Monday, July 16, 2012

Social Media as a Viable Tool in the Theatrical Arts

Recently I did about 35 job interviews for positions back in the states. They were for various positions in companies from Artistic Director to Community Outreach to Teaching Positions at Universities. One common question was asked in all the interviews. "Do you have experience in using social media and the inter-web in promoting theatre?"
This is the first time I had been asked this question sooooo many times in interviews. But it makes me think about how the landscape of theatrical advertising and outreach is changing in our modern era. In the "olden days" all one had was the three basics: 1) word of mouth 2) print 3) radio and tv

Now, we have so many more ways of reaching an audience. We can reach them through mailing lists, twitter, facebook, pinterest, klout, flashmobs, viral videos, street art, as well as any of the traditional methods. It's great because we can reach such a more diverse audience then we ever could before. Our reach can be global in 2 seconds by making a youtube ad, for example. But, when the human attention span is getting shorter and shorter; which is the best method of getting a hold of new audience members and more importantly... keeping them?

Marketing is an essential part of the theatrical arts. If tickets aren't sold- then the show can't go on. I went back in my mind and started thinking about past campaigns I had worked on and seen in Hong Kong and why they worked.

1) Being well connected
There is something to be said for having a powerful mailing list. There is one artist in particular in town I know we are all thinking of! If you are a well connected artist with fans you are not only going to be able to produce successful shows. You're also going to be a person people are going to want to cast because they know you'll fill the house. Making yourself marketable as an artist is an important factor in being a working thespian. We work in a field where people have to enjoy watching you. If you stop entertaining them- you're going to stop working. Simple.

2) Facebook Friends/Getting Twitterpated
I use as many different avenues of social media as I can in order to promote my shows. I have different friends on all my social media devices. I mainly have media/communications/blogger people on twitter and I have more personal/theatrical connections on facebook. I think all theatre companies in town should have an official facebook page/website so people can search for you easily. There is nothing more frustrating then wanting to contact someone in the theatre world and having no way to find their email address.

My art friends are more likely to use Instagram and Pinterest as it's a fun way for them to share their art. I will share my show posters and show photos on these services. I had a trial run with Youtube and vlogging earlier in the year but frankly it was very stressful finding venues to sponsor as locations to shoot in and guest stars for the vlogs. It wasn't worth the trouble and my hits didn't increase that much... Has anyone in town had great success with trailers for their show? I would love to hear some stats...

3)Networking with other communities
I've found that getting a sponsor for the show really helps open up your network. My most success with this was with the Vixen's show, Snow and the Deadly Seven. We had a bar as a sponsor and because of that we were put on their mailing list, their website, and their facebook page. This helped link us into their thousands of fans. Sometimes a sponsor can be worth a lot more in ticket sales than actual donation money because if they like you- their fans will "like" you. If you get what I'm saying....

4) Tradition!
I love the traditional methods as well. Nothing can beat a well designed show poster or a snazzy interview on RTHK with Phil Whelan. I have bought tickets because of flyers and well done interviews. Due to the vast amount of leaflets given out in HK one has to design a stellar flyer and make a digital version that is equally eye appealing. There is nothing worse than digital flyer where the print is too small to read!
Now, click on the full size of this poster... Can you read it!??

5) Internet Press
The average turn around in internet press is 24-48 hours. Publications like HK magazine and BC magazine go to press 2 weeks before the date printed on the cover. There is no way for them to give an accurate review of any show in town because we don't have the time or the money as a community to give a press preview 2 weeks before we open.

Therefore, we as an artistic community need to use the power of the internet, (like us poor, humble bloggers) to help us get the word out on our shows. Since I started reviewing shows in Hong Kong last summer my hits went up 400%! (Yup, you read that right!) I recently got my 500,000th hit. That means my blog has been clicked on 500,000 times. And so you're aware 78% of the hits are from Hong Kong. That's a hell of a lot people who are potentially buying tickets to our events! Sure, it might be some of you reading every single article but often times my largest search on google is: "English Theatre in Hong Kong" followed quickly by "Best Cupcakes in Hong Kong". I can see you have your priorities straight...

To wrap it up, I know some people are not a fan of using social media or the internet to promote shows. They think it's tacky to email and harass the hell out of your friends on facebook into buying tickets. They even think bad things about me for writing my reviews in real time while the show is still playing. My official response: "If they stop being your friend because you tried to sell them a ticket or told them the what you really thought of their show- they never were your friend..."

We bloggers (All 2 of us) are trying to get organized to better serve the community next year! Make sure to send us your press releases for future shows! Here is my email.

Another great theatrical blogger in town: Satoshi Kyo

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