Is social networking hurting sales?

I got an email blast for a Broadway show the other day that made me wonder whether or not we’re putting too much emphasis on the “like” or the “follow” call to action that is appearing on every piece of marketing material known to man these days.

Here’s what concerns me:

In direct response advertising, what we want the person to do is buy a ticket. Period.  And any great salesperson will tell you that when you make the “ask,” you offer your customers only what you want them to buy.  If you offer something else to them at the same time, they just may take it.  And then you lose, or diminish your returns.  Make the ask, and if your customer rejects your first and best option, then you can reduce your ask.

By pushing the “Like us on Facebook” or “Follow us on Twitter” we’re actually giving our customers a free way to show their support and love for a product without spending any money.

Yes, obviously there is a big difference between seeing a show and liking it, and the customer is missing a big part of the experience . . . so let me give you another example.

I got an email asking for a Kickstarter donation yesterday. I signed on and was ready to make my pledge when I noticed something.  The project had only raised money from 5 people.  But the project had almost 40 “likes.”

Obviously those 35 other people didn’t “like” the project that much, right?

Could it be that some of those 35 people were on the fence about giving and then clicked the like button and said, “Ok, now I don’t have to feel so guilty for not doing anything”?  They had an out that could show their support, albeit in a small way, without buying.

Now, you could argue that these people are warmer leads for conversion later on down the road (as long as a good social media strategy backed it up), but we could be letting some people off the hook by pushing liking and following too much.  (Hopefully someone will do a study to see whether this theory bears fruit or not.)

But whatever the answer to the question is . . . the message is the same.

Be careful what you ask for . . . because you just might get it . . . or worse, you might not get it.

 

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You asked. We listened. New At The Booth™ version released.

Products, like plays, don’t have to be stagnant.

They should live, breathe, and morph based on audience feedback and interaction.

We launched our At The Booth iPhone App just a couple of months ago, and, frankly, we got some incredible positive feedback.

But you want to know what the best feedback was?

Constructive criticism.

It’s hard to hear phrases that begin with, “You know what would make this better?”

Luckily, I have an incredible development team that craves those kind of comments, because they know what stings today brings happier customers tomorrow.

So, we took those comments, went back into the e-labs, and tweaked our app to include some more features that you requested.

Here’s what you wanted, and here’s what you’re gonna get with the new update:

  • Portrait view
  • Facebook and Twitter share feature (let your friends know what show you’re seeing!)
  • Restaurants near the theater
  • Lottery and rush information
  • And more.

Download the update today.

And after you do, email me and let me know how we can make it even better next time.  Because that’s what product and play development is all about.

Oh . . . and for those of you who are about to email me and ask for a Blackberry or Droid version?

Don’t bother.

Because both versions are coming.  Soon.  (And BTW, that Droid is one sexy smartphone.)

Get the At The Booth update here.

How would you deal with a social media disaster?

I recently participated in a very creative panel called “Staged Social Media,” put together by Situation Interactive.  A bunch of the talented staff at Situation (who said folks in the tech world can’t act?) read scripts of social media disasters, like the Dave Peck JetBlue soap opera, the Greenpeace vs. Nestle grudge match (the video is not for the faint of heart), and a couple of positive stories as well, including our industry’s own Wicked making a cancer patient’s dreams come true by performing in her own home because she was too weak to attend the show.

After each scene was staged, the room and my fellow panelists commented on whether or not we would have handled anything different.

It was a fun event, and I grabbed a few take-aways that I thought I would share with you:

  • Social media communication with your customers is personal.  E-Speak to them to them as you would a friend . . . or better, someone that you want to date, and maybe, someday, marry.
    • Southwest Airline’s “tweet” to Dave Peck about where he was and what he was doing took their relationship to the next level.
  • You can’t fight a social media movement.  In other words, lawyers are not always right.
    • Nestle’s lawyers trying to remove the video from the net, and their social networking strategist attempting to delete comments on their wall, only made the people more passionate about being heard.
  • Empowering your brand ambassadors (aka customer service agents) to go above and beyond the customer service call of duty creates loyal customers that will spread your message for you.
    • The Wicked event was organized single-handedly by the Company Manager of the show.  The CM got a letter, and knew that organizing that visit was not only part of Wicked‘s “For Good” mission, but it was also just a beautiful thing to do . . . and that’s never wrong.
    • And no one is empowered more than the agents at Zappos, who constantly upgrade shipping and have even sent flowers to customers . . . just because.
  • The best social media stories are plain old-fashioned human interest stories that can’t be manufactured by a press department.

It was a very unique night (and I encourage all the people out there who plan panels to take a cue from this one . . . they don’t have to all be sit-and-speak), and as you can see, it was also very educational.

The question did come up about whether or not social media has a direct impact on the bottom line of a business.

My answer is this . . . despite its appearance, social media is not a direct response mechanism.  It’s social, by name and by nature.

Think of it this way . . .  if It meet someone on the street, and I say, “Hi, I’m Ken.” And they said, “Hi, I’m Barbara.”  And then I say, “Barbara, buy this from me, buy this from me, buy this from me!”  Do you think Barbara is going to want to talk to me, hang out with me . . . “marry” me?

Nope.  She’s probably going to avoid me at all costs.

Social media is not about selling.  It’s about building awareness, making passionate users even more passionate, and communicating with your customers when you normally can’t (which is a necessity in our business, since we sell through third party providers that we don’t control (online ticketing agents, box offices, etc.)).

Anecdotally, let me say this . . .

In the past month, when I needed a tax attorney, a real estate agent in Boston, a piece of art for my living room and a plot line for a script I’m working on . . . I asked my friends on Facebook.

And I found every one of those things within 2 hours.

That’s gotta contribute to someone’s bottom line.

Sing. Sing a “long.” Make it simple . . .

No, this isn’t a post about a Carpenters jukebox musical (although I did inquire about the rights to that catalog about 10 years ago).

This is a post about another property I went after, but was denied . . . because the film company had their own plans.

This Thursday, the ‘Grease Movie Sing-A-Long’ opens at the Loews Village 7 in New York City and all over the country. (Full disclosure, when I was inspired to try and do a Grease sing-a-long, I went after the rights to Grease 2.  Why 2?  Well, I never thought I’d get the rights to the original, and, I mean, come on . . .. can you imagine a sing-a-long to “We’re Gonna Boooooooowl tonight!”)?

If you’re not sure what a sing-a-long is, well, it’s exactly what it sounds like.  The movie plays, along with karaoke-like lyrics (“Summer lovin’, had me a blast!”), and the audience is encouraged to sing along with the film score.  In addition, audiences are encouraged to dress up, slick their hair and more.  Hopefully, a Rocky Horror element emerges as well, and props and choreography are incorporated (Hand jive, anyone?).  Sing-a-long movies started with The Sound of Music way back in 2000 (and I believe the craze started in Europe).

It has taken a decade, but Grease, and its 4 chords, 3 jokes, and billions of fans, looks to be the biggest one yet (“Summer Nights” is one of the most requested karaoke songs of all time).

The New York Times wrote a piece about the sing-a-long, which included some very insightful comments from Adam Goodman, president of the Paramount Film Group, which apply to what we do as well.  Adam said, “The goal is to create a true event.  How do you get groups of young people going to the movies and having a great time?”

The author of the article continues with Adam’s query.

The key term is “young.”  Older movie goers may still prefer to sit in silence, but younger audiences, the ones studios work hardest to motivate off the sofa – are increasingly programmed to interact and multitask.  Sitting quietly in a theater starts to feel like a bore when you can watch the DVD at home while texting a friend, playing a video game and posting witty comments on Facebook.

Creating unique events are essential for anyone producing entertainment in today’s market, especially if you are trying to get young people off the couch, and off their phones, and their Facebooks, and whatever else they are on these days.

But what do today’s multitasking generation’s habits mean for tomorrow’s market?

Whoa . . . that’s heavy.  I need a night to think about it.  Tune in tomorrow.

In the meantime, here’s a little cerebral palette cleanser.  And while you’re watching it, sing along . . . and maybe Paramount will hear us.

At the Broadway League Conference: Day 1/Kids ‘R Theatergoers Too

One of the hippest long-term audience development initiatives the Broadway League came up with over the last few years was the establishment of a Kids Advisory Board.  The Board is made up of thirty kids, ages 11 – 16, from all over the country.  What do they have in common?  They love the Broadway!

By tapping the minds of these young avid influencers, the League is able to learn the simple answers to a host of questions that could help secure the health of the Broadway theater through Generation Z (aka The Net Generation), Generation Ai, and beyond.

At the first day of the Broadway League conference, the League put six of the members of the Advisory Board on a panel and grilled them about their theater habits, their friends’ habits, and more.

Here is a bullet point list of some things that I learned from our next generation of audiences, actors, and producers:

  • The entire panel said that it was their parents who suggested which shows to see.
  • 5 of the 6 panel members said that their #1 internet destination was Facebook.  The 6th member didn’t have a Facebook page, but she did have a blog.
  • 5 of the 6 panel members did NOT visit any theater websites (e.g. Playbill.com, BroadwaySpace.com, etc.).
  • All of the panel members said their parents paid for their tickets.  One piped up and said, “That’s what they’re for.”
  • All of the panel members preferred musicals.  Half of the panel said that music was important for keeping not only their attention, but the attention of their younger siblings who couldn’t sit still for too long without the excitement of a musical.
  • One panel member was a pretty regular playgoer, but she said she didn’t start seeing plays until she was 14.
  • All of the panel watched the Tonys, but said their friends didn’t.
  • When asked what the #1 thing they enjoyed about Broadway was, a survey of these 6 plus another 700 revealed that the “performers” were the most exciting part (translation – expect more star casting in the future).
  • One of them read reviews, but none of them let the reviews influence their decision either way.  As the only boy on the panel said, “It doesn’t matter what they [the reviewers] say.  What matters is your opinion.”

There’s a lyric in Bye Bye Birdie that goes something like, “Kids!  Who can understand anything they say?”

Well, we better start trying to understand what they say, because these kids, and the thousands of others around the country just like them, are the premium ticket buyers of tomorrow.

A giant lollipop to The League for letting us listen.

Stay tuned for Day #2 from The League Conference tomorrow!

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