We just finished the 10-day festival of independent theatre and weirdness known as the Indianapolis Fringe Theatre Festival, and I had a chance to see a few shows, including a couple of old favorites.
I also had a chance to talk social media — because I’m an annoying geek that way — with a couple performers, and decided to write a blog post based on what I told a couple of them.
This post is written for any musician or performer, especially the independent theatrical types who depend on ticket sales to make their living. For some of these performers, they bounce from festival to festival and make a good portion of their income from their take. Some even use one festival to pay for the next one.
This is a strategy they can use to improve their take next year.
What You’ll Need
- A laptop computer
- A digital camera with video capabilities. If not, your laptop’s camera will do.
- A Twitter account.
- A blog (WordPress.com or Blogger.com are great free platforms, as is Posterous.com and Tumblr.com)
- A YouTube account.
- A Facebook page. (This is different from a personal profile. You want an Artist’s page.)
What You’ll Do
These are in a general chronological order, but not in a do-one-then-the-next lockstep order. I’m using the Indianapolis Fringe (#IndyFringe) as an example, but this will work for any concert, performance, show, or festival.
- First, make sure your Twitter bio includes a line about the name of your show, or your most famous character’s name. If you only performed in one festival, put the name of that in the bio too. “You may have seen me at the #IndyFringe Festival!” You can always change your bio, especially as you move from festival to festival, or follow specific groups of people.
- Start following people on Twitter. People will follow you back, especially once they see that you’re a performer at the festival they went to, and even moreso if they were at your show. To find people who were at the festival, do these steps:
- Go to FollowBlast.com and do a search for #indyfringe, and follow anyone using that term. Keep in mind that these hashtags only work for about 30 minutes, so it’s actually a good idea to access this site while you’ve got some downtime at next year’s show.
- Build a hashtag archive at TwapperKeeper.com. I’m still trying this out, but I’m hoping it will collect old hashtags, unlike FollowBlast.com. However, it only goes back 7 – 10 days, and back for 1,500 tweets. It will then go forward and continue to save tweets. You should set this up before your next festival starts. Work in conjunction with the festival organizers, because they may want to use your archive as well. Also, before you start, search to see if anyone else set up an archive before you so you don’t duplicate efforts.
- Go to search.twitter.com as another way to search for #hashtags. Put in #indyfringe and see what you can find. Search results are somewhat limited, but you may be able to find older tweets that FollowBlast and Twapper Keeper couldn’t, especially if you’re seeing this now, and are scrambling to recover those old tweets.
- If all else fails, try Topsy. It’s not 100% accurate, but it gives you more than you might get if you’re looking for a festival that ended three weeks ago.
- Check out the festival organizer’s Twitter page and follow everyone they follow (not everyone who follows them). If they have been good Twitter stewards, they have vetted the people they’re following. Those people will include other performers, supporters, festival-goers, and other people in the industry or festival business. (This last group could be a good connection to getting into other festivals!) Do this with any festivals you plan on going to next year as well.
- Use Twellow.com and Twellowhood.com as a way to find other people who are in the cities where you’ll be next year.
Why You’ll Do It
Okay so far? You’ve built your Twitter list for a very important reason: Promoting stuff! You’re going to promote next year’s show through videos, your blog, and even email newsletters. Here’s how.
- Now you need your camera. Start shooting some short videos. Update us on what you’re doing, where you’ll be, thoughts on stuff you did this year. Treat it like a diary. If you’re an actor playing a part, do it in character, especially if that character is going to be back at the festivals next year. Shoot the videos in character, or tell some jokes, or give people a preview of what you’ve been working on. Shoot some rehearsals, some special messages to individuals, or perform a new song.
- Post those on YouTube.com (make them public), and make sure you fill out all the details, like Title, Description, etc. (all this stuff is indexed by Google, which makes your videos found more easily by people searching for you or the festival).
- Share these videos on Twitter and your Facebook page, and post them to your blog (do the same with any photos you take). This will accomplish a lot of pre-show promo before you ever set foot in the city. And if you can get people buzzing about the show before you start, you’ll be selling out more shows.
You can get a Flip camera for as low as $170 now, and if you think that’s still high, use the money you were going to spend on fancy-schmancy postcards and spend it on the camera instead. The postcards are immediately dated once the festival ends, and you can’t reuse them. The video camera will pay for itself with all the videos you shoot and the postcards you don’t buy.
Finally, there are a few things you want to do next year, to get ready for the next off-season.
- Build a mailing list of all your attendees. Send around a clipboard before your show begins, or have them sign up before they leave. Ask people for their HOME email, not their work email — especially if your show is laden with profanities and cross-dressers. Guard this with your life. Promise to never, ever spam them. Use it only for newsletters and occasional social media communication.
- Load that list into a Gmail account (here’s why you should use Gmail), and then either use the Rapportive.com Gmail plugin, or upload the email list to Gist.com, to start finding where your list members can be found on the different social media networks. Follow them on Twitter, and connect with them on Facebook.
- Send out an occasional newsletter — no more than once a month — and email it to them. Let them know what you’re working on for next year so they get excited about your upcoming visit. Give them an opportunity to unsubscribe, but try to give them useful information so they won’t want to.
- Use your video camera to shoot post-show testimonials and get them up on your blog as soon as a show ends. Tweet the new blog posts to your Twitter network during the show, so you can continue to remind people you’re there and you’ve got an awesome show. Ask your Twitter network to retweet your show information, so they can help you spread the word.
There is so much more you can do with social media. Believe it or not, this is just scratching the surface of what can be done. But while it seems overwhelming, keep in mind two things:
- This will get easier as you do it more often.
- It beats the hell out of busking and handing out postcards in 90 degree heat.
Photo credit: Erik Deckers