Two seasons ago, Arden Theatre Company’s subscription numbers were starting to dip. The marketing team found that no matter how much money they threw at newspaper ads, they couldn’t close the gap.
What did? Facebook.
“It’s about telling a new story,” said Stephen Rapp, the Arden’s director of development and communications.
Rapp and marketing team members Lauren Hughes and Rebecca Cureton are visiting Generocity HQ on Tuesday evening alongside Mobile Stü’s Mike Boston and Tim Reeves and Greater Philadelphia Virtual and Augmented Reality Group’s Clayton McNeil for our fourth and final Tech in the Commons event, a social communications bootcamp for place-based nonprofits.
The pros from the Arden, which recently hosted a Philly Tech Week event about its incorporation of technology into its performance of “The Secret Garden,” will cover the company’s recent social media revamp and what other nonprofits can learn from the process.
The Arden has active accounts on about five platforms, including Instagram and Twitter. But it focuses “about 90 percent” of its social efforts on Facebook, where its business page has over 18,000 likes.
“If you try and have a voice on all of those platforms, you will have an effective voice on probably none of those platforms,” Rapp said.
Facebook is the only platform that’s “ubiquitous” because “pretty much everyone uses it,” he said. It also offers features such as Facebook Live and has no limits to how many times a day pages can post, allowing for rapid experimentation.
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Modern-day marketers need to think of themselves as content creators rather than ad bookers, Rapp said, and to be open to trying as many tactics as possible to connect with their audiences.
Rapp has found the Arden’s Facebook audience responds strongly to behind-the-scenes photos and videos. Accordingly, he’s taken to inviting actors to take photos and submit them to be published.
“People think the mundane of the performing arts is fascinating,” he said. “The most important thing for us is remembering that exposition is important for blogs, for copy for shows, but exposition doesn’t work nearly as well as a good visual or a strong video when it comes to social media. The power of a strong photo cannot be undersold.”
What does success look like?
It’s more than posting pictures and hoping for the best. The Arden team uses Google Tag Manager and Google Analytics, free tools that allow it to track those who interact with their content; in turn, Rapp can see if that interaction turns into another body in the theater.
“It’s not about just watching likes and comments pour in” on the Arden’s Facebook page, he said. “We need to see someone interact with it and then purchase [a ticket].”
Here are some of Rapp’s tips for nonprofits looking to up their social media games:
- Add videos straight to Facebook — As opposed to posting YouTube links. The former autoplays, the latter does not. It’s an easy way to guarantee views.
- Have an open door policy for content — Rapp’s team offers opportunities for other staffers and actors to take over its Twitter and Instagram accounts. “We’re not precious about it,” he said.
- Consider Google Grants — Google offers $10,000 of in-kind advertising to nonprofits, allowing their websites to appear to the top of results pages as paid ads.