So there you are, surfing the Twitter streams with your interface of choice–sounds like something out of William Gibson, doesn’t it?–and up comes a tweet from one of the theatre companies you follow. There’s a link in the tweet. You’re curious, so you click on it.

The next thing you know, you’re in Facebook, reading a status update that’s exactly the same as the tweet. And this one doesn’t have a link, it doesn’t lead anywhere. It’s the same message, nothing more. You’ve just hit a dead end in the world of social media.

If you learn only one thing about how to use social media, it’s this: Twitter is a conversation. Period.

The other day, the hashtag #artslabsf covered a workshop called Leveraging Social Media, presented by Beth Kanter at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco. (That link will take you to Beth’s blog post about the event, with the full slide show and more.*) One of the ideas that popped up on the Twitter stream was the Four E’s of Twitter…

Engage. Excite. Encourage. Empower.

When you create a dead end–and lure your followers into it–you’re not doing any one of those things.

Here’s an example from a large regional theatre, whose name has been redacted.

You might see this come up in your Twitter stream and think, “But I’m already following you on Twitter, or I wouldn’t have seen that.” Maybe you click the link to see what’s going on. And that leads you to this.

Same message, nowhere to go. This example is worse than their average post. It’s not a dead end, it’s a cul-de-sac right back to Twitter.

Clearly, their Facebook and Twitter accounts are linked. What goes in one posts to the other. More and more, you’ll see “/fb” in the tweet to indicate that it’s a dual post. But more and more, you should stop doing that entirely. You’ll find that most of the folks that follow you on Twitter have also “become a fan” on Facebook, so right there, your message is redundant.

This is common for this company and, sadly, most of the theatre companies I see on Twitter.

Not all social media is alike.

Facebook is for static status updates. Yes, you can comment and interact, you can “like” items, but it’s not engaging your audience in the same way. It’s a news feed, not a conversation. For too many theatre companies, Facebook is becoming the landing point, the end of the journey, instead of a gateway to their own website. Whether it’s a status update or an “event page” at Facebook, the audience is staying in the Facebook environment.

Twitter is interactive. You don’t have to sell us, we’re already following you because we like your work or are at the very least interested in your work. And it’s more direct than a mailing list, either a real or virtual one. If you have to put a link–and by all means, links are good–then send me directly to your theatre’s website. Send me to a video or a blog post, show me your next production, let me see your theatre’s personality, your theatre’s style. At the very least, send me to your home page. Don’t send me to the blue and white Facebook page that looks like every other Facebook page.

And don’t expect the user to click through from Facebook. The more layers you put between your audience and your site, the less likely your audience is to follow through. If all you ever do is link to an identical Facebook status–if all you do is send the audience to a dead end–pretty soon, they’re going to stop clicking on your links. On the contrary, you’ll be driving them away from you. Odds are, they’ll unfollow you on Twitter.

“Maybe” is the new “no.”

If you think about it, Facebook is nothing but layers. News feeds, recent news, all friends, fans, events. None of them lead back to your site. Sure, you may put links from there, but there’s no guarantee the audience will click through, and given the Facebook structure, there’s no real need to click through. Facebook is designed to keep the user on the Facebook site.

I know what you’re thinking. What about Facebook event pages? They pop up and remind people of our show/event/soiree/etc. Yes, but that’s just another convenient layer. You may invite someone on Facebook to your event, that’s great. They have the choice of yes, no or maybe. Even if they say yes, that’s not a reservation, that’s not a ticket sale, that’s just being polite. It certainly doesn’t mean they’ll actually show up. Of course, nobody has to say no, either. Maybe will do–it’s polite, it’s non-committal, it’s a no in disguise.

Saying “maybe” will keep the event popping up on your Facebook calendar, and it is handy for that. But how many events have you said “maybe” to that you end up passing on?

Twitter doesn’t have the same distance between you and your followers. You should talk with them, not at them. Let them peek behind the curtain. Share the process of selecting the next season. Have “tweet-ups” at local restaurants, bars, cafes, preferably your sponsors’ places. Answer questions. Heck, ask questions and see what they say. Don’t think of this as a direct line to your audience, think of it as your audience having a direct line to you.

Effective use of resources?

In the Theatre Communications Group’s Taking Your Fiscal Pulse study of member theatres this spring, aside from financial concerns and other depressing statistics, one detail jumped out at me. Apparently, only 7% of the theatres surveyed plan to find ways to share resources with other organizations or to use social media.

This boggles the mind. The idea of sharing resources is something we’ve covered before and will again. It’s the social media stat that I’m looking at right now. It bears repeating.

Only 7% of the theatres surveyed plan to use social media.

In case you hadn’t noticed, this is all free. All it costs is a little time and some creativity. You will need to engage with your audience for these networks to be effective, but it really is worth the effort. Engage them and the other E’s will follow.

Think of your Twitter followers as your “street team,” to use a term from the music industry. This is your first line of evangelists–another E–spreading word about the exciting things going on at your theatre. They’ll tell two friends, and they’ll tell two friends and so on and so on and so on. I may have dated myself with that reference, but that’s all right. That shampoo ad is the essence of viral media and social networking.

Twitter is the simplest, most dynamic way of connecting with your audience members short of walking into their homes and sitting on their couch to talk. And it’s free. Why wouldn’t you take the opportunity to engage, excite, encourage and empower your audience?

One more “E” before I go…

I’ll leave you with this quote from E. M. Forster, who said quite simply, “Only connect.”

Think about this. If it weren’t for the engagement and connection offered by Twitter, this site–this 2am Theatre community–would not exist. This group of people using the #2amt hashtag has grown and spread around the world. And now, this group is doing more than share ideas and debate marketing strategies. You get creative people together, they’re going to start getting creative. But that’s a post–and a project–for another day…

Only connect. Thirteen characters. Couldn’t have tweeted it better myself.

* It might not surprise you to learn that Beth featured the #2amt hashtag and this website in her talk. I thought I should mention that in the interests of full disclosure.

  • April 7, 2010
  • 5