True story: I once worked in a small tech start-up where the VP of Operations declared at a company meeting: “We won’t be spending any more money on advertising until our sales increase.”
I’ll pause for a moment so you can really appreciate that remark.
(Insert sound of my idle humming here.)
Back? Then I’ll let you in on this further tidbit: This same person went on to advise (for pay) the federal government on technology strategy.
Meanwhile, the company went out of business and I’ve been reduced to writing for a Los Angeles theater blog.
For no pay.
So when I say that my observations can probably be safely ignored (and I have), I know what I’m talking about.
I can’t believe that the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle didn’t encourage tweeting during their recent award ceremony. After all, they have a Twitter account, @LADramaCC, and even a hashtag, #LADCC. But, as you can see here and here, there was pretty much nothing going on during the ceremonies of Monday, March 17, 2014.
It’s not like people don’t show up to theaters without smart phones that are ready to use in the middle of the show. How many times have you seen audience members texting during a production? For me, it was just last weekend.
Tweeting is basically broadcasting your texts into the Internet Aether. It’s a simple enough concept. Even if you don’t know what “aether” means. Neither does that 10-year-old at Starbucks who’s tweeting away on his smart phone while drinking a double espresso from a paper cup.
The Oscars encouraged this social media element during its 2014 broadcast. One out of 7 Americans were already watching the show and the Oscars still encouraged tweeting!
Hell if I know! But I know this: 3.4 million people retweeted Ellen’s photo. So, somebody sure played along at home.
Tweeting allows an immediacy to an event. It turns an “event” into an event. It encourages participation by those not present at the event.
Every few days or so, I see some article posted on Facebook (yep, social media again) fretting about how a younger audience isn’t flocking to the theater. Might that, in part, have something to do with a public ceremony which should be a promotional tool to generate broad and inclusive excitement becoming instead a closed universe of exclusive professional congratulations? Award shows are the free advertising you can get without having to generate more sales.
I’m not asking the LADCC to think outside the box. Just outside the theater.
Even the government – which hires failed corporate tech executives to advise on tech policy – understands this. For example, NASA has “socials” (originally called “tweetups”) where participants are chosen by lottery and given VIP treatment at some special rocket science event (including launches). The price of admission? A Twitter account. Yep, they only want you to be involved if you can shout-out about it in real-time. They even have a special hashtag for these events: the imaginative #NASASocial.
The network of tweets that got #NASASocial to trend worldwide. Each name is the Twitter account that generated the tweet, the size of the name represents the number of tweets (or retweets) associated with the account. Click on graph to see detail. (Image courtesy Audun Utengen.)
I attended a NASA social which had only 100 participants but, during the course of various presentations made, we were able to generate enough tweets (and retweets) that #NASASocial began trending worldwide for a short time. If a United States federal agency such as NASA – which, let’s be honest, is already pretty well known – feels it needs trending exposure, shouldn’t the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle (or the Los Angeles theater community) feel the same way?
Tweeting during an award show is not the same as tweeting during a live performance. Your glowing screen is not slicing through a darkened theater. Your tweets are more like digital applause. And the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences encouraged it during their award ceremony.
The LADCC should have done the same. You’ve got a room full of writers (who love bon mots) and actors (who love photographs) and producers (who love buzz). Isn’t it plausible that such an audience could have made #LADCC trend on Twitter for even a few moments?
(Before you answer, remember what a mere 100 geeky, shy, and improperly socialized techno-nerds were able to do.)
This is not the first time I’ve brought up the whole Twitter thing. Many theaters still do not have active Twitter accounts to promote and take advantage of digital word-of-mouth. In fact, since Twitter is all about shout-outs, I’ll shout-out to two theaters that immediately come to my mind as playing the new-age communication game particularly well: @BostonCourt and @AntaeusTheater. The genii @BostonCourt anticipated social media by violating the fundamental principle of temporal causality and including an “@” in their name even before Twitter was conceived. And although I still struggle with the spelling of Antaeus (despite noticing that the vowels at the back-end come in alphabetical order), the company at least had the decency to spell “Theater” the way God intended it. (Yes, American Exceptionalism applies to the spellings of the English language; causality be damned. Again.)
If your theater company feels overlooked by the preceding paragraph, my apologies. I invite you to promote your Twitter account in the comment section below or, better still, tweet this column and I’ll tweet you back. That’s how we roll in the 21st century. We’re already 14% through it, after all.
And let’s hope that the upcoming LA Weekly Theater Awards show doesn’t make the same mistake that the LADCC Awards show did. Zombie Joe’s Underground is hosting the LA Weekly event, however, and that company does have a reputation for doing things a bit differently. What with this year’s awards theme of resurrection, maybe Zombie Joe can encourage a little real-time social media participation and guide the #LAThtr community – or at least its hashtag – back into the tweet, tweet light.
More thoughts about Twitter:
Rockin’ Stage Raw Awards (Tweet, Tweet, Tweet)
Are You Part of the Digital Revolution?
It Will Take a Village: #LAThtrAwards
A Call to Action: Using #LAThtrAwards to promote #LAThtr
So Where’s Your Digital Barbaric YAWP on Twitter?
Originally published March 20, 2014 in Bitter Lemons.