Ten years ago, nobody knew what ‘trending’ was. It certainly wasn’t shell suits and bum bags. You’d be considered a vandal if you wrote on somebody’s wall – and if you suggested ‘poking’ someone, you would probably be arrested for acts of indecency! But here we are in an age where people spend more time exercising their thumbs and touching their touchable touch screens than they do blinking. Ok, we may have fabricated that last piece of information, but these are the extraordinarily fast times in which we live, so you’d better keep up.
However, in the world of Filskit things move at a slightly slower pace. For a company that prides itself on its use of technology, only one of us Filskit ladies is the proud owner of a smart phone – surely one in three is less than average? But we are fast discovering that such tools are vital in order to stay in the loop.
If there’s one thing we have become it is impatient. Who hasn’t glared when their Facebook page dares to take more than three nanoseconds to load, or huffed in exasperation as that photo of you and your mates wearing silly hats won’t upload properly? We live in an instant world – and that goes for communication too. It’s a world of Twitter, where if you haven’t updated your status, answered emails and retweeted in under an hour, well, the moment has passed. If your last tweet was more than a week ago, that’s social pariah territory. Perhaps that’s an exaggeration, but there is a sense that in order to keep in the gang, you need to constantly be on the pulse of it all. But there is no ‘gang’; it’s not like being at school where you got picked first or last for teams – heck the people who were picked last probably now have the most followers. Mark Zuckerberg, anyone? But somehow people have taken these social platforms and attempted to sharpen them into cutting-edge marketing tools, and many have succeeded. Shameless self publicity is no longer about casually showing off your bikini body after that trip abroad, but an outlet to steam-roller your way into people’s eye line to shout about your latest production.
Twitter is the social networking site that baffles us the most. Over the past year we have noticed that mindlessly shouting about the details of your latest production and telling the world what you ate for breakfast does not win you any followers, probably because those facts are boring and leave little room for interaction and conversation. So in a bid to use this tool to our advantage, we have spent many a lunch hour staring eagerly at the tweet feed, waiting to pounce and strike up a conversation with fellow theatre bods, and when it works it is actually quite satisfying. In fact, I would go as far as saying that some of our best contacts have been made through some over enthusiastic tweeting. We’d be fibbing if we said we didn’t get overexcited when we discovered Lyn Gardner had answered one of our tweets. You suddenly have some sort of access to the people you admire and respect in the industry and that can be addictive.
LinkedIn is another equally baffling tool. You notice the Artistic Directors of your favourite companies and notice you have three mutual contacts – and you might as well be best friends! A false sense of entitlement develops, whereby your current thoughts should be broadcast across the World Wide Web for all to see. But, as we discovered, communication is at the very least a two way street. If all you ever do talk about yourself, that’s quite dull and you are likely to be ‘unfollowed’. In the real world, if all you ever did was champion how great you were and didn’t give anything back, you would most likely be branded a self indulgent prat and excluded from social circles. And why should this be any different online?
Those who use social media to the greatest effect are those who get creative. Just as advertising on television has evolved, so will marketing online. At the moment we are still in the early years, where people, restricted to 140 characters, simply tell you the time, place and ticket price, or links to reviews. However, this does not encourage people to click onto the link and find out more. Remember we are an impatient lot, and want to know straight away if something is worthy of our interest.
This does not mean that we should reduce our promotion to instant sound bites – in fact a little holding back can really build up excitement. Drip-feeding information, allowing a closer look, or giving an insight into what is happening behind the scenes can really engage an audience. The key is to maintain the character of the work you are promoting. But how to achieve this is yet another task…
There are some people who are using Twitter etc to expand their creative work. We all know the people who message exciting updates or tweet in a way that keeps you hooked to your screen. A fine example is The Royal Opera House, which has been commended on A Younger Theatre for its use of tweets during shows. It also seems that no conference is complete without key sound bites being reported to those who were unable to make it. Special ticket offers for Facebook and Twitter followers is a way of thanking those who loyally follow you – even when you do not necessarily have much to say.
Groups such as Twespians are turning their tweets into actions by creating regular events for those in the creative arts. This offers the opportunity to put a face to the tweets and network in a more informal atmosphere. In fact, these are highly popular events and something we keep failing to attend. But just like the Devoted & Disgruntled meetings which are now an integral part of the creative calendar, Twespians is creating a focal point for those wanting to meet others in the industry and an opportunity to air personal views. This demonstrates that there are inventive ways to use social media which can encourage real connections.
As with many things, the key to being a successful social networker is time, patience and determination. There’s no doubt about it, social networking can be a full time job; many large companies now have an employee whose sole responsibility is to update and stay on top of social media. And as for us little companies… we’ll just have to stick to tweeting on the sly…