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Engaging a Different Kind of Audience

Posted At: September 27, 2012 12:50 P.M.
by Grace Roberts

Theater and dance companies have had to adapt to new communication tools for centuries in order to spread the word about upcoming performances and stay relevant among competition. With the revolution of social media, how are these arts organizations utilizing social networks like Facebook and Twitter to attract an audience to both the theater and online?

With people checking their newsfeeds more often than local newspapers for the latest information on upcoming events, arts companies are beginning to strategically manage their social media in order to best access their fans.

Charles Swint, director of marketing for the Atlanta-based theater company, 7 Stages, believes social media is most effective when used as more than just promoting upcoming events. Swint organizes the company’s Facebook and Twitter pages to spark discussion and create an online community. He said this creates excitement for not only the individual performances, but also increases support for the entire theater company.

“We try to engage our audience by making our pages more than just a one-way street,” Swint said.

Swint suggested promoting through social media by recreating Facebook and Twitter pages around each upcoming event’s theme. He strives to give followers more than the basic information to ignite discussion by sharing production photos, posting reviews and offering specials — all specific to the performance.

7 Stages production of “Dracula: The Rock Opera”
Photo by Stun Gun Photography

He said 7 Stages has been successful in developing a passionate following for its upcoming performance of “Dracula: The Rock Opera”.

“[‘Dracula: The Rock Opera’] has an audience that is very much an online media crowd. They’re excited to share [with others] that they’re going,” Swint said.

Fans interacting with others through social media can be vital to a performing arts company’s success. When someone retweets or confirms their attendance to an event, it disperses the information to all of their followers. Their friends are now aware of the event and know someone going, which leads to potential audience members.

Keri Toggerson, director of public relations and marketing for The Georgia Ballet, hopes to gain a greater online audience this season by providing followers with a wide range of content to share.

Relying heavily on pictures and teaser videos to appeal to fans, Toggerson is expanding The Georgia Ballet’s online presence by implementing contests, posting blogs written by dancers and developing a mini video series that will be shared on both Facebook and Twitter. Although its online content is growing, it will all be related to The Georgia Ballet’s upcoming production of the “Nutcracker.”

Utilizing social media also provides performing arts organizations opportunities to garner interest for little to no cost, something that is important to an industry always battling for more funding.

“Budgets are getting slashed more and more, and social media is a great way to go viral for not as much money,” Toggerson said.

The performing arts community stays true to supporting one another online, as well. Cross promotion is a popular tool through social media, and both 7 Stages and The Georgia Ballet participate. 7 Stages supports other Atlanta-based companies, such as Atlanta Ballet, by retweeting their events, and The Georgia Ballet was a part of the recent social media campaign promoting metro Atlanta arts organizations, Atlanta Art Lives Here.

With social media becoming so integrated into businesses’ marketing plans, it is important for performing arts companies to not only be innovative in their work, but also online.

The Georgia Ballet held a contest promoting its production of “The Firebird” by having the public access the popular Web and mobile app, Foursquare. Followers were asked to share their location whenever they found a firebird image posted at supporting Atlanta businesses. Participants of the Foursquare campaign were then able to receive discounted tickets to “The Firebird.”

7 Stages encouraged its fans to take pictures of its advertisements on city transit buses around Atlanta, post them to Facebook and Twitter and tag 7 Stages. Participants of the post and share contest were then entered to win free tickets to an upcoming performance.

Performing arts companies are no different from other businesses in utilizing social media to develop a fan following. By stressing the importance of creating engaging content, performing arts companies can continue to connect with an audience, both in the theater and online.

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  1. Post comment

    I love this angle of showing how the fine arts are the latest to adopt social media as a way to engage prospective attendees. Public relations professionals are heavily depending on social media for such a wide range of topics and events, and most campaigns have a social media component. This is a great way to engage individual’s attention because people check social media multiple times a day, so it is a continuous reminder of an upcoming event. Keri Toggerson’s idea of providing the audience with a wide range of content was a great way of constantly catching the user’s attention by giving them a different perspective or piece of the upcoming performance. This will also give the person much more information on the performance than the basic time or place. If the company’s goal is to add one new piece of content every few days, then the event will appear on people’s news feeds every time it is updated, further sparking interest. I think this way of promoting events and performances through social media will become widely used by every type of industry. Great article!

  2. Post comment

    I think this is a well written article and I find it very interesting. In all honesty, I did not think of social media as a way to attract people to different performing art events. The arts, in my opinion, are underrepresented, especially ballets and other performing art companies. Facebook and Twitter are a great way to get more people interested and make it easier for people who already like these events to follow and attend. The idea of people being able to take pictures when they see an advertisement of the ballet or event at the time, and then send it into a social media site to win a contest is a great idea. The contest helped to keep followers involved and interested in the events. As the article said, the contest will help gain other audience members as well. Using social media is a great way for the performing art companies to gain attention and get more notice. I never would have thought of this concept without reading this article. I am glad I did and wish the performing art companies the best of luck with their social media sites.

  3. Post comment

    I enjoyed reading this article (it was my first). I look forward to reading more from this online magazine.


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