Today, we understand social media as web-based communication platforms that allows users to interact, share, and receive information. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, YouTube, Reddit, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Vine, Flickr, Spotify, and even Tinder can all be considered social media platforms.
These platforms are SOCIAL so the content that you’re posting should be social as well. Avoid simply broadcasting information, but encourage engagement with your content. How can you invite members of your online community to like, comment, share, and interact with you and others around your online presence? Can you ask questions? Encourage discussion? Incentivize engagement? All of these are important to keep in mind while creating and planning your social media content.
Before you dive into creating and posting content on your social media sites, you need to know who you are trying to reach!
Who is your target audience? How old are they? Where do they live? What do they like? What are their priorities? And where do they hang out online?
Be as specific as possible. This may mean that your target audience is a little bit smaller, but it’s better to have fewer, more committed followers than many less committed followers.
Once you know who you are trying to reach, you need to think about what they are looking for. Social media is widely considered a place where we craft stories about ourselves. How do you fit into that? If someone from your target audience shared some of your content or went to see your show, how would that help them craft their story? How does your company or production add value to their lives? How does it affirm their values? All this may seem like a lot of thought put in just for someone to click through to your ticketing link, but as Seth Godin writes in his book Tribes, “Marketing is no longer about the stuff you make, but the stories you tell.”
Once you take all of that into account, you’ll want to think about how that affects the way you talk about your company or show. What kind of language are you using? Is it formal, playful, aggressive, silly? How do other people talk about you and your work? How can all of this bridge the gap between your show, company, or event and your online audience?
Be creative. You are, after all, an Artist/Producer. Apply the same creativity to your online content. Look at what the companies you admire do with their social media and think about what works and what doesn’t. A few examples:
- Host a caption contest for free tickets to your show
- Have a member of your team take over your social media account for a day
- Shout-out other organizations. Wish other shows happy opening or publicly thank the coffee shop you’ve been meeting at – don’t forget to tag them!
- Create a GIF of that funny thing that happened in rehearsal
Check out this four part series of youtube videos by Keshia and Annie at Generator on Producing Social Media! You can find the introduction video below:
There are new social media platforms coming out all the time. YouTube or Vimeo are video-centric, Pinterest is great for the highly visual, product-centric content, SnapChat appeals to a younger crowd, and LinkedIn serves the professionals. The best bet is to think critically about who you’re trying to reach and how, and determine which platform(s) you’d like to use. Below are a few of the most popular social networking sites and the best ways to use them.
PRO TIP: Be realistic with your goals. How many platforms can you realistically manage while producing your show? It’s better to post consistently on one platform than inconsistently on many.
USERNAMES: There are different implications for changing usernames on each platform. In general, try to create your accounts under a more permanent name (usually the company or collective) than the show name. This will help you retain followers as you move from project to project, rather than having to start up new show-specific accounts every time.
PINNED TWEETS: Facebook and Twitter both allow you to "pin" posts to the top of your page. This can be a great way to provide the basic information about your upcoming project (like show dates, times, pricing) in an easy-to-refer-back-to place.
A platform for broadcasting “tweets”, short messages up to 280 characters long. Tweets can contain images, video, hyperlinks or text but must stay within the character cap. This challenges you to keep your content clear and concise. Twitter can be accessed through the Twitter app or from your laptop/desktop.
|Best For||What's Free?||What Costs?||What Works?|
|Twitter is best for a-la-minute updates to tell your followers and the public what is happening in that moment||Creating an account and posting with Twitter is all free||You can pay to increase the visibility of your tweets to a targeted audience||Hashtags are searchable on Twitter, so you can increase the public visibility of your tweet by using the keywords or hashtags that your target audience is searching for|
|Some people say that your tweet loses its value about 20 minutes after its last interaction||You can set your budget, choose how long your campaign will run for, select which tweet(s) you want to campaign with and determine your targeted audience by specifying their age, gender, location, and interests||tag other companies using their handles (Example: @username, @GeneratorTO) in your tweet|
|Twitter is great for the ‘Punch Line’ – in other words, say something impactful but say it quickly||Retweet others’ tweets if you think your followers will find it interesting, or try adding a comment to start a conversation|
|Posting at peak hours - 9am and 3pm Monday through Thursday|
A general-interest social media platform that allows users to connect in a variety of ways from posting text updates, pictures, and links to joining common-interest groups, to live streaming video, or messaging in real-time. A Facebook Page (rather than a personal public profile) can be a great way to represent your show or company.
|Best For||What's Free?||What Costs?||What Works?|
|Facebook is best to engage with your audience rather than find new followers||It’s free to create a Page and post on Facebook||Facebook allows you to pay to increase the visibility and engagement of your posts||Posts with video tend to have high engagement, especially those that are uploaded directly to Facebook (rather than linking to YouTube or Vimeo)|
|Text, photo, video, and links are all fair game and there is no limit to the length of any post||You can post, comment, and like content as your Business Page and even stream video in real-time using Facebook Live||There’s a range of complexities of Facebook advertising, from ‘Boosting’ posts to creating ‘Campaigns'||Best times to post to Facebook are during the week (between 9am and 7pm)|
|You can engage special interest ‘Groups’ (Example: Bunz Theatre Zone Toronto)||You have the capability to choose your objective, budget, timeline and target audience||Connect with others by tagging individuals or other Pages in your pictures or text comments|
|Creating an ‘Event’||Enabling posting by others on your events is a great place for audiences to share reviews or testimonials|
|Facebook will provide you with all the data on how many people engaged with or without the help of your ad dollars|
.PRO TIPS: Posts with an image do better than those without - if you're trying to upload a link that isn't automatically generating a preview image, try using the Facebook Sharing Debugger. And if you're having issues tagging another Facebook page in your post, use the page URL to help you: e.g. if you're trying to tag Generator, and the Generator page URL is facebook.com/GeneratorTO, tag @GeneratorTO.
A platform for sharing photos and videos. While your Instagram feed can be viewed from your computer, you can only post using the Instagram app on a mobile device. You can include a caption with your photos and videos, and unlike Twitter, there is no limit to how long your text is.
|Best For||What's Free?||What Costs?||What Works?|
|With its visual nature, many say that it’s the best platform for connecting with creatives and artists||It is free to create an account and post on Instagram||Colourful, high-quality photos get the most engagement|
|it can be tricky to gain traffic to an external website or ticket sales hub on Instagram because links in post captions aren’t clickable||You can take pictures from within the app or upload from your phone’s photo library||Instagram generally sees the most action outside of work hours (before 9am and after 5pm), when people are enjoying their leisure time|
|There is no limit on caption length so you can include as many hashtags as you’d like||Include a clickable link on your profile page, and direct your followers to “follow link in bio” when you post|
|Instagram Stories are a feature that allows you to add multiple photos and videos to appear in a slideshow-like format that will disappear after 24 hours. You can also go Live with Instagram Live.||Hashtags are searchable, so including these can help you reach an audience beyond your existing followers|
|This is a great way to share lots of content without over-posting||Put hashtags down to the bottom of a caption to avoid the text-clutter that may distract from your photo (one way to do this is by using "." to separate lines)|
|Tagging others in your photos or in your captions or comments|
Although it can seem like a lot of social media is happening in real time, planning your social media content is not only possible but important to maintaining consistency (and your sanity). Here are a few social media tools that we find extremely useful:
Hootsuite allows you to manage your presence from all major social networks like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube from one dashboard. Hootsuite is free for one user with up to three social profiles. You can schedule up to 30 posts under the free plan, and save unlimited drafts beyond that. Hootsuite also offers 50% off on all of their plans for nonprofits if you need something a little more robust. Hootsuite allows you to pre-program alt-text on your posts for Twitter. At the moment it does offer that feature for Instagram or Facebook - which means you have to go back and add the alt-text in those specific apps, after the post has been published.
Canva is a user-friendly tool for creating graphics and designs for pretty much anything. You can access a huge library of customizable templates to start, and from there, you can drag and drop icons, images and graphics to create your own web and print media design and graphics. There is a free version of Canva, and the Canva for Work Program is $12.95/month. Check out their rates and features here. Canva offers its premium version for free to registered nonprofits.
If your visual brand is really important, UNUM is an excellent design platform and all-in-one app for visual planning, data-driven insights and publishing capabilities for digital content. It's free to use and is great for laying out your Instagram posts in advance for maximum colour coordination or campaign planning.
Linktree is a tool that allows you to direct users to multiple destinations through your bio link on Instagram. You simply paste in new URLs to the platform as needed, then drag and drop the links to reorder them. It's a great way to have links to fundraising campaigns, calls for submissions and articles without replacing your company website in the bio.
Facebook and Twitter both have capacities to schedule your posts. Unfortunately, you can not schedule Instagram posts within the apps, but this is possible with some online tools (like Hootsuite and Agora) that can help you manage your content across the platforms, occasionally for a small fee. Scheduling reminders to post in your phone can be helpful, and when all else fails, a simple spreadsheet for yourself with dates and content will help you stay on track.
Hootsuite put together a great list of 9 Social Media Templates to Save You Hours of Work on their blog. There’s one for every stage of your social marketing journey—from planning and creating content, to publishing posts and measuring results.
There is no definitive answer as to whether or not your social media advertising dollars equate to more people at your show. But they can help your content be seen by more eyes and can sometimes be more cost-efficient than printing postcards and posters. If you’re hesitant about advertising, try investing a few dollars to boost a post. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter will all provide you data about how many people saw that ad, what percentage of people saw it because you paid, and how many people clicked through.
PRO TIP: Even if you don’t advertise, save your analytics data across your platforms. Saving this data is helpful in many ways – it lets you see what kinds of things you’re posting on your social media that are working and what isn’t. And it can be helpful when talking to funders about your influence and how you can help them reach your audience.
Short answer: No. Different platforms require different types of content. Sharing the same content across different platforms won’t serve you well, and your followers may become bored from seeing the same things multiple times. To avoid distilling the value of your content, post things that are specific to that platform.
Capitalizing each word in a hashtag ensures screen-readers can parse the words correctly for sight-impaired users. #AccessibilityForTheWin!
Some popular hashtags we use often include: #TheaTO #CdnCult #TorontoEvents
Creating a show-specific hashtag? Think about the future life of the show and where it's playing - if it's at a festival, maybe you can include that: e.g. #ShowNSTF (Next Stage Theatre Festival) or #ShowSW (SummerWorks). Otherwise, in Toronto adding "TO" to the end of a show name or a shortened version of the name is a frequent hashtag strategy: e.g. #ShowTO.
What is the alt-text for? W3 describes it very well, but in brief, the alt attribute is defined in a set of tags (namely, img, area and optionally for input and applet) to allow you to provide a text equivalent for the object. In other words, alt text describes the function of each visual for screen-readers. This makes the visual content in your posts accessible to blind and low-vision users!
There is an excellent Guide to the Alt-Text Field by Phase2 that explains how to best use Alt Text for your photos, logos and designs. Click through to find out more about making your website and documents accessible.
Check out this free pdf download on Content Marketing for Non-Profit Arts Organizations by Paul Gravett Consulting on how to grow your audiences when you aren't marketing for a show. He also has a Direct Marketing for Arts Organizations PDF with 33 time-tested marketing techniques that will keep you on track and get your box office phone ringing.