Theatre Marketing: Twitter

There is no denying the fact that Twitter is playing it’s part with the marketing of arts events and shows, but are theatre’s using it right?

There are numerous comprehensive guides out there for using twitter but they aren’t targeted for theatres and the arts. Whilst understanding that not everyone in the industry are natural experts at Twitter and Social Media, there are clear things that as an audience for these marketing tools, we just don’t like.

Below are our Top 10 Twitter Rules/Don’t For Marketing For Theatres (in no particular order):

1. Facebook to Twitter automatic updates

Linking your twitter and facebook feeds might seem like a good idea for cutting time and making sure you give out a message across all your social networking platforms, but it is just annoying. If you update your twitter through your facebook feed, then don’t. Each time you update, twitter gets updated – but not how you think. It produces a link in the tweet which directs you back to the original facebook message. Often being counter productive.

An example is Arcola Theatre posting on twitter:

… that then links back to facebook, with a link for a facebook event:

This process of being sent from one platform (twitter) to another (facebook) to then be expected to click on another link (the event) is long winded and already as an audience member I am frustrated.

2. Punctuation – keep it simple

It is very simple, we don’t like massive amounts of punctuation. I think the below image says it all, so in short: keep the language you use simple.

Would you use this sort of punctuation on your marketing material?

3. Constant attempts at selling a show. Process of selling tickets on twitter

There is a clear process as described by Article 19 about the length a follower has to go from seeing a show advertised on Twitter to buying a ticket. With this in mind, advertising your shows, or attempting to sell tickets isn’t what we want to hear. Repeated attempts at saying tickets are on sale in a short amount of time is equally annoying.

You tweet about a show –> Your follower reads it –> They go to your website –> They try to find the information –> They look at  the show info —> They check prices, dates –> They have to check their diary –> They then make a decision to go or not.

That is one long process, especially for a message that might not even get to them because their twitter feed is so active. Your message or tweet is one of many happening within that moment. Why will they pick yours to follow up?

Advertising gone mad seems to also happen, here are a few terms us audience know and often hate.

What is accepted is the following: Announcing of tickets on sale for a show, more tickets released for a sold out show, announcing a show is now sold out.

What we cringe at: “selling fast”, “last remaining tickets”, “buy now”, and “have you booked”

4. One sided conversations? No.

Twitter is a tool for theatres to create dialogue and conversations with their followers/audiences. Twitter is not a one sided conversation and above all Twitter is not a conventional marketing tool. I repeat: Twitter is not a conventional marketing tool.

For theatres or theatre companies there is the impression that by logging onto twitter and gaining followers is an easy way to plug into hundreds of potential audiences. Theoretically yes, but don’t forget that every user on twitter is completely aware of this too. They understand that by following a theatre they are plugging themselves in directly to a marketing feed. With this in mind, don’t let it all be about the shows your promoting. Engage in dialogue with the people that are supporting you through twitter, don’t ignore them.

A few fine examples came from mounting pressure at the larger organisations such as the National Theatre and the Barbican Centre for their ‘twitter silence’. Their twitter feeds were very much a single marketing onslaught of what shows they had on, and no conversation/dialogue to those they followed.

Finally, after a large attack of followers asking for someone to talk back, the National Theatre broke the silence:


What a relief to know that there was a human on the other side of all those tweets. Suddenly your response becomes interesting, we know someone is listening to us, so naturally we will listen more intently to you.

5. Don’t block followers.

I want to follow a theatre on twitter so that I can find out about the latest news and offers. I am a potential audience member. So can you explain this:

I am now a frustrated audience member who won’t be finding out the latest news, and most importantly have been put off buying a ticket from your theatre to see a show.

Would you stop someone picking up a flyer or brochure from your theatre? No. So why block followers on twitter?

6. Have a voice, a friendly voice.

This notion of having a voice for Twitter stems from the dialogue #4 point above. One of the worsts things for a theatre or company to do is to produce a stream of non-personal tweets. Who is talking to us? Don’t use twitter as another non-personal hard hitting marketing tool, it just doesn’t work like that.

The best arts organisations who are using twitter are those who are personal to their followers. They engage with conversations, offer insightful details to behind the scenes activities and best of all they have a real honest opinion on life and the arts. They aren’t just a nondescript marketing voice. They are approachable.

Take a look at The Richmond Theatre as a brilliant example of a personal approach to dialogue whilst still maintaining a voice for the theatre.

7. Long URLs to shortened versions

If you’re going to direct people to a website, don’t include the full link (url) in your tweet. It doesn’t bode well. What you can use is a url shortening service such as bit.ly which also allows you to track how many people have clicked in that link and where from. This leaves ample room for you to describe what the website is and why you are tweeting it. Remember those 140 characters are valuable space, plus the ability to track clicks is a great marketing tool!

8. Retweet (RT) interesting things, don’t inflate your ego

We all love compliments, in fact some people thrive off them. As a theatre, an actor, a producer, a company or even an individual we love to hear praise of our work – but does everyone else on twitter? There is a very fine balance between showing what other people have thought of a certain show or event, to constantly flooding twitter feeds with feedback that often isn’t engaging to us.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t be proud of the comments, but if they are merely praising a show or event why not try to add more to the conversation than one sided praise? You wouldn’t appreciate someone talking non-stop about the great praise they got for a show they worked on – no one likes a big ego.

Remember, twitter is all about communication. The Re-tweet function is about alerting your followers to things they would be interested to learn/know. It is a method to further dialogue on a subject and should not be a one sided ego-boost.

9. Don’t constantly tweet, it gets annoying.

Just like someone talking constantly, we all need pauses in conversation, Twitter is exactly the same. Don’t flood your followers feeds with idle conversation or constant tweets. It’s about finding the balance between giving the right amount of information without overloading your followers. Equally, make sure that you do actually tweet, you want your followers to gain some kind of insight into your organisation without them forgetting about you through lack of anything.

10. Be open.

Of course Twitter is a tool which is constantly changing, and evolving from its use. Naturally with this evolution we have to also adapt to these changes and figure out what works best for our theatre, our organisations or even for us as people using twitter on a personal level. Equally arts organisations are learning to develop their marketing campaigns and engagement with audiences through the medium of twitter – it is a tool that has some basic rules that always should be obeyed before you venture into full usage.

Learn, listen and discuss whilst being open to suggestions and developments. Oh and have fun with your followers!

This article was written by Jake, a marketing officer for a small theatre, but also a huge fan of twitter. You can follow Jake on twitter under his username jakeyoh – equally if you have questions about using Twitter for your organisation feel free to contact him directly, details on the contacts page.

Jake Orr

Jake Orr

Jake is the Artistic Director and Founder of A Younger Theatre. He is a freelance writer and blogger, a theatre marketer and a digital producer. He is also Co-Curator of Dialogue.