Reposted from comedyinchicago.net.
Back in the 90′s when I first moved to Chicago, there were a limited number of ways you could reach a potential audience. People were assembling email lists and blasting everyone they could with invites to shows. You could flyer on the street which tended to work poorly. Or you could be one of the lucky few who got reviewed by the Chicago Reader, New City or even the Tribune.
If you were looking for a show back then, you would pick up a Reader from the street and peruse it’s show listings. It was the only nearly-comprehensive listing of local theater, comedy, and music. That’s how I first found out about The Annoyance for instance. They had a bunch of shows with outrageous titles like Ayn Rand Gives Me a Boner, Tippi Portrait of a Virgin, and Coed Prison Sluts. They knew that they needed eye catching titles that grabbed you in order to stand out from the 100s of shows that were listed every week.
20 years later, it’s a totally different world when it comes to getting the word out about your show. Information is fragmented into hundreds of different places, none of them as comprehensive as the Chicago Reader was back then. When I look for a show to go see these days, first I might check Hottix to get a rough idea of what is happening. Then I might check Goldstar. The Reader and Time Out are both still worth a stop, but are hardly comprehensive. And finally I’ll check out the websites of some of my favorite theaters directly to see what’s playing. It’s much more complicated than trying to find a movie to go see. Wouldn’t it be great to have something like google movies for live theater or comedy? But that doesn’t exist as far as I know.
Today if you are promoting a show, you can send out press releases to dozens of publications and websites. You can blog about the show, share rehearsal pictures on Instagram, create a trailer on Youtube, tweet quotes and reviews on Twitter, create an event on Facebook, or share it on Tumblr. There’s Vine and Snapchat and Periscope and Blab and new platforms starting almost every week. There is no end to the number of different ways you can promote your show. You could devote 60-80 hours a week and not run out of things to do.
But most of us don’t have that kind of time to devote to social media. We have to work smarter and find ways to get information out there about our shows efficiently. We have to figure out how to create content about our shows that our existing fans want to share. We have to make sure our websites are social media friendly, so that when someone shares it on Facebook or Tumblr, a relevant image and description pops up on the post.
But even if we do all this social media stuff right, where can potential audience members find out about our shows? If they don’t already follow us on Instagram or Facebook, how would they know if we shared some great item about our show? I think we can do a lot more to help audiences discover us in more organic ways. That’s what the purpose of this Tumblr is, to be a cross roads for Chicago comedy. There are a few dozen stages in Chicago that are devoted solely to comedy of different types. And there are many more which often host comedy shows. How can we tie them together? With a simple hashtag:
How does that help? If a good number of us in the Comedy scene start using this hashtag whenever we are promoting our theaters, our groups or our shows, potential audience members will start to notice it and will use it as a way to discover new shows. Audience members may start using it themselves when they post selfies after a show or when they share a show that they enjoyed. It will take some time for the hashtag to do it’s job, but if we start using it regularly, it will get out there. Here is what I’ll do:
- I’m going to be regularly checking in with the hashtag on Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram.
- I will retweet stuff on Twitter and when appropriate I’ll reshare links here on this Tumblr.
- For posts on Tumblr with the hashtag, I’ll reblog them here.
- And for pictures on Instagram, I’ll also post them here. I may not post everything. If you post a dozen pictures from the event, I may only reblog 1 or 2 of them here, but I’ll do my best to spread the love around to as many different shows and venues that choose to use the hashtag.
- In addition, I’ll post news articles, blog posts and direct links to shows, to juice things up. I have plenty of shows at Under The Gun Theater to promote, but I’d love this to be a rich mix of things from many different venues.
What can you do?
- First, use the hashtag on Tumblr and Instagram.
- Second, use the hashtag on Twitter, especially when linking to content about your show.
- Third let others at your theater or in your group know about the hashtag and encourage them to use it.
- Finally, check your website, when you share your show page as a link on Tumblr or Facebook, does an appropriate image and description pop up? If not, talk to the person in charge of your website and encourage them to look into it and fix it. It should be a very basic thing for most pages on a website to have a default image that shows up when you share the link on social media. If it’s not pretty when I try to share a show page, I may choose not to share it.
Let me know what you think and if you have ideas of how to improve it.