Tech in the Commons: A Toolkit for Place-Based Nonprofits
Case Study – Arden Theatre Co.
The Philadelphia theatre company revamped its social comms strategy — and boosted ticket sales. Here’s what you can learn from it.

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.

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 19,000 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.

Behind-the-scenes view of the Arden’s behind-the-scenes Facebook page. (Image courtesy of Stephen Rapp)

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.

Modern-day marketers need to think of themselves as content creators rather than ad bookers 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].”

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