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