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Monday, January 26, 2009

Twitter theatre?

Three questions for any theatre people out there who are using the social networking tool Twitter:
1) How does Twitter help you be a better theatre professional?
2) How do you find other theatre people on Twitter?
3) Who would you recommend Twitter to?
Come to think of it, any thoughts on Twitter and its relationship to theatre would be awesome and of interest.

28 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think the possibilities for twitter as a tool for marketing but also as a tool for artistic creation are manifold for those who are willing to attempt it. Thus far, I have found many more visual artists twittering than theater artists.

I have written some very basic stuff about using twitter at devilvet.blogspot.com.

-dv

Chris Zegel said...

Twitter doesn't really add much directly to being a better theatre professional, but while serving as a marketing tool it also has the potential to be an engaging forum for dialogue between artists, and between artists and audience (or potential audience).

Even though our company has yet to unlock the full potential of the platform, I would most certainly recommend Twitter to anyone willing to take a short step away from the formulaic and one-way approach to publicity so many theatres and companies take.

Aaron said...

I'm a Twitter skeptic.
(Partly, I suppose, because I haven't tried it.)

Here's my problem:
I write, direct, produce and act... Sometimes all at once. (Although, I don't recommend that.)
I also blog and am on facebook. Once my website has been re-done, I'm planning to publish a quarterly e-newsletter.

...And, I work 40hrs./wk. at a joe job to support my family and my craft.

I don't think have the time to Twitter.

I think social media can be great tool to help build an audience. But it's also is a huge time investment. It can also be a distraction and tool for procrastination (to which I've succumbed all too often).

Priorities must be made. I'm trying to make art creation my priority. Packaging and marketing it is secondary. And I'm not sold on the effectiveness of Twitter as of yet.

I know... HERESY!!!

Kris said...

Screw marketing -- as a theatre person, twitter gives me a chance to connect with other theatre people.

I love hearing about shows going on in other cities, connecting with other actors and theatre companies, and chatting about news of national and international significance.

Twitter also forms a gateway to new blogging communities.

I suppose it helps me market as well. But all that takes a back seat to connecting with other theatre lovers.

Michael Wheeler said...

I'm with Aaron.

It's just a headline. It can't communicate more than the most basic amount of information. It takes time and energy to keep it from advertising the most mundane info: Michael is making eggs. Who cares! Michael is remembering tech is more tedious than anything. Who cares! Michael LOVED Phantom of the Opera. Who cares! Michael is dissing Twitter. Who cares!

SMLois said...

I'd like to chime in with Chris & Kris. What I've come to really like about Twitter are the conversations with theatre professionals around the world. Hearing ideas from folks in London & Australia, reading brief recommendations/damnations of local shows, and discovering new theatre blogs to read have just been a few of the perks.

As for how I find other theatre people on twitter, the #theatre hashtag helps - I've found a lot of people who've posted it (both within the #theatre group & outside of it), but then I also go through other theatre people's following list and see who they are following...and now other theatre people are finding me, seeking me out, and then i just choose to follow them back.

As for the final question - who I would recommend it to - the answer is anyone who is interested in investing time in conversation. It does take a chunk of time to actively engage in conversation, but I find the knowledge I gain to be priceless.

Simon said...

Well, I'm certainly not going to deliver a big ad for the relevancy of twitter to the theatre world, like all web 2.0 tools it's not for everyone. God knows it's hard enough to get theatre types to chime in on the comments pages. Twitter does require a time investment, there's an enormous amount of noise to sift through and it's riddled through with spammers (which are a relatively minor annoyance as it's fully opt in/out).

What I will say about my own usage of this particular article of my tool kit is that compared to any other method of social media the entire point of it is brevity, it demands a fraction of your time compared to blogging, email, FB et al, this is probably the reason for its skyrocketing popularity. I tweet about five or six times a day unless I'm in a good conversation with Kris Joseph. There is no need to read every single thing that everyone in your network tweets - in fact trying to do this after a certain number of follows will surely lead to madness. It's a single-click affair to receive notes aimed directly at you, and a simple search function to keep abreast of conversations that you want to be a part of. Once you go through the induction phase it recedes into the background of your work schedule without much fuss.

And Mike, the Facebook status-like 'what are you doing' ignition is very misleading - if used efficiently twitter isn't really about 'Mmm...I think I'll have egg salad for lunch' or 'that jerk-face stepped on my lines again'. In my experience with it anyway (although that is certainly unavoidable, no doubt about it). It's about stuff like "Help, we need an antique telescope for a prop ASAP'. And five minutes and 6 responses later having a free antique telescope to use for 3 weeks. For example.

And as for twitter as a marketing tool, well, I get at least twenty hits on the site a day from putting up post alerts on twitter, and I got about a half dozen people down to the last play through it. So there's something there, anyway.

Shit, I guess this did end up being a twitter ad after all, sorry. Oh well, while I'm at it I may as well drop a link to the twitter theatre group. I started the group on December 18 and tweeted a link to it (I had about 4 other theatre people in my network at the time), and within one hour the group had grown to 35, it's now at almost a hundred theatre artists and enthusiasts from around the world.

I'm a better theatre artist for knowing them.

Simon said...

And then I check my twitter stream and find a perfect example of the annoyance factor of twitter. Behold:

"My wrist just did something weird again. It didn't quite hurt, but it didn't quite not either."

Like, you know?

Rikstest said...

Twitter as a marketing tool: Well its very hard to control.

Twitter as a way to communicate: Fast, new and innovative. Twitter and similar solutions pop up all the time. I think a theater might do best if the put emphasis on creating word-by-mouth CONTENT instead of trying to guess which app will be the biggest.

bfg said...

I'm still deciding how I feel about Twitter. One thing I will say for it, though, is it does provide another opportunity to engage with other people in the theatre community, both locally and globally. I have found a good number of people and blogs via Twitter. Some days I don't use it much, some days I get sucked into conversations. I am curious as to how many people found this post via Twitter?

Also, being limited to 140 characters forces you to choose your words wisely. It's a way of getting right to the point. And it's useful if you don't have the time to blog about something immediately but want to let everyone know about it.

pmull said...

As an employee at a LORT theatre and a twitter-er myself, I find that it helps me to connect to ALL of the "worlds" that interest me personally and professionally. I follow people on twitter (and rss feeds and facebook, etc.) who share my lifestyle - from cooking to travel to working out to, yes, theater.

As a person who came of age with internet dating and found my partner and many friends through chat and other such means, I find this sort of technology helpful in deepening relationships that otherwise would never exist. Matches with people of like minds that I would never meet due to geographic constraints... but, now... I just might!

As an artist, following other theatre professionals can inspire me to engage in projects and explorations that I might not normally consider. As a Regional Theatre artist, I mostly get to New York when auditioning actors, the rest of the time I'm executing artistic projects here in Norfolk. DC, the closest large theatre hub, is three hours away. That leaves my professional interaction with only people in my building. But through twitter (which helps to facilitate blogs, podcasts, youtube, and many other parts of the info web I've created for myself) I'm able to be connected to what is going on RIGHT NOW in New York, Canada, LA, Regional Theatres, DC, and internationally.

It also better connects me to things within my state that are just too far for me to visit on a regular basis. Richmond Shakespeare and Wayside Theatre, smaller companies doing great work, help make up the professional theatre atmosphere of Virginia. It's important that I know what's going on there, too. Not to mention that people in my building and in my city tweet from their different departments.

So, while for some this twitter exploration is one more means of "internet marketing", for me it creates possibilities of deep and sincere impact.

ian mackenzie said...

Hi everybody.

I joined Twitter a couple of weeks ago and was pretty mystified at first.

The first thing I noticed, and a friend said it so well: "Everyone on here is a friggin' social media expert."

It also felt like a bit of an echo chamber. I didn't know what I was supposed to be doing, or who I was supposed to be listening to, or what I should be saying.

My first update was, predictably, "checking out twitter".

And I still don't understand all the nomenclature associated with it:

Tiny URLs
Tweeps
#theatre
@ianmackenzie
following
followers
Wil Wheaton
Guy Caballero
Tweeps
Twits?

But after a couple of weeks, I feel like I might be starting to get the hang of it.

I did tweet notice of this blog post on my twitter status, and I think this discussion has benefited from the insight of people who might not have otherwise seen the post, or participated.

What's the key lingo?

Rebecca Coleman said...

Okay, I'm weighing in.
I'm a theatre publicist, and an avid user and proponent of using social media for marketing theatre. Why? Because of its reach, and the fact that it's essentially free. What it does cost is time (I hear you, Aaron, and every other AD/GM I work for). But I think the investment, like a lot of marketing, is up front.
It took me a while to get going on Twitter, but now I have it mostly figured out, and it can take up as much or as little time as I like.
I belong to multiple social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. etc. and each one of those has its own audience. There is some overlap, but for the most part, I'm reaching different market segments when I post.
Plus, I work from home, alone, and Twitter is my watercooler. I have made connections with theatre communities all over the world and locally through Twitter, which I would not have previously been able to do.
Just my two cents.

Michael Wheeler said...

Okay Simon, I admit I was being obtuse for dramatic effect, but I maintain my healthy skepticism.

I think it was Anon that posted an article here a month ago that posited that the internet was the first "true medium" because it can take almost any form. I feel like if I participated in all forms the internet took I would just be on the web all day and not making theatrical forms. I also do not instant message. It is neither email nor a phone conversation.

On the other hand, it totally makes sense for Rebecca to use Twitter considering her field and goals. Different strokes etc. It is probably valuable as Ian noted to "Tweet" new posts on your blog though. We did that during the election on the Department of Culture site and it probably kept us on some people's radar, you know, social media expert types.

Dahdscear said...

SMLois said everything I would have said.

Deb Pickman said...

I'll chime in with all the positive comments.

I'm enjoying connecting with theatre people locally and internationally on behalf my employer Theatre at UBC (University of British Columbia) and for my own theatre company shameless hussy productions.

These are early days folks - we're in the wild,wild west of social media and have an opportunity to shape what it will become via our participation. The potential for artists to collaborate & share here is exciting.

How to find theatre people? Don't forget the "search" function at the bottom of the page which also links to an advance search. Try searching "festival", "theatre"... etc. etc.

Use your googling skills to figure out what the lingo means - or better still ask a helpful twit. Heck make up some twlanguage of your own!

Dan said...

Well, I've only been twittering for less than a week, and I'd say I experienced everything that's been said above. My overall impression is that yes, it has potential, and yes, it takes time to learn and to calibrate your senses to the influx of twitter twaddle and yes, there is some networking value and some marketing value.

But I think in the end I most agree with Rikstest: it's a platform, a medium. I think many folks hope the transitive property will be in effect, delivering hip-and-with-it cred and scads of young, tech saavy consumers to their door or theater vestibule. Rare is the person who actually takes the time to figure out how to speak the tounge natively instead of relying on clunky transliterations. How many theatre blogs are launched only to be the morgue for press releases? Nick Keenan called a similar question in regards to a web trailer we shot for a production I'm doing with his company.

If you want to use Twiiter as a marketing tool, in some ways you have to approach it like one would approach an old media buy: does this medium reach people who I am trying to attract and/or who are likely to be interested in my work? What messages/imagery/calls to action work better in this medium to attract that target group? How can I measure my results? The low cost certainly helps make it attractive, but the time investment is not cost-less.

It works much better, possibly, as a networking tool - but again, it takes time and effort - the very same hustle that got your grandfather his job at Amalgamated Widgets Corp. There's a hell of a lot to wade through to find actual relevance, but it is there. And while you can connect to, say Neil Gaiman in a way that was never possible before, a glance at the 13,600+ people from whom you are indistinguishable means if you want a, say, professional connection you're going to have to work pretty hard to stand out.

Erik said...

I found this discussion via a tweet from The House Theatre, so there you have it.

Lookingglass uses Twitter as a marketing tool (rather than a social tool). Initially, I had ambitious plans to give the username and password to all of our artistic staff and allow them to update it as often as they like. Anyone who's ever tried to get an artist to blog knows that if they're not interested, you can't convince them otherwise. The same goes for 'micro-blogging' (aka tweeting).

Instead, we feed our Tweets into our homepage. It's almost always me tweeting, but at least once a day there's something interesting to tweet about. It provides a stream of new content on our homepage, and gives us easy ways to illustrate how much there is going on at Lookingglass on a daily basis (rehearsals, education programs, press hits, etc.). This proves to be limiting, however; we don't send direct messages or tweet too informally, because it shows up on our homepage.

Those frustrated with the brevity of tweets may be missing the point, which is most often to link to other information or media. Rather than reading what you think of it, they get to experience the content themselves.

Nick Keenan said...

What a wonderful discussion, fed in part, by twitter.

Dan's already said most of what I was going to say but, I'll vote:

Like any platform, it took me some time and experimentation - about as long as this thread, actually - to figure out how to leverage the format of twitter. Probably still learning there, like everyone. But most experimentation, I find, is worth the investment EVEN if you end up scrapping the experiment.

I'm a problem solver who needs the help of other problem solvers. Twitter is decidedly a better format than blogging/commenting to help solve problems.

Blogging is to thinking / mulling as Twitter is to doing / alerting.

Rebecca Coleman and a number of us #theatre twitterers are about to launch a twitter- and blog- fed campaign for theatre. Watch how it works. It might be a good way for you to test how warm the waters are in your neck of the woods.

@nickkeenan

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