The Galaxy’s Guide to Digital Media

#sighashtag—What's in a hashtag?

 

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This is the third post in a series exploring the role of digital media in the theater realm. Find the full series here. There have been many blogs and articles written about Twitter and the “art” of the hashtag. I was stunned while doing my research that HowlRound, though its editors and contributors use Twitter like rockstars, didn’t have any articles or blogs about this topic. I guess I will have to fix that. I want to share what we have implemented here at Signature since I began in September. We have gained over 1,200 followers in just six months. These aren’t the only ways of doing things, but it is what has worked for us:

  • Unlink Facebook from Twitter. This is such a simple thing. Most of you are going, “Who even does that?”  We did before I started here. I can understand this option is attractive in the interest of saving time. However, let’s be honest; it’s lazy. It tells your followers that you don’t care what you are sharing. It tells them that you aren’t interested in interacting with them at all. Don’t be lazy.
  • Identify who is tweeting. Another simple trick is to make Twitter personal. I want to know who I am interacting with through an organization’s Twitter. By giving a face to the handle, the experience of tweeting with the organization becomes meaningful. Just a simple @mention in your description will tell your audience whom they are talking to.
  • Do I need a show hashtag? Yes.
  • What makes a good hashtag? There are two purposes, in my opinion, for hashtags: 1) To create a filter for good conversation. 2) Complete and utterly delicious sarcasm. By creating a show hashtag, you foster and encourage an engaging conversation between artists, organization, and audience. At Signature Theatre, we add sig to our show names. It adds a bit of branding, and helps differentiate between other productions of the same show. @I_Stage and @CENTERSTAGE_MD have also started using their acronyms at the front of their show hashtags. Using the hashtag #sigdreamgirls allowed for amazing interaction between the artists and our audience. It was magical, and it was genuine. During our last show, the hashtag #sigRandJ was completely embraced by not only the actors involved, but the director/adapter, Joe Calarco. He retweeted and engaged in conversations with the audience. I truly have a social media crush on Joe because of the support he gave. Thanks, Joe!
  • Your organization’s strongest supporters are the individuals working on the show. They already have a built in online audience. Maximize your reach by giving them the tools to make it successful.
  • What about our control over the release of information? What if someone tweets something we don’t want them to? First, I need to break it to you—it’s not the world we live in anymore. Holding onto the expectation that they won’t tweet or post about the process is unrealistic. Part of giving your artists the tools is making your expectations clear. They want the show to succeed as much as you do, or why the hell would they work with you. I created a short, one page information sheet that gives our artists a list of our social media links, the show hashtag, and a few guidelines to tweet by. It may seem like common sense and bit like elementary school, but saying it is better than not. We remind everyone that they are representatives of the theater and the production, and should behave as such online. If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say it at all. Use good judgment. Have fun. Share the love. The more the merrier. It’s done well by us so far.
  • Don’t sit back and let them do all the work. Part of being responsible for a hashtag is that it takes time and effort to cultivate it. Just because you have created the hashtag doesn’t mean it will take off. Engage the creative team and actors. Research and use your local hashtags. #DCtheatre and #DCarts are two local hashtags that we use frequently in conjunction with our show hashtag. Look for other hashtags that deal with the topic of your production. Remember it’s a database for good conversation—it’s not all about self-promotion. If you give your online audience quality content, they will come. Tweet interesting shit.

 

Just because you have created the hashtag doesn’t mean it will take off. Engage the creative team and actors. Research and use your local hashtags. 

 

  • Plug it in everywhere. Print. Facebook. Ads. Videos. Word of mouth. Tell your audience how to find you, and thank them when they do.
  • Don’t be afraid of purpose 2 (Complete and utterly delicious sarcasm). Sarcasm is where you get to show off your organization’s personality. Don’t take it too seriously. If you do, it defeats the purpose.

These are just a few things that have helped us grow our Twitter audience. We are almost ready to break 6,000 followers. Just need ninety more! #winkwink @sigtheatre. What do you do to help cultivate your organization’s database for good conversation? Disclaimer: The views and experiences expressed here are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of the organization. So, don’t blame Signature, blame me for why I think tweets are the shit and e-blasts are boring.

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A series exploring the role of digital media in the theatre realm.

Galaxy's Guide to Digital Media 

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Lovely article. I think the industry leaders in social media use are Diablo Ballet in California, who just created a world's first ballet from suggestions from the internet. I follow them and live 5,000 miles away. That's the kind of impact social media has and they do an amazing job.

This is great - so helpful to understand the logic behind hashtags, which had escaped me until now. Thank you!

You are spot on with every point! Too often businesses & orgs get so hung up on the ideas of marketing and promoting that they miss the "social" part. The promotion is a side effect of great content. And an administrator should never take for granted that everyone knows how to engage effectively on social. Giving out a guide for each show is a great idea.

I agree. Someone once said at a tweetup that "only tweeting 'come see my show on Friday night' makes you seem like the lame kid." The guide came from a need to give permission to everyone to not be afraid of social media without giving them a stifling don't-do-this list. I am interested on how this changes when I don't have a cast/crew that already embraces Twitter. Everyone is on FB, but not everyone is on Twitter. Any suggestions on that front?