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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Should the critics have reviewed Spiderman?

I don’t know about what happened at your home, but as soon as that first review of Spider-Man hit the ‘web’ Monday night, my phone started ringing, my twitter started tweeting, and things I didn’t even know I owned started buzzing.

It was a social media cyclone.

And unfortunately for Spider-Man, that cyclone did some serious damage.

But the big question on everyone’s tweets was not how a $65 million dollar musical got such bad reviews, but should the critics have thrown their stones now, or should they have waited?

There has always been a gentleman’s agreement in the theater that reviewers don’t come until they are invited.  And that agreement has held up over the years, except for a few instances, mostly involving high profile out-of-town productions.

But not this time.

Why?

Well, come on Spider-Man, you’ve got super-human powers.  Surely, you had to see this coming.  You’ve been in previews longer than it takes an actual spider to spin a web.  Did you expect them to wait much longer?  Especially with rumors circulating that you were never going to open, and especially since the business you were doing didn’t seem to incentivize you to open any sooner.  When you’re doing 1.2+ million, who cares if you’re open or not, right?

Well, the critics do.

And Monday, they had enough.

And I can’t blame them.

I give them a lot of credit, actually.  Instead of just a free-for-all of reviews starting to come out randomly, they obviously got together and orchestrated this release together.  It was a calculated strike (which is the kind that does the most damage).  And the reviews came the day after the show was last supposed to open, which is a logical, rational, and defensible date to use.

So, good for them.

If I was a Producer, I might not like it, but I had to expect it (and evident by the typical post-opening radio spots and other media that ran this morning, these Producers did expect it).

All that said, you know what the real question I was asking after I read the reviews?

It wasn’t how a $65 million dollar musical could get such bad reviews.

It wasn’t whether or not they should have been reviewed it or not.

It was, “Will the reviews matter?”

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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.

5 Things I learned about South American theater.

For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you know that I took a trip way south of the border last weekend to South America.  I stopped in Santiago, Chile and Buenos Aires, Argentina to see productions of My First Time.

One of the coolest things about getting to travel to see these productions (besides seeing how each culture tackles this sensitive subject – and yes, there was full-on nudity in the Buenos Aires version of My First Time), is that I’m able to learn a little bit about how each corner of the world tackles theater production.

There are a few things that every country has in common:

  • Producing theater is expensive.
  • It’s hard to get the young audiences to come to the theater.
  • Actors are exactly the same, no matter where you are.  🙂  (And I mean that in the best way possible, I really do).

Here are five things I learned that are more specific to South American theater.

1.  Shows start late.

They eat dinner later then we do in South America, and they sure as churros start their shows later, too.  Most shows start at 9 or 9:30 PM.  And on 2 show days?  Expect that second one to start between 11:30 PM and midnight!  Afternoon matinees are rare.

2.  I saw advertising before I saw my show.

My host and I sneaked into a theater that was showing a Vegas-style Argentinean revue (with more full-on nudity), and right before the show started, about 5 ads played on a giant screen on the stage . . . just like at a movie!  While I was assured this was not the norm at all the theaters, I did notice a lot of in-theater advertising (liquor promotions…etc.).  You don’t see any of that in our theaters . . . mostly due to the contracts the theater owners have with Playbill, which prevents advertising anything other than what is in Playbill’s pages.

3.  Don’t want to pay rent?  Pay a percentage.

Flat rents for the performance spaces in Chile are unheard of.  Instead of paying a base rent and a small percentage, Producers get the space for free and then pay the owners 40% of the box office and keep 60% for themselves.  In Argentina, you have a choice between a flat rent and a percentage (which most producers opt for) which was closer to 70/30.  These percentage deals are why so many “Off-Broadway” shows are able to be produced in Buenos Aires and in Santiago.

Perhaps our theaters here could provide this option rather than sit empty?

4.  Sponsors are everywhere.

This isn’t new. Sponsors are a key part of commercial theater production in every other city around the world, except New York City.  But you know what was new?  American companies were sponsoring these shows in South America!  I saw 7-Up sponsoring an Off-Broadway venue.  Citibank paid for the naming rights to one theater and was a sponsor of several other shows.  Hey guys in ties . . . uh . . . have you tried looking in your own backyard if you want to sponsor theater?

5.  Why do 8 shows?

The standard number of performances for a big show down yonder averages about 6. They don’t have the audiences for 8, so they don’t do 8.  Some do 5.  Some do 6.  They shake it up depending upon demand.  Funny, isn’t it?  A country that has had one of the most fragile economies in the world, knows more about supply and demand than we do.
In addition to learning a lot about the theater in South America, I managed to squeeze in some sightseeing as well.  Can anyone name the building in the pic in this blog that has musical historical significance?

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