Yesterday the world of twitter was gripped to the Paddy Power Twitter account, but it certainly wasn’t for the betting. The administrator of the account thought it was only right that they shared the interesting experience of receiving a text sent seemingly mistakenly to their phone. Instead of ignoring it, the administrator decided to share with the world their experience by print screening the message and asking the followers of Paddy Power what they should reply with – using the hashtag #pptexts. The account went wild and the hashtag was trending for most of Saturday night.
But what can the arts learn from this experience? In my opinion, some arts organisations still need to learn that Twitter is a Social Networking site rather than being a place that you can spam people with adverts for your venue.. I can nearly guarantee that the people using the #pptexts hashtag were not all avid betters, but were enticed to look at the brand because of an inventive and engaging use of Social Media. This, in turn, enhances the visibility of the brand and introduces it to a wider audience, something arts venues across the country have been trying to do with varying success.
Of course, organisations have to be careful, But what is important is the connection between the audiences and the organisation. Recent statistics don’t show a massive amount of positivity in regards to Twitter and direct ticket sales, but what it could do is introduce people to an organisation. For too long, organisations have been stuck behind a barrier of rules and regulations on how to, and how not to use Social Media.
It can be used for organisations to break down these barriers like venues try to do every day when producing new and inventive work. This method also allows the organisation to connect personally on a level with their audience, which is often not done in the arts.
There have been some incidents in the past where this openness and personality has seemingly got out of hand such as when the National Theatre replied to a tweet with “Well Steve Norris is clearly a giant c**t”n. However, if you look at the write-ups from it and the response from the public, you will see people praising it! Some even saying:
“I just hope that when the bigwig dudes read through your @replies (and they must), they can see the messages of support you received for finally giving the National Theatre some personality.”
To me, this shows something, that people want a personality. Arts patrons don’t want to see cooperate or hard selling twitter account and they don’t expect it. I hope when the bosses of Paddy Power discuss ‘textgate’ they can see the huge amount of PR they got from a bit of quick thinking, personality and risk-taking from the person being their account.
People don’t want 60 tweets saying “come see our show next Tuesday”, nor do they want 20 million re-tweets about how good an organisation or production is. Of course, sharing people’s views are important, but arts organisations shouldn’t overdo it. Afterall, it is a platform for discussion rather than just talking. The problem with Social Media is that it only takes a couple of seconds for a person to unfollow you. If an organisation spams their timeline they will without any regret unfollow them – which then makes an account defunct and pointless.
Instead, why don’t arts organisations engage and interest their followers?.The theatre is such an interesting and creative industry – why can’t industry twitter accounts reflect that?. Why can’t it interact as an industry? Why not comment on the latest addition to the 100 plays to read before you die? or how about sharing the good work another organisation is doing? (yes that means praising another organisation out and interacting with them). Organisations within different industries are starting to do this all the time such as TV channels and the supermarkets. Why not the arts? the truth is, it will show that an organisation is approachable, friendly and most importantly sociable and open.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with a competition or a tweet to show that there are a couple of tickets left for a performance. But for general everyday marketing – keep it to a website, e-newsletters and printed materials. Let’s break barriers down and use Twitter for what it was built for, to engage, communicate and discuss and not to hard sell a product.