Twitter for Tickets

panta rei dans lullaby

Video - Panta Rei Danseteater 'Lullaby'

Norwegian dance company Panta Rei Danseteater, late last year, conducted a little experiment whereby three dance makers created two pieces with the same name based on the same idea, featuring three male dancers and two musicians, to see what the outcome was.

June 2nd, 2016

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by Michelle Lefevre

If you're a Facebook or Twitter user and you have started following organisations (dance companies, agencies, etc) then you may have noticed a number of "status" updates pushing performances and box office contacts for particular shows. These updates are obviously intended to generate ticket sales but do they and can they achieve that particular goal for the companies that use them?

Both Facebook and Twitter conduct the vast majority of their business, providing updates about the people you are following or your "friends", via a single column update list. The newest stuff comes in at the top and the older stuff gets pushed down until it eventually goes of the bottom of the page.

Even if you use a third party "client" to check updates (like Twitterific or Friend Feed) the method of displaying updates is the same. New stuff on top, old stuff on the bottom.

On either service the number of people you follow translates directly into the amount of information you will receive the next time you log in to that service.

For example: If you follow just 50 people/organisations on Twitter and each of those users makes just 10 updates per month (a conservative estimate at best) then you will have 500 messages from that service to read in a four week period. Following 500 people will result in a staggering 10,000 pieces of information coming your way.

Why would anybody be following that many people? It's hard to be certain of their motivations but I have seen Twitter users that follow thousands of people and it's usually to get people to follow them in return. If that's not the case then I can only imagine they have a lot of time on their hands and they never sleep.

Facebook is a bigger offender because it doesn't just keep you informed about status updates. So a hundred friends/organisations/pages/groups can result in literally hundreds of pieces of information coming back at you from news updates to photos and videos.

Combine Twitter and Facebook together and you've got yourself a huge pile of information to sift through and that's just from these two services.

Selling Tickets

Example time! Let's say your company is performing at Warwick Arts Centre in the West Midlands, a popular place for the touring dance company in the UK.

The company is performing for one night only, as most dance companies do, so you put out a Facebook update and a Twitter update a few days beforehand letting people know about the show.

Here's what has to happen to get one of your followers/fans through the door.

First of all they have to see the update. Taking the information above into account this particular follower is going to have to be a pretty light social networking user to even stand a chance of seeing your update. Either that or they check their updates so frequently they pick up on every little piece of information that comes their way. Since a typical dance audience is not comprised entirely of 14 year old girls this is unlikely.

Even if an individual is tracking a relatively small number of people via Twitter or Facebook and they are away from their computer or phone for just a few hours your message about your show is likely to get lost amidst a couple of dozen updates that will knock your information from that coveted top spot on their news feed.

Secondly this person has to be in the right geographic location to do something about coming to your performance. Here in TheLabā„¢ we will travel, on special occasions, thousands of miles to catch a show. Your average Joe Public however probably won't travel too far outside their local area to get to a theatre.

According to those nice people at the Office of National Statistics there are 125,000 people (give or take a few) living in and around Warwick. How many of your followers do you think make Warwick their home?

Thirdly your fan needs to be in a position to actually attend if the above two factors fall into place. Are they doing something else, can they afford it, can they be bothered?

Statistical probability is not really our forte here but the chances of your message getting to the right person at the right time with that person being willing to act upon that information have got to be pretty small.

How many followers/fans your company has doesn't really matter either because the crucial point is how active your followers/fans are on these two particular services. The more active they are, the more information they have to process and the more likely it is that your message gets lost in the mix.

The opposite is also, bizarrely, true. If they are not very active then in all probability they will miss your update because they don't check their accounts on these services often enough.

You also run the risk of numbing your followers or fans with information that is not relevant to them. If they do notice your updates and those updates mean nothing to them at that time they might start hiding you (as you can do with Facebook) or simply pass your updates by should they ever see them on Twitter.

Other followers may start reposting your updates (using Re-Tweets on Twitter for example) but that will likely not help since the statistical probability problem mentioned above is only going to get worse.

Silent Conversation

As far as promoting individual shows is concerned it might be a good idea to just let the theatres themselves do that via their Twitter feed (if they have one) or Facebook fan page (ditto). You'd think that people would be smart enough to only follow theatre's they actually attend! Right?

Even then you run into the same problems mentioned above, the same problems that affect any other type of publicity.

How effective Twitter, Facebook and their ilk are as communication tools is debatable. Some logical thinking shows that for selling tickets they are probably completely useless simply because reaching the right people at the right time is a numbers game only the Lottery could be proud of.

The media and the blogs love to tell the stories of how many billions of messages are bouncing back and forth over social networking sites. Unfortunately the very things that make these services popular (free and easy to use) makes them almost completely useless. Too many people are talking and too few people are listening.

[ Top Image by Diego Duarte Cereceda ]

  • Sandy Alistair

    Twitter and facebook can prove to be highly effective mediums to convey a message about a performance virally. Even if those messages don't translate into measurable click-though's to online ticket sales, they do increase awareness and visibility.

    Marketeers have a responsibility not to flood their subscribers etc with updates via these networks, but used well they can be effective. Have you heard of things like hootsuite? Web applications like that can give an insight into exactly how effective your updates are or aren't being, and turn twitter and facebook into powerful tools.

    The article is, as often, too negative to be balanced..

  • The piece is called "Twitter for Tickets" not "Twitter for Awareness and Visibility" which, as you are aware, is not the same thing.

  • Just read your article and, while i see the point you're trying to make, i'd quite disagree with it. Twitter and Facebook in the same way that doing some cold marketing in a street or by phone. You can update all your followers just a few days before the performances and perhaps a handfull of them or probably just one might book its tickets online as a result of it. Twitter can be used as part of the general marketing strategy in the long run which is about generating awareness, visibility of the company and therefore create or expand an audience following which ultimately will turn into sales. So while both are totally different, they're quite linked as Twitter is concerned.

  • As I dance marketer I would just like to point out that you try and do everything you can! Social media sites are cost-free and even if the message directly reaches five people it's worth doing. I get your point, but when you are trying to market tours for dance companies who have no money to spend you have a go at everything! :)

  • James

    Warwick Arts Centre is actually part of Warwick University, which is actually in Coventry, which has a population of 310,000. Though slightly irrelevant I thought I'd point that out - if you add up all of the students and people from the surrounding area who regularly attend from towns such as Warwick, Leamington Spa, Stratford, Kenilworth... BIRMINGHAM? I'm sure you'd be pushing a million potential customers. But the real missed point is assuming that these feeds are a linear, direct, one-to-one process: somebody sends out a message, somebody reads it. But the whole point of these networks is that they are VIRAL. Organisations can quickly target the intended audience through user participation. If I liked going to the theatre, the chances are that I'd have friends who are also into the same stuff. If I got a message through for a performance that I liked, I'd pass it on to people I thought might like to go, and they'd pass it on to theirs... and pretty soon, everyone who needs or wants to know this information has been informed. And if you don't want to know, you just ignore the post.

  • Simply re-posting and redistributing that information only adds to the overload of information that few if any people are paying attention to. The idea that Warwick Arts Centre has a potential reach of 1 Million people thanks to social networking media is a little bit on the side of ridiculous.

    Also, most people don't re-post or re-distribute even if they do manage to see a particular post on a particular event. It's like trying to shoot a single fish in the Atlantic Ocean

  • Tandra

    Um... it doesn't quite work like you describe. Have you had a go at shifting tickets with these tools? What did you do? We've not done too badly with some shows (there's been a predictable skew to some groups) and might be able to give a pointer or two.

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