How to: Plan Your Social Media Marketing Calendar to Promote Performances
With the beginning of the year and many theater, dance, and music organizations releasing their upcoming seasons, now is a fabulous time to take some time and plan your social media marketing calendar for promoting your performances.
(Although really, any time of the year is a good time to plan!)
Disclaimer: you’ll obviously want to market through other channels as well. Today I’m focusing on the main social media channels so that this doesn’t become an even longer post than it already is.
Now grab a snack, and let’s begin!
Review Your Analytics
First things first, check out your analytics from the last year and see how your marketing efforts performed. This information is going to shape the rest of your plan.
What worked? Keep doing that, and expand upon it.
What didn’t work? Why not? Can it be tweaked? If so, change strategy and do better with it. If not, toss it and move on.
Grab Your Calendar
Now for my favorite part - it’s time to bust out with the calendar.
When doing broad planning, I prefer pen to paper over digital. I feel like I can see the big picture better. The basic paper calendar works really well for me.
However, if you have a large season and/or lots of things going on, look into a giant laminated entire year calendar. Once upon a time as an event planner I planned almost 100 events a year. The full-year calendar was a lifesaver. 10/10 recommend.
Write In the Performances
For proper scheduling, we need to know where all of our shows are. Add them into the calendar.
Pro tip: if you want to get all OCD with it, color code the shows. Depending upon how your season runs, you may have some overlap. Each show written in its own color can help visually sort out what you’re promoting on any given day.
Sketch out the posting schedule.
I have a simple scheduling formula I like to work with. It’s always worked out well for me whether I’m promoting performance or books releases or workshops, though your mileage may vary. Use this formula as a springboard to set things up, then tweak things if needed to best fit your audience.
For each production, pencil in these days when you’ll make a post:
Fixed posts for opening weekend:
“It’s the day of the show” - on the day of the show. (Obvs)
“Show opens tomorrow!” - day before the show
“One week until we open!” - one week prior to the show.
“One month until we open!” - On the day one month prior to opening night.
Fixed posts for closing weekend:
Last chance to see the show - on closing day
Last weekend - day prior to closing weekend
Intermittent informational posts:
For the 2-weeks to 1 month prior to the event, as well as through the run of the show - every 3 days.
For 2 months prior to the show - every 4 days.
For popular/big shows, sporadically between now and the 2 month mark. Every other week or so.
How this looks in real life: Starting at opening night, count back three days and mark that date as a post date. Then back three more and mark. Back another three and mark until getting to the one month marker. From there, count back 4 days at a time marking the dates for another month.
Pro tip: if you find yourself promoting two shows on the same day, choose another day for one of the shows so that you’re not saturating your social media channels with too much promotional content.
(The social media gods frown upon that.)
Note: if your company does a great number of shows and you see too much overlap in promotional posts, only promote the larger draw shows further in advance, and keep the smaller shows a little closer to when everything runs. When you run many productions at once, the timing can feel tricky. Evenly rotate the posts for each production and you’ll be fine.
Brownie Points: offset the timing for when you post to each channel rather than posting to all of them at the same time. In doing this, if your audience looks at all their socials at once (which many do) then they won’t be hit with the same post three times at once. HOWEVER, if this extra step prevents you from promoting at all then don’t worry about it. It’s most important to get your posts out there however you do it!
Promotional Post Content
Now that you have when to post, it’s time to decide what to put into those posts!
Social media algorithms change every time someone sneezes it seems. However, one thing seems to be consistent.
What posts are people connecting with? What do they comment on, share, and come back to?.
Social media algorithms show these posts more often because it’s good for them. It keeps users coming back to their site.
And guess what?
That’s good for you too.
The people who are more engaged with your social media are also the ones more likely to buy tickets, donate, and tell all their friends.
All too often, I see promotional posts that say little more than “hey y’all come see this show!”
But WHY should the audience come see your show?
Remember, you love this piece. You know this piece. You chose to perform this piece. Your audience might not be familiar.
(Matter of fact, it’s kinda awesome if they’re not. 1) it means they could be brand new audience members hooray! And 2) you’ll get to share something new with them and create a brand new experience for them...which is fabulous and why we’re here!)
Ideas for promotional post content:
What is the show about? Why is it significant? Why did you choose to include it in your season?
What are some little known fun facts about the piece? Make your audience feel like they’re getting insider information. The standard performing arts audience is intellectually curious. Give them something fun to play with and impress friends with at cocktail parties. For the non-standard audience, you have given them a different way to connect with the material and maybe this is the spark that turns them into regular subscribers.
Who are your performers? What fun facts can we learn about them? It’s like the Olympics - watching the athletes get out there and do their thing is fabulous, but when we hear their backstory we’re invested and suddenly next thing you know you’re screaming at the tv for someone you didn’t know prior to that story. Tell us why we HAVE to come see your cast perform live and in person!
What are interesting character backstories?
Video invitations from the cast. You can even combine the above to create a video that is a bit about the cast member, a bit about the character, and why the performer chose to take on that role or what they love about it.
Doing a world premiere? Video q&a and invitation from the creator(s).
Remember, while this may be common knowledge to you, it may not be to your audience. How can you make the material presented sound so damn cool that anyone who hears the message has to come see for themselves?
Putting it all together
Now it’s time to put it all together!
Make a list of content story ideas to tell in your posts.
Write the post, add hashtags, and include an invitation and link to buy tickets.
Find or create a compelling photo or gif to include with the post. (Posts including a visual element are more successful than those without.)
Then schedule that baby!
Note: everything I’ve ever read about social media marketing has said that video is king and to add video to your posts. However, in practice I found photos and gifs received significantly higher organic reach than video did. Play with both and go with what works best.
Hashtag tidbits: create a hashtag for the show. (And organization if you don’t have one yet.) Use your hashtags in everything related to the show. Ask your cast to use them. Put up signs in the lobby inviting the audience to use them too. Hashtags expand reach and help you, as well as others, find all the posts related to your production.
Final Flavor with Behind the Scenes
All of the big chunks are done and now it’s time to layer some additional fun. Once you get to rehearsals and performances, layer in behind the scenes goodies.
One of the best parts about social media as a marketing tool is that it gives your audience a behind the scenes look that they’ve never had before. And as all of us in the industry know, behind the scenes in performances are really cool so share that with your people!
These are best and easiest done in Instagram stories, but anywhere and everywhere will work.
Ideas to share:
Quick backstage interviews with cast
Instagram takeovers from the artists
Really damn near anything can work and be fun.
Pro tip: this doesn’t have to be heavily stylized. That’s what the scheduled posts are for. This is best when it’s obviously impromptu. Don’t overthink it. You know those times when a friend or someone's child has been in rehearsal and said “Oh wow! How cool is that?” That’s what you want to share.
And there you have it! Follow these steps and in the end you’ll have a full plan for promoting your performances with social media! Will it be time-consuming? Only for a little bit, then it will be smoooth sailing while you’re in production mode, and you’ll be SO glad you planned ahead!
Have any questions? Leave ‘em in the comments! Do your planning a little differently? Please share that in the comments and let us know what works well for you!
And if all of this seems overwhelming and impossible, know that it’s not. Drop me a line and let’s plan your best course of marketing action together!