There have been a number of articles written on the subject of social networking and how useful a tool it can be in the publicity game – I wrote a blog on it myself recently, looking at the pros and cons of utilising sites such as Twitter in the theatre industry for the purpose of promotion/ interaction. My general consensus was that its benefits outweigh the negative aspects – providing it’s used in the right way.
The key word in social networking is the word ‘social’. It carries varied contextual meanings but in the instance of sites such as Twitter it pertains to the building of connections between people. From here in the UK, I can not only interact with people from other areas of the country but all around the globe; the world really is your oyster when it comes to social networking.
The point I’m making is that Twitter exists to bring people together, whether it be through shared interests or just plain old curiosity. Interaction is the core objective of Twitter – this is the main thing to remember when employing it as a promotional tool. Unfortunately, the social aspect sometimes becomes side-lined when too much emphasis is given to the networking aspect.
Twitter is filled with West End stage performers, from ensemble members to leading ladies/men. For theatre fans, following their tweets offer a nice insight into the industry and also provide easy access to deliver a complimentary message. For the performers, it helps to promote whatever show they may be in as well as building their fan base through, you guessed it, interaction. That personal touch is what has propelled Twitter into the social networking stratosphere, but – without naming names – there are one or two performers who are losing it: I’m no mathematician, but that doesn’t mean I’ve failed to notice that the personal touch decreases as their star rises. They start off like everyone else, tweeting and responding to others’ tweets, but soon there are less and less personal tweets, a gradual reduction in responses to fans and, before you know it, The Management are tweeting on their behalf. Straight-forward news and unresponsive promotion are not what Twitter was originally designed for – websites were designed for that, Twitter wasn’t. Many fans don’t like it and it can have the adverse effect of alienating them.
It’s not just the individuals themselves who should remember the importance of the personal touch though. Theatres, organisations and productions are a visible presence on Twitter, posting updates and competitions and so forth as a means of promotion. It can be tempting for them to retweet every message of praise they receive as good word of mouth is a great asset in drawing the crowds in, but there is always that line between sharing positive feedback and just looking like you’re showing off. I’ve had my timeline bombarded with dozens of retweets like this and believe me, it gets tired very quickly and leads to unfollowing.
The other no-no is not replying to fan questions and such. Creating an online connection between say, an off-West End theatre and the people that follow them is the best way to get them to not only come and see the productions staged there, but spreading the word to attract others. Again, straight-forward news and unresponsive promotion will not work for you, but against you.
The Les Miserables team have got it spot on. They have been passing the Twitter account around the cast for them to tweet through. The cast have been posting backstage photos, holding Q&A sessions and so on, inviting the followers to share in the experiences of a West End show. It is a brilliant way to engage the fans and make them feel included and valued; it also gives Les Miserables a highly positive standing amongst all the other shows, etc. I really think others should look at implementing a similar tactic as they are giving a perfect example of how to use Twitter to the best possible advantage.
Sites like Twitter are all about the building of relationships, whether that be friends, fans or audiences. If you choose to use it, it is so important to make interaction the foremost focus and if you don’t have the time – or the inclination – to tweet using that personal touch, then perhaps Twitter isn’t the right place to be.
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
Friday 10th February 2012