Every business wants to reach potential customers and keeps trying new ways to do that.
Theaters are no different. Take a look at YouTube and you will find video clips from several area theaters, a few of which have created their own channels.
The Asolo Repertory Theatre, Florida Studio Theatre and Venice Theatre post videos to tease and inform audiences. A few theaters rely on individuals to occasionally post video clips. Sometimes there are interviews and behind-the-scenes tours to give you a sense of the shows that are on stage.
You could spend days learning about theater on YouTube, going from one clip of a Broadway musical or a play to another, discovering the history of shows or favorite performers. but there’s more to the way the service is used than just entertainment.
Sarasota Ballet, Sarasota Orchestra and Sarasota Opera also have their own channels, and post clips with varying degrees of frequency.
They and others, including the Players Theatre and Manatee Players, also have Facebook pages to interact with people, promote their shows or auditions and offer discounts when extra seats are available.
There are Twitter feeds and Tumblr pages where photos, links to news articles and (positive) reviews get promoted. TripAdvisor.com and other travel Web sites might turn into active resources for getting the word out about your operations.
Primarily, all these different online destinations are a way to build buzz and get people thinking and talking about the kind of work they are doing.
Traditional newspaper ads still attract attention, especially in a community like Sarasota with an older population. (And we’re glad about that.) But as media habits change, and younger people get their information (and entertainment) from other sources, including digital versions of newspapers like the Herald-Tribune, theaters and other arts groups are trying to reach them with different approaches to marketing.
“We want to communicate ideas with the public,” said Susan Yannetti, public relations manager for Asolo Rep. “We want them to understand where we’re coming from and why we’re doing a particular show and why we feel it is important. It is a chance to have direct communication with the public.”
Asolo Rep posts what it calls “Sizzle Reels” for each of the shows. They generally look like commercials, usually with photos and quotes from reviews. Sometimes, there are video features with scenes from a show and interviews or a backstage look at a production.
On YouTube, Florida Studio Theatre has focused primarily on videos touting FST Improv and the Sarasota Improv Festival (to be held July 12-13). At the moment, the theater is not promoting its mainstage and cabaret shows with videos.
But those shows are getting attention on Facebook, a Tumblr page and other online outlets.
“We’re mainly using Facebook to engage our audience and as a tool to reach out to new audiences,” said Molly Clancy, the theater’s public relations associate. “We’re using everything that’s available, but Facebook is where we’ve seen the most interaction between us and our audience.”
Posting photos or an announcement about an upcoming event or show has become part of the marketing plan for many theaters. It’s no longer an afterthought.
These are online tools that make the theater more accessible to audiences.
Whether it’s working is another matter.
Clancy said FST is still “learning about how to measure” the response from social media. People are engaging with the theater through comments on Facebook, but it’s more difficult to tell if such posts lead directly to ticket sales.
Yannetti said Asolo Rep staff can see how many people are watching the videos, and can count responses if a special offer is made for discounted tickets.
Primarily, these resources are new ways for arts groups to build brand recognition, built around the assumption that the more people know about an organization, the more likely they are to sample their work.
And it’s an easy way to reach a much broader audience.
“There are people in Russia and Italy that look at our page,” Yannetti said. “I have no idea why that is, but it’s really great that we have the potential to reach anybody in the world who would be interested in what we’re doing.”
Jay Handelman is the theater critic for the Herald-Tribune and chairman of the American Theatre Critics Association. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to “like” Arts Sarasota on Facebook, Follow me on twitter at twitter.com/jayhandelman.