ArtsEmerson, Boston, MA

See Your Tweet in Lights Launches New Boston Theater Presenter

ArtsEmerson: The World On Stage used its historic Paramount Theater’s marquee to highlight tweet reviews from opening night patrons.

ArtsEmerson's "See Your Tweet in Lights"

ArtsEmerson’s “See Your Tweet in Lights”

ArtsEmerson: The World On Stage is a new theater presenter in the competitive Boston Theater district.  As a brand new company with zero recognition, staff decided to build audiences from scratch using social media.

Julia Propp, Senior Manager of Patron Engagement, noted: “It’s important to be clear about what you want audiences to do and keep reminding them. We assumed audiences would remember their tweet reviews could end up on the marquee and stopped telling them from the stage.  Tweet reviews dried up and we needed to prime the pump again. Creating hash tags is also vital – we want to be able to track – and have the chance to participate in all conversations about our programming whether people are specifically speaking to us or not.”

On opening night in January 2011, staff made a special effort to invite social media influencers (found through twitter lists, klout scores and staff knowledge of top arts tweeters). Taking advantage of its classic theater – the Paramount, with a dramatic marquee – Executive Director Rob Orchard made a curtain speech asking attendees to spread the word and tweet about their experience (the show was eminently tweet-able – PSY—featuring a French Canadian Circus Troop). He announced that their tweet reviews could appear on the Paramount marquee. This was reinforced with information in the program.

When audience members’ tweets were featured, staff sent a congratulations tweet to them which was usually re-tweeted by the delighted fans.  The company continued doing it for other shows and discovered that it’s not right for every show they do (for example it did not work for the Cripple of Innishman which wasn’t as buzz worthy) – so learned it’s not one size fits all strategy.

Communicating via social media has become part of ArtsEmerson’s  personality and staff strives to strike the right balance between promotion and engagement.  Staff “listens” to how its shows are being described in the twitter-verse and adjusts messaging to intentionally connect with the way audiences are talking about it.

Proof points:

  • Community building via social media has established a unique personality for Arts Emerson
  • Be clear about what you want audiences to do and keep reminding them
  • Create hash tags to track and participate in all relevant conversations
  • Learn and adjust show by show to how messaging “plays” in online conversations.

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