The Theatre Marketer’s Guide to Social Media

The artistic director just handed you the keys to the Twitter and Instagram accounts. Now what?

With money tight for artistic organizations, many have found marketing success with the magic of social media. Great exposure, controlled messaging and it’s mostly free.

If only they can get someone to commit to creating interesting content and to post regularly.

Congratulations! That’s you. You may be kicking yourself right now but you’re probably excited, too.

That’s good because you’re going to wear a lot of hats. Marketing director, social media manager, director of development. Your artistic director is likely expecting you to fill all of these roles.

It’s safe to assume you are social media savvy. You probably post to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram regularly and that makes you a great asset in this position.

So, how does promoting your theatre through social media differ from the conversations you’re already having with friends and fans with your personal accounts?

You’re going to want to focus on your theatre’s target audience.

01 – Get to Know Who Your Target Audience Is


Your target audience is who you’ll tailor your content to. Do you know who they are? Let’s assume you aren’t sure right now. If you are, you can skip ahead. I don’t mind.

The simplest way to partially figure out your target audience is to look at who has been coming to your shows already. Figuring out your audience’s age, sex and cultural preferences is a good place to start.

But you want to delve deeper.

  • What made them come to your show in the first place?
  • What are their common interests?
  • Do they have similar characteristics?

It will be helpful to find out who other theatres like yours are targeting. Keep your eye out for opportunities to fill a niche the other theatres aren’t.

Here are a few more audience demographics to lock down when possible.

  • Income
  • Education
  • Ethnic Background
  • Occupation
  • Location

This information will be invaluable when you’re figuring out things like ticket prices, performance location, promotional media and performance material.

There are also psychographics of your audience to consider.

  • Lifestyle
  • Values (religious, political, family etc)
  • Behavior
  • Personality

Ask yourself what sort of shows are of interest to your target audience, where they go for information and what sort of events they like to attend.

When you have this information you’ll find your marketing less challenging and you’ll have a damn good idea of what kind of product your target audience likes. This should help in developing your season, too.

Once you have a good idea who your target audience is, start googling their demographic. Where do they hang out online and off? Do they like beer or wine? Starbucks or Indy places?

Answering these last questions is particularly useful for when you want to do some good old fashioned grass roots marketing. More on that in a future post.

Now that you have a better idea about who your target audience is, we can go to step two.

02 – Creating your Social Media Strategy


Just the phrase “social media strategy” may conjure images of a marketing pro pouring over mystical charts while they cross reference marketing case studies from the last five years. But a social media strategy doesn’t need to be so formal.

Your social media strategy is simply a summary of what you’d like to achieve with your marketing and how you plan on going about it.

Establish objectives you want to achieve.

  • Objectives will help you gauge your success and prove your return on investment.
  • Your objectives should match your marketing strategy and business goals.
  • Likes and retweets are fantastic but your strategy should not rely on them.
  • If you want to delve a little deeper into analytics that will help you figure out how your strategy is working, check out this article from Hootsuite: 7 Social Media Metrics That Really Matter – And How to Track Them.

Using S.M.A.R.T. Goals

Your objectives should be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound


To get the ball rolling write down three social media goals. How will each look when completed? Use that information to figure out how to track your goal.

The Social Media Audit

Before you can delve further into your social media marketing plan you may find it helpful to see how your current social media channels are working.

  • WHO is currently connecting with you on social media?
  • WHAT social media sites are your target audiences using?
  • HOW does your social media presence compare with other theatres?

Here is a free social media audit template that you can use to help:

Social Media Audit Template via Hootsuite.

With your audit complete you can decide which social media channels to focus on and which to eliminate.

Specific Goals for Each Social Media Channel

It’s a great idea to create individual, one sentence goals for each social media channel you use. One for Facebook, another for Twitter and a third for Instagram etc.

You want to determine what the purpose of each of your social media channels is and how you plan on leveraging them. By creating one sentence missions for each channel it will help you focus on specific objectives for each. For instance:

“We will use Snapchat to share the lighter side of our company and connect with younger prospect customers.” (via Hootsuite)

For further information on individual social media missions have a look at:

One Social Media Profile, One Mission (via Hootsuite.)

Now that you know who your target audience is and you’ve completed your social media audit, you can move on to something a little more fun (I think!).

03 – Developing and Sharing Content


The exciting thing about social media is that you can discuss, produce and curate content for other people, while promoting organizational objectives.

Content development and curation are the meat and potatoes of social media. You’ll spend the majority of your time creating for and interacting with your target audience.

You could simply post whenever you have something to say or when you want to do some push PR for your show (“We’re opening next week!”). But it is far wiser and more likely to build an audience for you if you post consistently.

To start, you’ll want to put together a content marketing plan and answer these questions:

  • What type of content do you plan to post and promote?
  • How often will you post content?
  • What is the target audience for each type of content?
  • How will you promote your content?

Develop a Content Calendar


Your content calendar lists dates and times you plan to publish to your social media channels.

You want to schedule your posts in advance. The additional benefit is that you can concentrate on the language and message at your leisure, and your content will be better for it.

This also allows you to develop numerous messages that you can release through your social channels at strategic moments.

It doesn’t hurt to have some good content loaded and ready to go for days that you aren’t able to come up with new content, too.

“Be spontaneous with your engagement rather than with your content.” (via Hootsuite)

A content calendar can be made simply in a spreadsheet and might look like this:


Your calendar should reflect the mission statement you’ve assigned to each social profile.

It may also be helpful to keep the following Rule of Thirds in mind.

  • One third of your social content promotes your business, converts readers and generates profit.
  • One third of your social content share ideas and stories from thought leaders in your industry or like minded businesses.
  • One third of your social content should be personal interactions with your audience.

The Rule of Thirds reminds me of a popular Twitter post philosophy. You should be sharing 80 percent of related content from other people and 20 percent of content you create. This is of course debatable but it is a good rule of thumb and one I practice myself.

With free services like Hootsuite you can schedule tweets for future publishing. Most blog hosts allow you to set a publishing date far in advance if you’d like, too.

Use these tools and build a nice collection of original content that you can use whenever you need it.

protip_iconPro-Tip: Each day that you don’t post something is a day you may have missed out on likes, shares or a patron who was not engaged.

Creating Content for Your Audience

When you’re thinking of material to share with your audience, consider the following:

  • How will it benefit and inform them?
  • Does it fit with your organization’s objectives?
  • Which social media channel will you publish it on? You will want to tailor your message to each account. This is where your one sentence mission objectives mentioned above come in.

Be Specific. Very.

When considering what might be of interest to your audience, it’s helpful to think about creating content for a single person.

Instead of thinking,  “I want this to reach and enlighten everyone in my target demographic!” think about one specific person in your target demo that will find your information useful.

This person is likely not a real one. But they should be specific in your mind. You want to tailor your content to “Charles Elliot, the Guy Who Makes Corn Cob Pipes and Roller Skates to Work. Loves Cajun Music.” and not “Male,  24-45, makes $75k a year.”

Take it from Steinbeck.


Most theaters will want to share:

  • Stories behind the current play. Especially if it’s based on a historical event or person.
  • Cast and Crew bios.
  • Profile on the Playwright or Director.
  • High quality photos of the cast. Either taken during a dry run (or cue to cue) or, out of character publicity stills. Posing your cast for photos as if they are performing will not offer great results.
  • Quick one minute video interviews of cast and crew. They should be entertaining and easily shareable.
  • Long form, behind the scene videos. These can be clips of rehearsals or even of the callbacks if your cast doesn’t mind.

One of the most important things to consider here is that you want people to see you and your organization as you are, an organization of passionate real people.

Here are a few things I have enjoyed from theatre marketing departments not listed above.

  • Readable script of show in PDF or similar format.
  • Short, professional and informative introduction videos to the organization.
  • 360 degree online tour of the theater. Here’s one for the 5th Avenue in Seattle:
  • Organization announcements, theater renovations, budget goals/successes, history of theater building or its neighborhood.
  • Funny, short clips that show cast and crew personalities.

What sort of content have you enjoyed when following a theater’s social media accounts?

Please comment and share.

I enjoy hearing your thoughts on the subject of theatre marketing. I love learning new things, too.

If you have ideas to add or resources to share, please do so. I write these to spark conversation and to offer information that I hope will help your theatre organization succeed. This two way conversation is beneficial to us both.

Please leave your thoughts in the comments and share this article on Facebook, Twitter or whatever fine social media channels you enjoy.

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Building the 21st Century Theatre Audience

It seems that the theatre is dying. But…

Broadway audiences 2015-2016

While the Broadway League reports a record breaking 13.3 million admissions to Broadway shows in 2015-2016, our smaller theaters struggle to keep the lights on.

63 percent of those Broadway ticket purchases were from tourists, a demographic that does not seem drawn to smaller regional and community theaters. Why not? Why don’t people from out of town want to go see local theater?

Broadway is a theatre destination, synonymous with glamorous musicals and a history of producing excellent new work from people like David Mamet and Sam Shepard. This certainly helps. Broadway doesn’t seem to be in danger of shutting down anytime soon.

But what about the regional and community theaters in the non New York markets? How do we get people coming to those shows?

What we need is more marketing!

A lot of weight is put on theater marketing. “If only one of our marketing campaigns went viral!” “This YouTube video has 5000 views but no one is coming to the show.” “Our Facebook page has 300 likes but our seats were almost empty last night. WHY?”

All the social media marketing in the world likely wont pull enough weight to put butts in every one of your seats. That doesn’t mean we should eliminate our marketing efforts.


Social media, email lists and word of mouth are still valuable in developing an audience but as much as we like to think “I just need a better marketing campaign.” marketing alone isn’t the answer.

What we really need are people that love theatre. We need people that WANT to go see plays, new works and established pieces.

A Penniless Theatre

We need people that want to put money into producing staged work.

I wrote this short article on a penniless theatre years ago. It briefly touches on what I think we need, a show business renaissance.

Not only do we need people to invest money in shows and actors but we need people to invest money in both theatre education and general education.

Arts Education is Paramount

Arts in Education builds theatre audiences and it has a whole host of other benefits, too.

Arts in Education


  • According to the Broadway League, the average age of the Broadway theatregoer, was almost 44 years old.
  • Of theatregoers over 25 years old, 80% had completed college and 40% had earned a graduate degree.

Educated people are theatregoers.

Some interesting theatregoer demographics.

While we’re talking about stats, here are some interesting demographics from the Broadway League on Broadway theatregoers:

  • Sixty-seven percent of the audiences were female.
  • Seventy-seven percent of all tickets were purchased by Caucasian theatregoers.
  • Personal recommendation was the most reported influential factor in show selection.

You can read more of these statistics in their Demographics of the Broadway Audience, 2015-2016 season report.

Where’s the interest?

A lack of theatre audience is partially caused by a lack of interest in theatre all together. It’s likely one of the most difficult challenges to overcome, too.

What can your theatre organization do to try and get the next generation interested in going to live shows, outside of the big, splashy Disney/Andrew Lloyd Webber productions that proliferate Broadway?

Disney’s The Lion King

Here are a few ideas:

  • We absolutely must create work that interests and inspires young people. This is a tall order. With YouTube, NetFlix, Nintendo and iPads the competition is stiff. For me, seeing a high school production of Peter Pan when I was fifteen inspired me to want to be an actor.
  • We have to produce engaging work. I am not saying it has to be Tony award winning material, but our work has to be good. I’ve seen a number of shows that, if I was not an actor myself, may have contributed to me not bothering to see a live show again.
  • We’re going to need some serious and repeated positive word of mouth about our shows. Social media can get the word out, and of course our social media campaigns should engage with blog/text, video, social channels etc. If people aren’t saying good things about your show, developing your audience will be very difficult.
  • Teach and inspire. From my own experience I can think of no greater way to build an audience than to teach and inspire them.

Thank you!

I like to think of this blog as a place we can all share and develop ideas that will ultimately strengthen our theatre community and help us develop audiences in the 21st century. This topic is a challenging one.

Please comment and share.

I would love to hear your thoughts on helping to build the 21st century theatre audience.

Please leave your thoughts in the comments and share this article on Facebook, Twitter or whatever fine social media channels you enjoy.



The Importance of Presence in Artist Branding

An actor arrives for an audition and stands on stage, his posture is weak, dialogue is mumbled and his eyes drift, focusing on nothing in particular.

The next actor takes the stage, he takes up space, his posture is strong and his body radiates energy, his lines are delivered clearly and assertively, his eyes are focused.

Which of these actors do you hire?

Both might be fantastic artists, one perhaps doesn’t audition well (some of us can relate) and both may be brilliant. But you’ll likely never know because out of these two actors, the one with presence is the one you cast.

It’s the same with your online presence.

As a casting director, are you going to cast the artist with no online presence, terrible head shots and a poorly designed resume? Or will you decide to work with that actor whose head shot and social media channels prove a strong presence and solid brand awareness?

As artists, we have to look at our social media channels as extensions of ourselves. For example, are you a Pinterest or an Instagram? The question may seem silly but what channels you choose to engage in will dictate what sort of audience you’re going to develop. Not all channels are good for all artists.

It’s not good enough to just show up on stage and mumble out your monologue, and it is no longer good enough to just throw together a Facebook fan page and direct casting directors and producers there.

As artists, our brand is an integral part of who we are. The social media presence that we develop absolutely must reflect this.

Spend time cultivating what everyone used to call “image” not only in your auditions, meetings and interviews but in your social media engagement and promotional materials, too.