Another Lesson (Still Being) Learned from the Fall Production: Facebook Marketing

Let’s face it: Marketing is not my thing. It’s not my director’s thing, either.

We realized, though, that we need to up our game, and that this production, with a new theater and a visiting celebrity playwright, was an opportunity we couldn’t miss.

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The Athenian Players cast and crew of “Verdigris” on stage with the playwright, Jim Beaver (just left of center)

The university does have a marketing director, and we work with him already. But he does the marketing for the entire university. He’s knowledgeable and helpful, but his focus is the university as a whole and he doesn’t have a lot of time for individual programs. He coordinates with NPR and a local TV station for promotions, writes and sends out a press release, and creates our posters. And we always appreciate his stellar work.

This time, though, we wanted to push for more.  I met with the marketing director and talked options. One thing we decided to try out was Facebook marketing.

The director and I took charge of this task. Neither of us had ever used this system before, but we were game to learn.

 

Process. For those of you who also haven’t tried it, here’s a quick rundown. You go through the options to “Boost” a post, which will lead you through choosing an audience based on demographics and interests, setting a time period and region for the ads to appear, and specify a budget. It’s not difficult.

Once set, Facebook will start having your ad appear on the pages of people who fit your settings. You are only charged when people engage (interact) with the ad in some way, rather than for views. It spreads your budget over the specified time period and stops when you reach that amount.

We chose a budget of $40 for a 1 day ad targeted at the local area with interests related to theater, the celebrity author, and local events.

Results. Overall, we’re pretty pleased with the results. The number of interactions drawn directly from the ad was a little under what Facebook estimated, but it also led to a greater number of organic interactions, and that put our total near the high end of Facebook’s estimated range.

We’re very pleased with the types of interactions, too. We had people sharing excitement with friends about our celebrity visitor, and it lead to more awareness of the program and a few more butts in seats, which was the primary goal. Some of those people returned to our page to follow us, comment on their enjoyment of our production, and say they’re looking forward to future shows, and building a regular audience is another major goal. We’ve been able to interact with people who are interested in the technical aspects of the theater and the set as well.

We also received a bonus $10 to spend from Facebook ads (presumably for trying the system), which my director used for another ad. It’s also doing very well and has resulted in additional page likes and conversations. We’ll have to see how that translates into ticket sales and knowledge of our program.

Lessons. Unfortunately, due to the multitude of crises (and they’re still coming), the marketing plan slipped and we didn’t get our ad out until the last minute. We’re still quite happy about the numbers, and it was only up for 24 hours. But we obviously need to get this going earlier. I’m hoping that for the next shows we’ll be able to test a few different time frames and figure out an optimal plan for how to use this marketing tool.

This also can’t be our only strategy, and we’ve used others and have more in the works. I’ve been doing a lot of research into specific ideas for theaters (and small budgets), and I’m excited to try some of them.

 

So, yeah. I’m learning about marketing. Because I don’t already have enough on my plate, obviously. 🙂

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