A couple of weeks ago I posted a status on our Facebook Page that asked our Fans to help position In the Next Room or the vibrator play in the marketplace by choosing which of three positioning statements made them want to come see the play. The idea came out of a meeting I had with our Marketing Director and our Managing Director in which we came up with three strong positioning statements, and had trouble choosing just one because, frankly, each could work. That’s when the decision was made to ask our Facebook Fans their opinion. Or, rather, I believe the exact statement was, “let’s put it on Facebook! See what happens!” Very Woolly.
These were the three positioning statements that were posted on Facebook:
- Sarah Ruhl’s Pulitzer Prize-finalist In the Next Room or the vibrator play comes to Woolly…
- From the author of The Clean House and Dead Man’s Cell Phone comes In the Next Room or the vibrator play
- Fresh off a Broadway run comes Sarah Ruhl’s In the Next Room or the vibrator play
And, these are the apprehensions I had about conducting this experiment:
- Not all Woolly theatregoers are on Facebook. Therefore, whoever responded to this post would be self-selecting in two ways: first, they are on Facebook to begin with, and second, they are moved to comment and vote.
- Often, when asked to “survey” or express an opinion in public, people lie. (Seriously! It’s true!) How would we know if the “winning” statement would actually turn out to be a winner?
- I had very strong opinions about option three. Having recently moved to DC from NYC where I spent the last several years in the commercial theatre world, I have very strong opinions about using the word “Broadway” when it comes to positioning a play. I am very much of the mindset that just because a show was on Broadway, or is going to Broadway, doesn’t mean that it is a good show. (I mean, often it’s not very good. Let’s just be honest about that.) Unfortunately most fairly novice theatregoers do not know this, or at least do not agree with me. I said in the meeting with the Marketing Director and the Managing Director that I just did not know what I would do if option three won. There might have been a war. Me vs. DC audiences, and that’s no way to start a new job.
- Who cares. Let’s be honest. Who cares how you position a play? Most people don’t think marketing is sexy so why on earth would they be willing to care enough to comment back on our post?
- Would anyone comment at all? Our Facebook Page was still very green. That’s one reason I was hired, to beef it up. Would anyone comment? Engage with us? Start a dialogue…? Was this the right way to accomplish my basic goals – to be more transparent and be more engaging – or should I post a photo of a cast member instead?
And this is what happened:
- Option one, the Pulitzer Prize-finalist won. Option three (Broadway) came in a very close second. If you look at our ads today, our press releases, our website, you will see the use of “Pulitzer Prize-finalist.” (Full disclosure: That was my favorite option! But, does it really matter what I think…?)
- 29 people commented on the status, the most comments we had ever received on a single Facebook post.
- In addition to the options we laid out we also got other suggestions, anything from a conservative, “You could also call it Tony-nominated,” to a more radical, “In the Next Room or the vibrator play by Sarah Ruhl. If you don’t come see our play, we’ll just have to play with ourselves,” which showed not only that our audiences are smart and witty but that the question sparked a little dialogue… which is the point of social media, and the purpose behind so many of the connectivity initiatives we do here.
In retrospect I think this experiment was a success and validated two theories that are often tossed about when discussing social media in this industry:
- Ask a question in your status! People will respond.
- Though not proven, it has been hypothesized that the theatres’ social media users have a stronger response to posts that involve the business side of things instead of the artistic side of things. This is a very new theory but I’m thinking it might be true.
But, most importantly, I consider the experiment a success because it leaves me asking questions. Do our Facebook fans like to talk more about the art or the business? What would have happened if the Broadway option had won? Is it the right choice for those of us in marketing and communications to relinquish a bit of control and let the audience decide?
What do you think?
~Alli Houseworth, Communications and New Media Manager