Theatre: Wake up to the Digital Age
This is a brilliant piece written by Lyn Gardener. Read the original article HERE
Theatre: wake up to the digital age!
Whether we’re talking about Twitter, Facebook or the blogosphere, it’s high time theatres used social media properly – and not just for free advertising.
Theatre: wake up to the digital age!
Whether we’re talking about Twitter, Facebook or the blogosphere, it’s high time theatres used social media properly – and not just for free advertising
One of the interesting statistics to emerge from research by the Society of London Theatre (Solt) into the effect of internet and social media on theatregoing, recently reported by Arts Professional, is that Facebook, Twitter and blogs are increasingly the means by which ticket sales are driven, rather than reviews or traditional forms of advertising. Sixty-five percent of the people surveyed said it was social media that helped them decide whether to go to the theatre, and which show to choose. And they’re more likely than ever to book online. Yes, all those tweets really do make a difference.
Back in January, at the State of the Arts conference, Marcus Romer of Pilot Theatre pointed out that while radio took 38 years from its inception to reach 50 million users, and TV took 13 years, Facebook achieved the same coverage in just two. The Solt research shows that 41% of UK theatregoers are already Facebook users – a surprisingly high figure given that theatre audiences tend to be older. Facebook has more than 400 million users, which effectively makes it the third-largest country on Earth.
We already see theatre embracing pervasive media to make new works, with initiatives such as Theatre Sandbox (places for which have been enthusiastically taken up at the pre-application workshops) and the RSC’s current Such Tweet Sorrow project. Companies such as Coney and Pilot have long understood how social media can help the theatre experience begin before the show does, and continue after it has finished.
But, on the whole, theatre seems to be waking up rather slowly to the massive shifts going on. Anecdotal evidence, particularly from regional theatres, suggests that the practice of booking tickets weeks in advance is becoming outdated. In spite of this, large portions of marketing budgets are still spent on advertising in traditional outlets – a method that is nowhere near as effective as it once was, and expensive to boot.
At last year’s Shift Happens conference (the next one is in early July), I was struck by how many people – particularly those working in marketing – were asking what digital could do for them rather than what they could do with it. Beyond Live, Nesta’s research on the National Theatre Live experiment, suggests that those who saw a play streamed live in cinemas were more – not less – likely to want to go to the theatre.
The answer is clearly for theatres to embrace social media in all its forms, and use their natural creativity to do it well. That doesn’t simply mean a website on which theatregoers can see what’s playing and buy tickets, or maybe read a blog (which is often a thinly disguised bit of puffery written by some poor actor during rehearsals). Neither does it mean tweeting nice things about your own show. It means creating sites that are as lively, reciprocal and outward-looking as any other forms of social media, that draw people in and make them want to stay and poke about. And it means creating a relationship with audiences: allowing them to understand what you are trying to do, and being transparent enough for them to comment both favourably and unfavourably. In this way, theatres can genuinely share thinking, promote discussion and look beyond the boundaries of the individual organisation.
The recent Andrew Lloyd Webber outburst over bloggers and Facebook groups is a reminder that no producer or theatre company, however powerful, can control what is being said on Twitter or in the blogosphere. The answer is simple: if you can’t beat them, join them.
Social Media for Audience Development & Community Building
(This post can also be found on the GetAmbITion Ning pages. Any geeky jargon you may come across will be explained at the end of the document.)
Why Social Media?
If you’re using social media properly your audience is your community, social media is about communication, and community building.
Community Building is developing your audience.
The moment you have a community, you have participants, not observers. People. Not Bums on Seats.
In the modern world of millions of people vying for your attention, it’s not your presentation; it’s your connection to your community that’s important. This is where social media comes in. Social media offers invaluable tools in accessing the hearts as well as the minds of your participants. To people bombarded every day with ‘brand’, it’s the human touch of organisations that gets your interest and loyalty. Put more simply, social media tools aren’t about you; they’re about the people you want to speak with.
Need more convincing? Here’s how social media can help you;
Complete the picture: By providing people with access to the personal and day-to-day side of your organisation, think of it as a backstage tour of your organisation.
Break down the barriers: Help to break down the perceived inaccessibility of the arts. Showing the process as well as the finished piece, means that your communities can get/feel involved in the whole artistic process. Social media allows an immediate and personal view into your company and it’s projects.
Collaborate: Social media can help you make connections to people and groups you might never have otherwise encountered, it can garner immediate responses to questions, act as an instant audience-survey, it helps you see into other people’s worlds in the same way they can access yours. It connects you to people all across the country.. all across the world.
It can help get your art ‘out there’: Social media is an active pastime, the people who get the most out of it listen as much as they speak – they participate. The personal nature of social media means that these people are more likely to actively support you and your work.
Types of social media:
So where to begin? A lot of social media can seem out of reach, confusing, or difficult at first glance. I will be offering you a basic toolkit here, of both physical kit, and social media tools, but much more important is to knock a couple of common misconceptions on the head:
- There Are No Experts
There’s just us. All of us. Learning as we go. These tools are all so new, and there’s always something else on the horizon, because of this the only way to learn how to use them is to use them yourself, become your own expert, and connect to people who know what’s coming next. Know that everyone makes mistakes, just as everyone sometimes stumbles over their words. If you are not making mistakes you are not pushing hard enough.
- This is Not a New Way of Communicating
This is just communication, through a different medium. It’s just talking. As you’d talk, laugh, and converse in real life, you do so online. Don’t try and view it as a different language, engage with it using your own. Be yourself.
There are three main types of content that you’re going to be producing in the online world:
- Front Facing
Of course all of them will cross pollinate.
Your front-facing media is the main landing page when someone searches for you – this is where you will collate the best of your social media activities, and where you will publish the more traditional marketing, event and company information. It is essential that you keep this space active, and interactive, that’s where a blog comes in.
Wordpress and Blogger are popular and easy to edit blog hosts, allowing you to add widgets, post updates, allow people to subscribe to your RSS Feed and more.
Posterous is a super-simple blogging platform which allows you to post almost anything via email, meaning that they deal with all the media and other content that you want to attach.
Currently, almost all mainstream social media is geared to link up with twitter – the simple, short and easy way of sharing your real-time exploits online.
Twitter is your main tool with regards to immediacy, and behind the scenes access to your community. For an in depth guide to why you should be using twitter, along with a guide to the jargon, programs and different tones you can cultivate, have a look at Hannah Nicklin’s guide to Twitter for Arts Organisations, on the Get AmbITion website.
What can be a little more challenging as an organisation new to Twitter is cultivating your presence and community, before you have people to talk to you will be tweeting into what feels like the dark, and you need to make sure you don’t fall into the bad habit of only pushing front facing style communication. Keep talking to people, asking questions, and sharing other people’s information as much as possible.
Facebook statuses can be used in a similar way to twitter, although try not to replicate information, you want people to feel as though they’re discovering more about you as they explore your digital footprint, not digging up all of the same information.
TwitPic and Twitvid are very simple ways of uploading images and video and sharing them via twitter – you can access them online, or via mobile devices and twitter clients. Bringing a visual face to your real-time action is really important in how accessible you appear. It doesn’t always have to be about the art however, you can take pictures of the mountains of envelopes you have to seal, or a wonderful prop or piece of scenery that has showed up. Again, it’s all about the taste of your content, and the behind the scenes feel, to which these two tools can contribute (NB there are other platforms, but these are the most widely used)
12 Seconds will also auto-tweet, and in ways is a video version of Twitter, allowing you to send 12 second videos out to the world. This is great for snap shots into a working day or general process. You can post by email, online, or mobile applications.
Flickr and Youtube allow you to share images and videos; it lets you ‘tag’ media, meaning that it will be easily found in google searches, and offers the ability to embed elsewhere online.
Audioboo is an instant podcasting solution currently available to iPhones, iPod Touches and android devices. It will soon be browser based too. Posting to Audioboo you are able to add a location tag, picture, and immediately host a piece of audio. The audio will be auto-tweeted, and can be downloaded/subscribed to via iTunes from the Audioboo site. Audioboo is a brilliant way to keep people updates when you are short on time, and a less intrusive tool for interviewing people.
Eventbriteallows you to create ‘events’ and share them online – you can charge for tickets (thought you don’t have to), provide links, information and maps, as well as enabling people to instantly download the information to their chosen calendar (outlook or ical usually) This is a great way of disseminating event information far and wide. Also check out the more succinct Tweetvite which works in much the same way for smaller non-ticketed events.
BASIC KIT RECOMMENDATIONS:
There is much more on the market which will help you interact with your online community, but these are the basic physical tools which will enable you to do all of the above.
An iPod Touch, (plus mic) –roughly £140 this will open the door to true real-time interaction, allowing you access to Twitter clients, audioboo, mobile browsing, email-blog posting and more
A Canon Ixus 120 IS - roughly £180 this will do great HD video, and high quality images. The camera is compact, robust and easy to use.
A MiFi free on some contracts a personal wireless hotspot, utilising 3G networks, this allows you to turn the iPod Touch into an almost replicate of the iPhone, meaning you will be able to tweet, Audioboo, browse and email blog entries almost anywhere.
This is a case study for a small company, with actions for an Artistic Director, and a General Manager/Administrator. The more people who are feeding content into your streams the better (though if more than 2 people tweet from an account, consider personal ones that are re-tweeted by a main one, or signing tweets with your initials)
SOCIAL MEDIA TOOLS – how and when to use
Most of these tools link to and auto-update a twitter account, if they don’t, always, always tweet about it. That is the feed that people are most likely to stumble upon and should be the backbone for your media.
TWITTER:3 x 15 mins interaction, a few tweets a week – general observations an RTs to start, replying to any @ replies, listening and building up.
WORDPRESS:one blog entry a month, a short Artistic Director update
12 SECONDS – Download the app to your iPhone for free – record any video and it will take the first 12 seconds and tweet it to your chosen twitter account. Quick snapshots of scenery, theatres, comment, sets, offices, weather, anything.
AUDIOBOO – try audioboo reviews of shows you see. Very simple program.
TWITTER:cultivate personal account, and tweet at least once a day from the 7 categories, try one before lunch break, and then reply to any responses when you’re back, simple and allows for conversation.
WORDPRESS: two blog entries a month – and/or co-ordinating at least two guest blogs
FACEBOOK: when you put out an opportunities, also put the link on the Facebook page, and link people to it via twitter.
FLICKR: use for high quality, front-facing images.
When an event is upcoming
WORDPRESS: More formal blog RE the artistic outlook of the event.
POSTEROUS – Use for more immediate things in lead up, collections of photos, video, audio trails, push it to the Wordpress.
WORDPRESS: Get artists involved to guest blog about the process
YOUTUBE: Cut together a really simple video, just audio and photo stills if necc, post to Facebook, Posterous, Blog, Youtube. People are much more likely to watch something than read about it.
EVENTBRITE – Create an online event that you can link across all social media, tweet it.
TWITTER: Decide on a hashtag, the shorter the better. Offer discounts over Twitter. Link to every bit of buzz – this is your aggregator
FACEBOOK – Make an event, offer discounts, add videos and pictures.
When an event is happening
AUDIOBOO: Interview vox pops with participants and performers, record your own reactions, or take short clips of dialogue/monologue or sound/music.
TWITPIC/VID: Tweet pictures and videos of the event.
12SECONDS: 12 second snippets of the action, one word summing up of the event from people
POSTEROUS: Take all quick content and email it in as it comes- this is your substitute for twitpic/twitvid
FLICKR: Take as many photos as possible, the more you take the better the chance of some good ones. Be ruthless in the edit. Post the best.
TWITVID/YOUTUBE: Use a digital camera to take slightly longer interviews and post in the evening/day after. Keep it simple to avoid the need to edit.
WORDPRESS: Summing up blog with a choice picture and video/audio
TWITTER: Tweet everything!
And finally, a few last tips regarding social media:
- Be polite – say hello to new participants, or people you’re interested in, thank people for links and recommendations.
- Listen – Social media is all about being sociable. Listen to people, interact with them.
- Inform – link to useful and interesting information, be it software, articles or news items you come across.
- Credit, link and promote others - Never appropriate, always acknowledge people, it will make them more likely to disseminate your content too. Share the link-love.
- Don’t spam – By all means promote your art, but don’t spam – make it genuine, exciting and relevant and try not to repeat yourself.
- Be funny – Don’t try too hard but sometimes the best way to catch someone’s fleeting interest is to make them smile.
- Be human – Not always obvious but very important, being a “real” person, rather than a representative is important. Balance it. People talk to people..
- Have fun! It really is a wonderful world to be a part of, get involved.
Blog – originally known as a Web Log– it’s an online and public space for writing, thoughts and reflection, normally allowing comments from others.
Post / update – an entry on a blog, social media platform or website.
Micro-Blog/ging – micro-blogging describes the phenomenon of sites such as Twitter – blogging done on a micro, mobile scale. Originally based on the 160 characters allotted to a text message.
Twitter – a quick and easy way of sending ‘status updates’ – small pieces of text up to 140 characters long – about what you are thinking, doing, or a link to news and information.
Tweet – a single status update on twitter
HashTags (# + keyword ie #getambition) – are a community-driven method for adding metadata to tweets. When used, every hashtag (the hash symbol attached to the front of a keyword) becomes a click-able link enabling the user to create a real-time search of that keyword effectively creating groupings without changing the basic twitter service.
Re-Tweet/ed (RT) – when someone re-posts one of your tweets (linking to you in doing so) because they have appreciated what you’ve said enough to want to show their followers in their network.
Auto-Tweet – when an application or program automatically sends a tweet to your twitter account when you update said application or program. For example whenever you post to Posterous, you can set it to send a tweet with the title, and a link to the blog post.
RSS Feed – allow people to subscribe to the content posted on a social media platform or blog. (Really Simple Syndication (See Wikipedia))
Feed / Stream – colloquially (online) these both refer to a series of entries in an online space – i.e. a person’s twitter stream consists of their status updates, and a Flickr stream would consist of a person’s uploaded pictures.
Widget – a small add on to a web page or blog, most social media platforms provide you with widgets, showing your most recent updates.
Embed – to take a piece of media hosted elsewhere (youtube, flickr etc) and to share it on another web page or blog. Quite often a ‘share’ button will offer you embed code – this should be cut & pasted into the html edit section of a blog or website, or can be emailed directly in to Posterous.
Tag – Basic labels for your content (usually comma-separated)– you might shoot a video for youtube of a performance.. Tag it - ‘theatre, performance, YOUR THEATRE COMPANY, YOUR SHOW TITLE’
Podcast/ing – Subscribe-able audio broadcasts online.
So twitter doesn’t work, eh?
You know how every time you say, “I don’t believe in fairies”, a fairy dies? Well, every time you say “Who is Justin Bieber?”, Justin Bieber only grows stronger.
I could begin by firing out some essential facts about this riot-causing teen singing sensation – this darling of the tween tweetoisie – who has just announced his first world tour. I could tell you how he is Usher’s protege, how his favourite colours are blue and purple, how his favourite sandwich is turkey, how he’s scared of spiders, and how he stands at 5ft 3½in at the time of going to press.
But let’s start with an experiment. Visit the front page of Twitter, right now, and I predict with absolute confidence that Justin Bieber will be trending. That’s a helluva presumption, you might say. How can she possibly predict what’s going to be trending at the precise moment I’m bored and desperate enough to read this so-called article? The trick, my ducks, is that I do it with mirrors. The fact of the matter is that Justin Bieber is always trending. He’s the canary in the coalmine of spring/summer 2010 social networking, and if you suddenly don’t see his name up there, I wish you best of luck with your Rapture arrangements.
My non-scientific research tells me that one half of Justin’s Twitter traffic is caused by excitable tween girls cyber-fainting, while the other half is caused by people asking, “Who is Justin Bieber?”. Like I say, ignorance only makes him stronger.
Nevertheless, it’s reasonable for you to wonder who this mop-topped popstrel is, why he is being beamed into your world with increasing frequency, and whether you can just ignore him like you do the Jonas Brothers and the second-tier Disney girls. Is he going to be the next Justin Timberlake, or a blast-from-the-past pick for the 2015 edition of Dancing With the Stars?
Put briefly, Justin’s story is this: he is Canadian, comes from good Christian stock, and he’s the first genuine YouTube sensation to cross over into mainstream pop stardom. (Unless you think Susan Boyle is a popstar, in which case, how old are you?) It all started with his mother posting his musical performances on the site, then they went viral. Next Usher beat out Justin Timberlake in the race to sign him, and now the 16-year-old Biebster has a platinum album, while a world tour is on the horizon. As is puberty, one assumes, though Justin’s ear-melting reliance on Autotune currently renders any early signs undetectable.
Now, there may yet be those among you still fighting surrender to Bieber’s dominance, which is expected to go full spectrum by June. If you fit that profile, chances are you’re a recovering stalker, who’s maybe got Hanson’s milk teeth in your box of special treasures, and who’s thinking, “I swore I’d never let myself get hurt like that again.” Also, you pay taxes, can drink legally, and no longer have to ask the permission of the bill payer if you wish to indulge in reality TV suffrage.
In which case, let me sell you on the legal history angle. This week, Justin’s manager, Scott Braun, surrendered to police for failing to warn the star’s fans about overcrowding at a shopping mall CD signing he staged in Willston Park, New York, last November, in which five people were hospitalised. State police say the minute it became clear the gig was overcrowding, they asked Braun to tweet fans telling them the gig was cancelled. But he refused, even changing Justin’s account password so “he could control the event”, and the abort mission instructions only appeared on the site two hours later. “By refusing to send out the cancellation Tweet and preventing others from doing so, he blatantly ignored police directives,” rages the DA – and Scott now faces up to a year in jail if convicted.
Do you see, oldies? Human civilisation has just notched up the first case of a man being arrested for failure to tweet. This is Justin’s world now – you’re just living in it.
A fabulous article from the Guardian’s Marina Hyde Posted on Friday 26 March 2010