I’ve spent the better part of five years using social media to spread the word about theatrical shows and historical events. For a long time, Facebook was a boon – a quick and easy way to get the word out about a local event. Nowadays, it is still the #1 platform for personal networking and updating as well as promoting shows and local events. It’s ubiquitous and allows for up to date communication.
It is, however, harder for FB Pages to really have an impact with their audience for a variety of reasons owing to Facebook monetization (I won’t go into that here; but trust me, it can be a problem!). Social media is still an integral part of publicizing a show, but it is harder to reach the people who might be interested. A “Like” on a page doesn’t mean that you’ll necessarily receive the updates over the long-term, have you noticed that?
So more and more, we’re dependent upon our hard-core fans and audiences to share and spread the word in their own personal networks. Facebook posting formulas still puts the most emphasis on regular people sharing with other people, rather than companies or groups sharing to customers. And I’m okay with that. That’s how it should be.
But if you’re a loyal fan of a local or regional theatre (or of any hobby, activity, or business), we truly depend upon you to help by “talking” – or rather typing – about our events or services on social media. Much like you would in real life.
So, how can you help? How can you upgrade your posts to help out what you love on Facebook?
Best practice of all best practices: Imagine the equivalent situation in real life. Then ask yourself how would you do this IRL.
1. Don’t just Like. . .Share if it really means something to you. If you truly enjoyed it, if it touched you, if it excites you when you thinking about it. In real life, when you’re excited or stirred up by something, you like to talk about it, right? So why aren’t you talking about it on social media? Make your posts truly relevant to what you enjoy and people will perk up and pay attention more than if you constantly share a stream of buzzfeed quizzes and random political memes. Unless, of course, you’re passionate about buzzfeed quizzes and random political memes.
2. Don’t just Share. . . tell people why you’re sharing or why this thing is important or meaningful to you. You wouldn’t go up to someone at a staff meeting and say ‘TITLE OF PLAY” and walk away. You’d tell them that you saw it and you liked it and why. Give the post some context. Give others a reason to take a look.
3. Don’t ask people to “support”. . .ask people to “enjoy”. Then tell them why they will enjoy it. “Support” implies an obligation. Enjoyment is something others will receive. And at a BBQ, the last thing people want to hear about is why they SHOULD support the arts or the children or the community. But if you tell them how they can enjoy the arts, or have fun with the kids, or feel great about their neighborhood, then they’re more likely to be interested. (This is not a hard and fast rule. If you’re doing a fundraiser, support is perfectly fine. But it is best when paired with “enjoy”).
4. Leave a link for info and where to get tickets– Don’t bait your friends and then give them nowhere to go! How many times have you asked a co-worker or acquaintance where they get their hair cut or what yard service they use, and the answer you get is “Oh, that place down on Olive. . . somewhere near that theater. . .” or “His name is Al, but I can’t remember the service’s name.” Really helpful, right? When talking to a co-worker about a great service or event, you’d pull out your phone at get them the contact info, right? Or at least the correct name of the place to look up. Do that on social media, too!
5. If you’re praising something that’s public, make your audience setting on that post Public. It helps that event or group to share your praise and get the word out! Often we see an acquaintance give a great review of a show, but their privacy settings don’t allow us to share their status update to the theater’s FB page for more people to see! The equivalent is pulling three people into the corner at a cocktail party and saying, “I saw this excellent show . . .” in a whisper. And then when one of them wants to tell the entire party, you say, “Nooooooo. . . it’s just for US!” Why would you do that?
6. Post flyers and posters and e-cards in public areas like FB groups you’re active with or on your own timeline. Posting them without permission directly onto other people’s timelines is intrusive and spammy. It is kind of like putting a poster on someone’s front door instead of a poster at the community bulletin board. Sure people see it, but are they IRKED when they see it? Not the emotional response you want. Instead. . . .
7. Tag participants in a comment on your post if you want nudge participants to share. It alerts them to the post without you plastering a poster on the front door of their “home”. Also, you’ve reminded those participants to share to their own friends in their own time and way. Maybe they want a different poster on their front door, eh?
8. Remind others to Share, too. If you’re talking about an event with particularly important information that you believe needs to get out there, include a request to “Share with your friends” at the end of it. People actually need to be reminded to share from time to time. And when they do, it helps!
I know it may sound like we’re recruiting unpaid shills for our productions – but shows and events rise and fall on finding audiences. And also, these basic practices will improve your own social media skills when you want to get the word out about something you’re involved in. And it’ll help others get to know a little more about the authentic you and the real things you are passionate about.
Which says far more about you than any Buzzfeed quiz can, any day of the week!