Sunday, November 29, 2009

Spam! Spam! Spam! Spam! Lovely Spam!

Boy, this social media thing is tricky for marketers.

I get to deal with it in my improv life and my work life, and here's the thing—everybody is equally new at this and wondering how to do it. Some of the complicating factors:
  • You have to use Facebook! You have to use Twitter! You have to blog! But only a tiny percentage of marketers actually know what they're doing!
  • It's nearly impossible to ease your way in or try it out in private. It's like trying on a new outfit while you're standing next to the rack: Everybody sees what you've got.
  • It's easy and free—and the temptation to abuse it is strooooooong.
Twitter and Facebook give every company, brand, product and improv troupe the opportunity to try permission marketing—without the need to build or maintain your own database, or the requirement to pay printing/postage costs or the upkeep on a website. It's a relationship marketer's dream come true, but can turn into a nightmare for your most loyal customers if you're not careful. Group and fan pages and Twitter, especially, force you to walk a tricky, thin line:
  • Pro: It's easy to invite/collect friends and fans and followers—and presto! Dozens, hundreds or thousands have "opted-in" to receive your information.
  • Pro: It's easy to send messages to or invite the whole group to events.
  • Pro: It's easy to engage fans in a conversation and put information (videos, photos, links, show info) where they can access it.
  • Con: It's easy for friends and fans to ditch you if your updates are too frequent or infrequent, too long or irrelevant—or for any other reason.
  • Con: It's not easy to restrain yourself—when ticket sales are slow, or you're bored, or you're putting your needs before your consumers, it's tempting to send just one more update.
  • Con: It's downright hard to know what to update and when you should update it—and even harder to make the time to do it.
Everyone's got a different idea of how to do it. One improv pal shot me a message before a show and said "don't forget to send an event reminder the Monday before the show—and hit 'em every day until Friday." Another said "quit telling me to spam my friends."

The workable answer is somewhere in the middle. To get closer to it, Tantrum/Spite actually surveyed our audience base (and some additional consumers in the right psychographic/demographic set). The survey asked everything from "where do you look for information when you're planning your weekend" to "how far in advance to you make plans" to "how often would you like to receive reminders about a specific show?"

Now we make very specific choices about where we promote our shows and how often we talk to our consumers. It's not easy—it requires advance planning, detailed calendars and self control. We keep an eye on our fan/follower lists to make sure people aren't dropping off, and try to figure out what we've done wrong when they do.

That's the easy part—the "push" marketing. We're still figuring out how to start conversations. You have to do more than just promote—if your messages do nothing but sell, you're missing the point. But we've seen some good examples: Click here (and here) or here (and here) for two very different groups who are doing Facebook and Twitter right.

Oh, and speaking of complicating factors? What happens when many of your most loyal consumers are members of a special interest group who are likely receiving similar messages from others just like you? Stuff like this.

I'm looking at you, KC Improv Community.

Here's what you're likely to get in a week:
  • Event invites and reminders for every troupe whose group/fan page you've signed up for. (Double that if they've got a group AND a fan page.)
  • E-mails from every troupe who has you on their list.
  • KC Stage reminders about those same shows, if you're on that list.
  • Tweets about the same stuff, with tiny urls that link to the website.
  • Blog updates about the same stuff.
  • Dozens of notes, status updates and wall posts from every improviser in every troupe you know.
And if you're crazy enough to let Facebook send updates to your e-mail address, double that.

Personally, I want to know what's going on. Even if it's not for me, I get questions for show info from my high school kids and sometimes from out-of-town visitors. I'm curious about what other troupes are doing and how they're marketing shows, so it goes beyond entertainment to professional curiosity.

I recognize that I am not your typical improv consumer.

Based on what I've seen, and in my opinion as a consumer, an improviser and a relationship marketing geek (I ghostwrote a book, even), here's what I think we're doing right—and wrong. And no, I'm not naming names—but I think we know who we are (I include myself and my troupes in the list).
  • Yay: Post photos of your troupe (with proper photo credits, please, because photographers deserve props, too). Thoughtfully edited (short, funny, easy-to-understand) video, too.
  • Yay: Timely event invites, based on your consumer base's needs (which might mean setting it up a month or a week in advance).
  • Yay: Meaty, interesting and/or funny blog updates and Tweets and status updates that express your voice and your brand.
  • Yay: Status updates that attach individual players to events and troupes in an informative, charming and personal way.
  • Yay: Q&As, responses to wall posts and other real-time conversations with audience members. (If someone compliments you on your wall, say "thank you.")
  • Yay: Consolidated messages—about multiple events from one troupe, or one show from multiple troupes. Plan ahead so we don't hate you.
  • Boo: More-than-weekly event reminders. Once we accept, it SHOWS UP ON OUR WALLS. It's ON OUR EVENT LISTS. We may need a nudge, but constant poking annoys the crap out of us. You don't need to tell us a show sold out. A thank-you is nice, but if you've already sent us a bunch of messages that week, we're probably going to find it disingenuous.
  • Boo: More than daily status updates demanding that we see your show. Especially bossy, bitchy ones in all caps. ESPECIALLY if that's all you ever update about.
  • Boo: The same message everywhere—Facebook, Twitter, blogs, e-mail, press releases. Yes, repeat the basics. But we come to your blog for more in-depth, insider info than we expect on a release.
  • Boo: Keeping quiet until you have something to sell us. Talk to us when you're not doing a show—and keep it engaging, charming and consumer-focused. Otherwise, you're like that semi-hot guy who only comes around when he needs money or sex.
  • And a great BIG boo: Using other troupes' events or groups or walls to promote your own stuff. "I won't be attending because my group has a show that night at the coffeehouse. It's at 8pm and only $5!"
This stuff isn't easy—but it's not that hard, either. The biggest thing to remember is that, at least on Facebook, we call each other "friends." If we're not self-centered, self-promoting asshats, this social media thing can really make a difference in our audiences.


  1. Agreed! Hurrah for the thoughtful, helpful post! And thanks for the link to my favorite photographer!

  2. Ah, this is very smart.

    I have to admit that I'm kind of OK with people marketing like hell to me...because I'm so damn spacey I'll sometimes forget your event even when I really want to remember. But I think most people are not as dreamy nor as tolerant as me.

  3. This is a great post, Trish. As you may or may not know I just stopped following SwatchUS on Twitter because they were obsessivley (sp?) sending tweets approximately 60 times a day. As big of a Swatch fan as I am their amount of spamming made me want to throw my laptop out the window.

    As a bragging right, on the collegiate/university level Central Methodist is way ahead of the curve (including large NCAA scools) on using social media and using it properly. We've gotten this feedback from national conferences we've attended. I love going to alumni events and being told over and over again how much people love the updates, how meaningful and timely they are, and how it makes them have a stronger connection to their alma mater.

    It's a new, exciting and confusing world we are venturing into.

  4. Boo - people who sip the Calderone Kool-aid.
    We sold out the last show. I counted twenty or so people that were there because of my Facebook efforts. Maybe more. Perhaps taking some advice from you and Pete isn't such a good idea. With you leading the campaign it left us $55 in the hole. Maybe you should take a tip from me: hit potentials at least three times the week of the show.
    Sick of the bitching about this. If you don't like it, quit Facebook. Oh and visit for info about our upcoming shows. Thanks.

  5. Who's bitching?

    I thought this was a fairly thoughtful, civil discussion. I love Facebook. I love marketing. I love social media and its potential.

    And I'm not drinking anyone's Kool-Aid. I'm trying to learn what I can from other improvisers, other marketers, audience members, and the results we get.

    You could be right. Maybe my failure to hit people up five times a week for our last show could have been the reason for the low numbers. It might also have had something to do with the regulars being over-saturated with improv the month of the festival. Or any of a dozen other factors.

    And your doing your own marketing could have had a lot to do with the success of this last show. As could the huge crowds The Union brought, doing a show on a weekend without much competition when lots of family was in town, or any of a dozen other factors.

    This stuff is my opinion. You know your audience, and if your methods work for you, that's great.

  6. You told me to pick a fight... so I did!

  7. My brain hasn't been working lately due to preparations for portfolio review. So I would like to leave a big ass comment, but it will hurt my brain. So, my small take on this is... you can't please everybody. Its pretty general and simply, but I think it fits here. That's one of the biggest things I've learned in running Thunderdome. No matter what I do, someone seems to get upset about something.

    However, just knowing this has made decision making a little easier at times.

    Also, I would like to point out that Improv Thunderdome Season 4 Round 3 had a great turn out (70+) the weekend after the festival.


  8. Inviting people on facebook to events is hard, I have found, when 1)A good number of your friends don't understand what improv is and so therefore, don't care to bother with seeing a show; 2)Another good number of your friends are not only improv people but perform on a regular basis at other places; 3)A good number of your friends don't even bother to look at event it's not even important or something.

  9. I have my own brand of Kool-Aid now? Sweet! Let the money start pouring in!

    Bottom Line: Social media is a powerful tool and should be wielded responsibly and judiciously not recklessly or haphazardly. Otherwise, it's the person behind the social media who's the powerful tool.


New rule: I'm not approving anonymous comments. If you want to sit at the grownup table, you have to sign your name.

Now c'mon. Pick a fight.