i'm a white writer. in new york. original, no? i've been blogging since october 2002. this blog picks up in october 2008, when i moved from DC to NY...(and then I moved to Maine in 2012)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Follow-Up to the TCG Teleconference on Using Twitter to Build Audience

Some of you may know that last Thursday I gave an hour-long talk to 150 theaters on how to use Twitter to bring in new audience as part of Theatre Communications Group's Leadership Teleconference Series. The talk went great--I had a terrific time, TCG seemed pleased, and the response from participating theaters was overwhelmingly positive. LISTEN TO THE WHOLE TALK HERE. [Seems not to work in IE on Vista. I had to use Firefox.]

If you search Twitter for the hashtag #TCGCall, you can check out some of the comments people were tweeting during the call. I could have talked for another hour, easy-peasy, and there were a couple of questions that I couldn't get around to, so I thought I'd share some more info here.

Twitter is uniquely helpful to performing arts organizations because you can identify people in your ZIP Code who maybe don't even go to the theatre, but maybe they would if they felt welcomed, if they felt it would be fun or interesting or relevant to them. You can identify, reach out, and build relationships with people who can become invested in your mission. I don't have hard numbers (if you do, please share in the comments!), but I know that theaters are bringing in audience members via Twitter who are completely new to their organization.

Now, some questions.

@theatredude asked if a theatre should follow its own employees.
Every theatre has its own unique culture. I can't really see why you wouldn't follow everyone affiliated with your company. (If an employee would rather keep her tweetstream private, she can adjust her profile settings accordingly.) It's fun for followers to hear the back-and-forth when people share what they're excited about behind the scenes.

@leehenderson asked if the idea is to grow new audiences with Twitter.
Absolutely! That's one of the main differences between Twitter and Facebook. Facebook is about cultivating the audience you already have, while Twitter is about finding new people in your area who might come to your theatre for a Tweetup, see a show, and then become lifelong fans.

@htyweb offered that instead of searching for your name on Twitter to keep track of what people are saying about your theatre, you can set up automatic searches that will go right to your email. @htyweb mentions TweetBeep as one such tool.
I ran out of time on the talk, but indeed there are a slew of tools (called third-party clients, or apps) that you can use to manage your Twitter account. I'm not recommending any one of these tools over another--you should explore and make your own decisions.

For Your Desktop or Laptop

Tweetdeck is a downloadable third-party client that a lot of people use on their desktop computer. Also, I've heard a lot about Seesmic. It allows you to group your messages and the people you follow. It's helpful to use one of these if you plan on following hundreds or thousands of people. There will naturally be some people you want to make sure not to miss anything from.

HootSuite is one of many tools that allow you to track your company's Twitter account, DMs, @ replies, and even assign some of these things to specific people in your company. CoTweet is a similar product. These are useful if you want to have several people tweet on your company's behalf from one main account.

For Your SmartPhone

There are several apps you can download--Twitterfon, Twitterrific, Twittelator Pro, Tweetie, and Twitterberry to name a few.

To Track Statistics

You can use hit-counting clients like Statcounter to track how much traffic comes to your website from Twitter.


Out of all the URL-shorteners, many people favor bit.ly, because you can track how many times that URL is shared. Others are tiny.url, and tr.im.

Here's how I access Twitter:
During the work day, I'm at a desk, so I use the regular Twitter web interface. I have Twitterfon on my iPhone. (I keep meaning to upgrade to Twitterfon Pro.) Instead of using Tweetdeck to group tweets from certain people, I use Google Reader to collect RSS feeds of the Twitterers I follow who I don't want to miss a single tweet from, and then I can check out the tweets on my computer or iPhone when it suits me. I'm leery of using too many third-party apps that require sharing my Twitter password--the more you share your password, the more hackable your account is, and everyone has a different comfort zone with that.

Feel free to leave questions in the comments, or share success stories. Also, please pass around this information--the insights and ideas discussed on the recorded talk aren't limited to theater companies, but can be useful for other arts and nonprofit organizations.

One last thing. While I was flattered to be introduced as a "Social Media Expert," social media is evolving so rapidly, with so many discoveries still to be made, that I don't think anyone is an expert. Once you guys are comfortable on this new platform, you'll be able to teach me things! Let's keep sharing the information so we can make sure the performing arts get a strong foothold in this new arena.

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