one that searches daily and engages with anyone talking about our shows, our venue, our actors, etc. I keep the tone personal and light and work hard to balance broadcast information and audience conversation. When we have guest artists that tweet, I engage them in our conversations and direct our audience to their twitter stream.

    It has a personal touch, but still represents the theater. It's a tricky balance. I personally dislike it when a theater's twitter stream gets too personal; making lunch plans w/ friends, long conversations with friends, etc. But it's also annoying when it's just tickets sales broadcast. It's all about balance.

  • Dennis — I am thinking specifically of deal/fact-centered information, wondering if there is a specific kind of factual information where an individual voice gets in the way. (Outside of this one instance, I am completely on board with individual accounts and completely bored with institutional accounts.)

    One example is Gary Vaynerchuk's own Cinderella Wine–a nightly limited-time offer on a single wine. @CinderellaWine simply describes and links to the nightly deal. I have been following other similar deal accounts (@smalltabs, @brokehipster, @grouponchicago), and their lack of personality keeps them from interfering with the conversations you and the crew and I are otherwise having. They state the deal simply, without hype, and they are clear and transparent. For me, they're the the only spam that isn't spam.

    Still, I don't want this specific case to take away from the rest of the case you make, which I'm fully on board with.

  • I agree. I once wrote a blog post about a show opening in a New York professional theatre, and tweeted about said post. The theatre responded.

    As does the Folger Library in DC. They are always engaging their Twitter followers, and are quite responsive to same.