Since the focus of the piece shifted to strictly Chicago Storefront theaters, we decided to use the interview here. So thank you to Julie for asking the questions.
After you read my answers, I’d love to hear your answers in the comments below.
1. What role is social media playing in the theater world?
In general, I believe social media offers an extended network of opportunity. It allows you to make connections with people you may never have met any other way. Take this interview for example. If it wasn’t for social media, would this conversation have happened? Probably not.
In the theater world specifically it allows everyone a louder voice. It’s eliminated the reliance on old media as the platform. The tools are available to build your own platform. Moreover you can listen, respond and interact directly with your audience.
This allows current and new audiences to get to know, like and trust you, which should be the basis for any long-term marketing strategy.
The great thing is that there are tools that allow anyone to join in regardless of your budget. Everyone from Broadway all the way to the local dinner theater can get involved. That’s exciting.
2. Is social media a valuable use of resources in this sector, considering the time and effort it takes to build these kinds of relationships with patrons/artists?
It’s valuable if you look at it in a smart way. Many people think social media is a quick fix. Just set up a Facebook page and blast people, then they’ll show up. When that doesn’t work, people blame the tool. When in fact it was really they way the tool was being used.
Instead, if you look at it in the long-term, as a way for people to get closer to your organization and the work you do. A way for you to show the PEOPLE involved with your organization, you’ll find the relationships pay off. And as with anything, you need to set-up a schedule that works for you. If that means, 20-minutes a day. Fine. You’ve just got to decide what’s most valuable for you to do with that time.
3. Is it too easy? What are the dangers of using social media for this purpose?
The only dangers I see are thinking it’s just another broadcast channel. But even if you make mistakes that’s great. As long as you’re open to learning from them. It’s like a constant rehearsal. Go for it. Evaluate. Make adjustments. Then go for it again. Now that I think about it, the only real danger is doing nothing at all.
4. Does it have a valuable return in relationship to the demographic it reaches?
I don’t really look at it terms of demographic. I look at it in terms of actual people. Did someone talk about us that wouldn’t have done so otherwise? Did we rekindle a relationship with someone we haven’t heard from in a long time? Did someone new come volunteer? Did people come to a show and then encourage their friends to do the same? Those things are valuable. Social media is still only only one aspect of the big picture. But it works well to enhance the other things you’re doing.
5. What are the pros and cons of social media in the various theater markets?
I’m not sure about the difference in various theater markets but in general, I would say:
Pros: inexpensive, fun, you meet new like-minded people, it creates new opportunities and collaborations, allows you to share your story, allows you to showcase the people you work with and your audience, amongst other things.
Cons: You can get sucked into the rabbit hole if you don’t limit your time, there is a learning curve (but that’s not too much of a con,) it’s easy to give up on if you don’t set goals for what you’re trying to accomplish.
Hmm…That’s all I got at the moment.
What about you? What role do you think social media is playing in the theater world?