Have you ever heard someone ask: “How can I sell tickets using Twitter?” or “I have a lot of Facebook fans but very few seem to buy tickets to my events. I don’t think Facebook works for me.”
I have puzzled over such statements; I couldn’t understand why anyone would measure these social media platforms by their capacity to achieve direct sales — whether of tickets or widgets or gadgets.
In my mind, social media were, well, social.
Social means relationships. Social means conversation – mostly consumer to consumer, but also consumer to brand. Social means mutual respect. Social might mean recommendation. Social can mean someone buys something based – at least in part – on a social network interaction. But it all starts with authentic relationships, it’s like being friends in the so-called real world.
Off I went looking for organizations using social media in exemplary ways, especially in the performing arts presenting field. This experiment is part of the Value of Presenting Study we have been working on.
The experiment: Interview by Twitter
The topic: The use of social media and online technology in your performing arts organization.
The interviewees: Two arts presenters (read the transcripts here: Shell Theatre and the National Arts Centre) who use social media in exemplary ways and an agent who does, too.
- Social media are about building relationships
- There are other ways to sell tickets
- Audiences engaged: mostly the 30 to 55 year-old crowd rather than “young people”, even though one interviewees said they find Facebook and txt works with a Students Rush tickets program;
- Hone your authentic voice
- Experiment to see what works for your organization
It’s fun to experiment with trying to help more people see what the strategic potential of social media in the performing arts presenting sector could be, by doing. In this case, it’s not in direct sales measured by revenue, but in building relationships measured by quality of relationships, engagement and championship of the brand. It is not an old-style transactional relationship, but one that is mutually enriching, extends beyond attendance, and requires new, timely interactions. And they are a lot more public.
The importance of voice is a fascinating topic in the concise world of social networks. (As these interviews show, short texts can be extremely good at making clear points and sharing salient information.) Voice is a key brand attribute that requires honing and calibration.
I think the adoption of social media shifts an organization’s brand into a new realm. As such, an evaluation of what an organization stands for and how it is and behaves in its world (in short an evaluation of market relevance), may well be an essential step toward embracing such contemporary marketing methods.
While in La Paz, Bolivia last November, we were invited to a concert by Enriqueta Ulloa. We had never heard of her, as her fame hasn’t traveled north. We quickly learned, that she is a superstar: whenever we mentioned having been to this concert, Bolivians were so excited and started talking about her music, inspired by the traditional sounds and songs of the regions of Bolivia, as truly important and an important ambassador for Bolivian culture – and they were amazed that we even knew to go.
|Two posters in contrast. She’s so famous her image is all the
That night she was celebrating 35 years on stage with back-to-back concerts! I’ve never seen a crowd so into every moment of a performance. Handkerchiefs twirling, clapping in the right rhythms and singing every song. The energy was incredibly joyous, the connection between artist and audience immediate, the love mutual. We were quickly swept up in this awesome vibe. This evening left me with one of the most powerful performing arts experiences I’ve had.
The performance included several numbers featuring traditional dance, some highlighting the band and others featuring the singer and of course costume changes and a selection of photos and videos from her long career (with the most awkward production set up but it just didn’t matter – these were iconic images to many in the audience). As for the crowd: there were old people and children, there were powerful people and regular folks, there were men and women, there were city people and country people, those descended from Spanish blood and indigenous people – and there was one shared, joyous, Bolivian experience. An amazing moment in a country that feels so much in transition.
We were almost shocked at the cost of tickets: 30 Bolivianos each ($4.50) for 2nd row seats! By North American standards that’s incredible – less so by Bolivian standards but still a relatively easy ticket to buy.
|Scene before the doors opened.
The house was sold out and the
|The Municipal Theatre in La Paz dates to 1845; old,
beautiful, great vibe.
Here are a couple of Youtube videos for diversion and enjoyment.
I’m preparing training material for a client: “How your Web Presence Can Help You Build a Stronger Profile”.
The point of view I am taking is what it really means when your audience can do everything your organization can do online. Think about it: individuals possess the power of the printing press without the cost of printing and distribution. All they need to figure out is how to create content and attract audiences. That of course, is the hard part.
And yet, much of what goes online leaves me with a back to the future sort of feeling.
- Facebook: Social (Connecting and sharing with your friends)
- Youtube: TV (Broadcast yourself)
- Flickr: Photo journalism (The eyes of the world)
- Twitter: News (What’s happening?)
- Podcasting: Radio (video) by everyone
That’s why the training program will focus on providing an understandable thought framework, and then demystify some of the voodoo – like SEO, UXD (yes, that means user experience design) – to empower my client to think smart and make good decisions as they strengthen their web presence, purposefully and without running off in all directions.
My basic message is that online marketing is about connecting with the right people where they are in ways that are meaningful to them. The enabling aspects are tried and true concepts:
Online channels are about dialogue and conversation; they work because of relevance to the audience and timeliness; and, most difficult of all in this engineered world they demand authenticity.
I presented my new SEO webinar yesterday to a fine crowd of 40 connections, with several having multiple participants on the webinar. It went well and the feedback on the content was very good. My approach,not surprising, is strategic in nature: where does SEO fit in the marketing mix, where does it fit in the online mix and what does good SEO entail. I showed some neat examples of the power of code, some simple tricks and a few keyword tools.
Now, I will seek places to make this presentation again and again; it’ll last at least a few weeks maybe even months. This time it was presented by MRIA, which I am really pleased with.
Here’s a worthwhile article on social media relations and how and why current PR is missing the boat.
Opinion: Why social media relations is more important than good PR
I think the developments in all manner of media mean that anyone with a vested interest, in particular infrastructure, that allowed them to make money in another era – like 10 years ago – needs to rapidly retool. That retooling needs to take place at the business model level. And it requires new skills and expertise and a whole different mind set about risk and managing risks to a business.
The financial crisis and global recession isn’t so much the cause of the demise of so many businesses, from banks to department stores to media empires. It simply accelerated a trend that began in the 1990s.
I went to a presentation at MRIA Ottawa Chapter this week by Robert Hutton of Pollara. He was presenting some research on attitudes about social media, both among marketing professionals and users. There was certaily some interesting data. However, what struck me most was the very premise of the study: people who are using Facebook, LinkedIn, Ebay, YahooGroups and so on are not participants or users of social media. They are using social networks.
This crucial difference seems to continue to elude corporations and institutions as they are trying to figure out how to harness these supposed social media. Taking an advertising point of view is futile: users migrate away from social networking sites when they become too commercial, ie turn into media (whatever that means to the individual).
From the beginning the web has been about relationships, users defining what they accept and engage with. It’s the genesis of the shift in power from the brand to the consumer. The challenge is not harnessing social media at all. The real challenge is working on having authentic relationships with ones audiences, including prospects. That means becoming a valued part of a social network. And it’s way beyond buying ads on Facebook.
The old ways aren’t going to keep on working. Let’s invent new ones!