A curious happening took place in the Twittersphere this week, which has gone rather unnoticed. Considering that last year The Royal Opera House managed to ignite Twitter with its forceful lawyer vs the blogger trial, ending in a written apology made available online and a further blog post admitting “No one gets things right all of the time, and last week the Royal Opera House got something wrong,” it’s great to see a step in a new direction, giving the controls of its twitter stream to some well-known, ballet-obsessed bloggers.
Monday night saw the opening of the ROH’s first new full-length ballet since 1997 in the form of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Now anyone who knows me will understand that when it comes to dance, or even opera for that matter, I’m not the one to usually sit up and pay attention. A combination of ticket prices, the lack of a formal/strong narrative (at least one in which I can follow easily) and my obsession with conventional forms of theatre making, make both ballet and opera feel out of my reach. Equally, I have spoken directly to some of the ROH’s digital/press staff members about how the prominent building in Covent Garden is much like a fortress designed to be impenetrable for young people who don’t have the money, nor the understanding, for ballet/opera to be accessible to them. Back to the point at hand: with all of this holding me back, I noticed a tweet from the Royal Opera House that made me sit up and pay attention.
During the opening night of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the Royal Opera House gave control of its Twitter account to The Ballet Bag ladies. If you’re not familiar with The Ballet Bag, it’s an excellent resource website offering critical commentary, reviews, resources and just about anything you could think of relating to the ballet world. The ROH twitter account has more than 15,000 followers, and is a natural tool for the marketing activities of the company. However, it is the trust and, for want of another word, innovation in putting the voice of one of the largest publically-funded buildings in the UK into the hands of bloggers that stopped me in my tracks.
Transparency and honesty seemed to ring out from the fortress that is our nation’s opera powerhouse. Suddenly, by knowing that those behind the tweets, the excitement, the photos and yes I’ll say it again, actual excitement of opening night, were real, ballet-loving ladies became a breath of fresh air. During the interval of the show I was attending I actually went out of my way to find signal to check in with the ROH’s tweets. How often do you actively look forward to reading a twitter stream of a theatre/organisation? Not often I imagine.
The Ballet Bag ladies tweeted photos, generated a hashtag for the event (#AliceinTwitterland) and gave some backstage insights into the ROH. You can see the full account of their night’s activities and tweeting over on their blog here.
So why am I generally excited and at the same time hitting my hands against my head? Because it’s so blooming obvious and simple. Theatres fall into different twitter voices: those that clearly have no clue and just use it as a marketing tool, and those that attempt (and often succeed) in creating a unique voice for their organisation. Yet those that do manage to give a voice or a persona to their tweets still have that feeling that actually it’s their job to do this. You won’t expect a theatre to tweet how pathetic it thinks a certain show is in its own space, would you? You might think that, but your marketing voice kick in.
The ROH’s tweets of #AliceinTwitterland were real, generated from some ladies who adore ballet. They weren’t marketing the show, they were sharing their passion and excitement. Dan Bye recently blogged a challenge to theatres about how they need to move away from marketing and unleash the creative potential from Twitter. I think The ROH just did it.
Excellent work Team Digital, but the real question is, when will I be invited to tweet foolishly about my lack of opera/ballet knowledge to 15,000 adoring followers? Never? Oh well, worth a try!
You can follow the @RoyalOperaHouse twitter account for more information about its activities.