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How social are you?

07.29.10 | 11 Comments


CATEGORIES audiences, conversation starter, development, ideas, marketing, producers, social media, theatrical ecosystem

or, Please Don’t Be a Fair Weather Friend…

A few weeks ago, I started writing this post. I didn’t even have the guts to put it on my own blog. I decided to write it for 2am Theatre.

Then I saw this excellent post on PR For Smarties. So I immediately emailed Karen and asked her if she would be interested in collaborating on a post, seeing as we were clearly using the same brain.

So, here it is!

This post will probably not make me popular.

For those of you that don’t know me, I’m a theatre publicist from Vancouver, BC, Canada. People, in essence, pay me to get bums in seats. While I do traditional forms of publicity, like pitching stories to the local papers, TV and radio, I also do a great deal of social media marketing on Facebook, YouTube, Blogs, and Twitter.

What I find is, that we, as theatre folks, are later adopters of these tools (present company excluded, of course!). It’s not that we don’t want to, it’s just that we work in a classically over-worked and under-paid industry. Writing grants tends to take precedence over Twittering. I also think that many folks find  learning the new technology and etiquette intimidating.

When they do jump in, because they’ve heard so much about it, it’s often ad-hoc, and without much of a plan. And good on ’em for trying.

But I often see old-school marketing methods being attempted in social media (this is the part that won’t make me popular).

I used to have this friend. Used to being the operative word. This friend was going through a tough time, and, don’t get me wrong, we all need some help some times. God knows I’ve gone through the odd rough patch. But it got to the point where I’d dread to answer the phone if I knew it was my friend. It was just that every time they called, there was some new tragedy happening, some new drama. It seem like it was like that all the time–my friend never called when it was a good day, or to ask me how I was doing. After a while, I stopped answering the calls, and our friendship lapsed. I couldn’t take the drama anymore.

I feel like a lot of theatre companies engage with social media in this way. They ask us for something (please buy tickets!) without taking the time to create a relationship.

How do you create a relationship? Karen and I are going to focus on this post on two methods: blogging and e-mail lists.

E-Mail Lists (Karen)

Please feed, water and give loads of TLC to the people who willingly sign up for your email list. When someone hands over their email address, they are essentially inviting you into their home. And this is why I love love love e-mail communications.

By opting onto your list, this person has said, “Hey, I like what you are doing and want to learn more about you.” You don’t have to worry if they will never return to your internet home (blog, website, Facebook fan page, etc) because they have asked you to come visit them from time to time. They feel like you can somehow enhance their life.

So don’t blow it. Enhance it.

Here’s how you blow it. Let’s say you are in the middle of a run, and some person saw your show and said “Hey you’re cool! I want to hear more!” So they sign up for your email list.

Then they don’t hear from you for 11 months. Because you only produce once a year.

And for the next four or so weeks, you now bombard this person with “SEE OUR SHOW” (in caps-lock of course) emails. “LAST CHANCE!” “WE’RE ALMOST SOLD OUT!” “BUT WAIT WE STILL HAVE TICKETS!” “COME ON, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR!”

Yeah, wow.

After zero contact for 11 months, you are now treating their inbox like the couch a distant relative who comes for a “visit” doesn’t get off for four weeks.

This person signed up for your list a year ago. There is a chance they won’t remember they signed up. There is a chance they will have forgotten your company name and not realize that this is the same person they know and love. They may delete without even opening the emails. There is a chance they will flag you for spam.

And, yes, you are now that friend who only gets in touch when they need something. You need to sell tickets. You want this person who trusted you to buy a ticket. But what have you done for them lately?

Blogs (Rebecca)

Karen might disagree with me, but I think blogs are the best way of creating an ongoing relationship with your audience. That is, if you post on a regular basis. Again, don’t just use your blog to flog your show in the weeks leading up to it, with months of dead space in the time in between. Certainly, use your blog to flog your show. Post about auditions, post about rehearsals, how the set is going, show photos of the costumes being built. Interview key people involved with the show and post that on your blog. Create engagement, don’t just hound people to buy tickets.

Create a blogging schedule and stick to it. It could be once a week, that’s totally fine. Blogs succeed when your readers can depend upon them.

Blogs vs. Email, the Throwdown!

Karen: I love you Rebecca, and I hate to disagree with you BUT… I don’t. Exactly. I think blogging is great. I blog for both of my industries. And I actually have yet to create my email subscription over at PR for Smarties, so my main source of outreach is blogging.

But! The reason why I think your email list offers better engagement is that a blog requires a little more effort on the part of your reader. They need to go back regularly to see what you are up to.

Sure there are RSS feeds, but honestly, do you want to rely on that? I often don’t check in with my Google Reader for several weeks. Email (however much we all complain about email overload) gets my attention. It just shows up, right there, for me to open. And no matter how many unread emails are sitting in my in-box,  I will most certainly open an email I look forward to receiving.

The one-two-punch of blogging and email is optimal, even if it means that your blogging frequency drops a little bit to focus on regular email content (this is the part where Rebecca kicks my ass).

Rebecca: I recently read somewhere that the combination of email and a blog is really the best bet, because the two feed each other. I think that the best part of social media marketing is that you can meet your audience where they are. For example, if your audience spends a bunch of time on Facebook, then you should have a presence there. Make it ridiculously easy for your audience to find and connect with you.

One way that I connect my e-newsletter to my blog is I feature the most popular blog post of the month on my monthly e-mail.

So, 2AMt Crew, whaddaya think? Do you blog faithfully? Are you guilty of the CAPS LOCK email method? Share with us what you do, and what you would like to change!

Karen Greco has worked in the NYC media trenches for over 15 years, and blogs about PR and marketing at PR for Smarties, which recently launched The Smarties Solution, a DIY PR solution for small theaters in NYC. A NY licensed esthetician, she also gives facials. Seriously.

Rebecca Coleman is a Vancouver, BC, Canada-based arts publicist and the authour of The Guide to Getting Started with Social Media for Artists and Arts Organizations. She blogs at The Art of the Business, and would happily accept a facial from Karen Greco any day of the week.

Latest posts by Rebecca Coleman + Karen Greco (see all)

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  • I think that if you offer the option to email subscribe to your blog you don't repeat your content, you don't spend money on Constant contact and I can get it in my feed reader.

    *I also could really use a peel…

  • My day job involves developing social media strategies for a large number of major national not-for-profit organizations, federal government agencies, and occasionally corporations. There's very little here I'd disagree with, if anything, though it's important to note that every arts organization isn't the same, and each needs its own brand-appropriate strategy that might include email, blogging, Facebook presences, Twitter, YouTube channels, and a great deal more.

    Well done, folks!

  • I've spent the last couple of days sifting through my email box attempting to get to the fabled 'inbox zero' so this post resonated for me. Email is, undoubtedly, the most popular way for organisations to get in touch, but it's pretty much 'push'. If you're fair dinkum about creating a relationship (whatever that means to you) with your audiences and potential audiences – the ones that haven't signed up for your e-letter – then a presence on the more popular sites like Facebook and Twitter with links in to your hub (the blog – I agree with Rebecca) is the way I see working the best. Enabling the best viral outcome – retweeting or sharing is important too I think especially now the smartphones are so ubiquitous. It's important to provide choice of access to your audiences but to drive the eyeballs wherever you want them to be.

  • Way to go ladies! I consistently floored by the fact that the one thing many companies do have is an email list but don't give it any weight. I guess if you've been using it in the fair weather friend manner it's difficult to see a lot of success. Which in turn makes you think it's email marketing that doesn't work.

    As Gwydion mentions branding is important. Get your company's personality all over it. Have some fun if that's your M.O. It's the show before the show. A chance to start the Journey Factor with your little club of supporters. Treat them right.

    In the long term it will pay off.

    Thanks for the post ladies!

  • Thanks so much for your comments, everyone! Kate and Gwydion, Rebecca and I discussed adding Facebook and Twitter, etc into the mix, but it would have been an endless post! We are talking about doing something on it in the future.

    Dave, you bring up an excellent point about personality. I actually think that a little more of a “how to” is in order, to help with the “you should do this” part of things. Mulling a Smarties post on that…

  • Heh. I just peeled myself. Four layers of TCA + lactic with a Vit A booster to finish. That'll shed a bit!

  • I moved from Columbus, OH to the SF Bay recently, and I've been slowly weening myself off the mailing lists, newsgroups, etc. in the midwest, since I'm not really able to make the shows or help out anymore. Thirty-hour commute makes volunteering for concessions rough, after all. There are two Cbus mailing lists that I'm not willing to leave behind, though. The first is a company that's very near and dear to my heart, and I want to make sure I stay in the loop. The second is just special. They aren't the strongest group in the city, or the edgiest, or the ones striving to create world-shaking pieces. BUT, they send out one e-mail a month, like clockwork, and it's always both informative and entertaining. I never skim it, and I always at least chuckle. That doesn't seem like much, but it means that I know what's going on with them better than I do the “A-list” companies in town. From 3 time zones away, I've recommended their shows to friends with “nothing to do on a Saturday night” because it stuck with me, and if I check out a show when I return home, theirs will probably be pretty high on my list, just because they've managed to stay on my radar. That wouldn't happen in my situation with a blog, it wouldn't happen if they were “flooders” and it DEFINITELY wouldn't happen without personality behind the marketing.

  • I'm not going to address email lists because I have very little experience there… but Thank you for your comments on buildling relationships! I always tell people to think of all social media as a cocktail party. If the behavior would be unacceptable at a cocktail party (only talking about yourself, only talking about your show, telling other people how great you are, or how great other people say you are, only talking to the people with the most “friends”) then its equally obnoxious on any social media platform. Invest in people and they will invest in you!

  • What a great post — I’m reading it while chatting with our PR manager (over at http://www.1111theatre.com) about who to send a mailing to so we can utilize MailChimp’s 500 person limit. We’re vetting our 900-person list for who is most likely to want our SUBSCRIBE NOW! information, and your article provided great food for thought! Looking forward to reading more.

    You can also check out my brand new Arts Marketing blog, http://robynlinden.wordpress.com — would love your input!

  • Very nice article, I like this.

  • Sue

    What a great post, thanks a lot for sharing these with us!


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