In this day and age, if you’re not online, you’re dead. That might seem blunt, but it’s absolutely true. If you’ve ever read Austin Kleon’s “Show Your Work” you’ll know first hand that having an online presence is essential to promoting your work and showing the world what you have to offer. It’s also the best way to get constructive criticism, share what you know, and build trust with your audience. Not to mention, everybody else is already online. If you’re trying to get people to come to your shows, festivals, or theater, they need to have a way to find out about it.
In this day and age with all of the technological advances we have at our finger tips, you NEED to have content online that you can direct people to. Content varies in a variety of ways. For the purpose of this article, I’ve broken it down into 3 simple, but detailed, sections. There’s written, audio, and visual content. Through this article, I’ll break down these different mediums, how they can be beneficial to you or your group, and tips on how you can implement them. Keep in mind, these are all just suggestions. Feel free to incorporate one, all, or none of them at your leisure.
Written content is a broad term that can be something as small as a status promoting your show to a press release detailing everything your production and performers have to offer. It allows your audience to READ about what you think is worthwhile to share or just what you’ve been up to. Types: Articles, Blog entries, Facebook statuses, and Tweets.
Create a Facebook page
This is one of the first things you’re going to want to do. Facebook is the KING social network right now. Pretty much everyone I know has it and that’s how I find out about news, shows, and everything else that is going on in the world. I know comedians who will post a comical status and then I see them incorporate that into an act they do later. In other words, posting the joke as a status was a test run to see if it works (people liked it). Having your own page for your group adds some professionalism to your group as well as a direct place for people to go to find out what’s happening lately.
- Events allow you to directly invite targeted/specific people to your show(s).
- You can tag multiple people in your group when you promote a show so that it appears on all of their timelines (more eyes might = more people in your audience).
- (Most Important): Stop inviting people to help you plant bell peppers in Farmville.
2. Create a Twitter Account
The point is to drive more traffic to your page and most importantly to your show. The time frame it takes to create a facebook page or a twitter is probably less than 20 minutes.Tip: Use hashtags. Twitter allows you use to hashtags to drive more traffic to your posts. Using #improv #comedy #theater allows you more chances for people to see what you or your group have to say. It also allows you to connect with other groups or theaters already utilizing Twitter. Tip: If you’re managing multiple Twitter handles, it’s best to use a service that allows you to update/tweet all of them at any given time easily rather than signing in and out of the Twitter website. Look into services like: Tweetdeck (personal favorite), and HootSuite.
3. Create a Website
Setting up a functioning website would probably take a few hours and then you have it as a point of reference to direct people to for as long as you pay for the domain. Tip: You don’t need to be an advanced HTML coder to create your own website. There are a ton of drag and drop website builders that are easy to use and will allow you to do it yourself. Some cost-efficient and easy to use services include: Wix, WordPress, Tumblr, and Squarespace.
Audio content is pretty self explanatory. It’s what you want your followers to HEAR. It is beneficial because it allows your audience to literally hear your voice and/or music (if you’re a musician). If you have an opinion or an idea for a series, you can create a podcast Types: Podcasts, MP3 recordings, Voice-over, etc.
Start a Podcast
Services like: Podbean, Pod-o-matic, and Libsyn are established sites for hosting podcasts. If you have a few friends and want to talk about something that you think others want to hear, do it. Better yet, post it up because it’s something you’d want to listen to.
Create a Soundcloud
If you want to just do voiceover recordings, impressions, characters, or show the world that you can sing, you can do it here. Just create an account, upload your audio, and wha-lah! Soundcloud offers a widget (on Android) where you can just click record and easily upload it to your account within a few minutes.
Visual content is what catches your audience’s eye. It can be anything from a 6 second vine to a short film. Any type of visual content allows your audience to SEE your creativity and what you’re offering.
Types: Videos (YouTube, Vimeo, Vines, etc), Drawings, Show Posters or Flyers.
Create a YouTube or Vimeo Channel
If you’re ever submitting for a sketch team, production team, or talking to a director/agent you’re undoubtedly going to hear “show me an example of your work.” In other words, let me see your reel. This is step 1 to developing a place where your reel is eventually going to go. This will be the home for all of your video content.
Create an Instagram
Think of it as a virtual photo album for your group’s shows and travels. If you’re a group that travels to a lot of festivals, having an account that showcases all of the wonder places you’ve been is great for you and your group as a reminder of what you’ve done together, but also shows your audience/fans/followers what you’re up to and what you find interesting to share. Tip: Hashtags allow more ways for people to see your images.
Create a Vine
Have a funny idea that’s only 6 seconds long? Create a Vine account for you or your group and start vining. There are TONS of people who have had major success just because they had a funny 6 second looping video. Tip: Hashtags and the ability to tag people allow for more opportunities for people to see your work. Use ones relevant to your group and popular ones that are on the rise for more loops.
Design a show poster or cool logo
Having an eye-catching logo or show poster is Advertising 101. It’s the first thing people are going to see and it might stop them for a second when they’re walking by. The logo might catch their attention and have them look up your group on facebook, twitter, or your new website and find out when your next show is (if it’s not listed on the poster). For posters, keep it simple. The simpler the better. People don’t want to read a novel when they look at a show poster. Give them the name of your group, location, and performance dates accompanied with a cool picture. Tip: If you’re not a great artist, ask a friend to help you come up with something. If you see another group with awesome posters/logos, ask them for help (and offer to pay them for it).
Just to clarify, you’re not limited to using one or the other. You can use one, two, or all three types of content when promoting your work. In fact, the more the merrier. You can write a Facebook status or Tweet (written) and accompany it with a photo of your cast or video from a previous week’s show (visual). You can record a podcast (audio) and then share it via Facebook, Twitter, and/or your website (written). You could also just use one. Keep in mind though, you don’t want to bombard your audience with too much content or they’ll be turned off to it. Think quality over quantity.
In the end, it’s all about who you want to reach and what you want to promote. It’s also about asking yourself, “Do I want people to know about this? Is it important to me?” There’s nothing wrong with working with a limited audience or traveling by word-of-mouth, but if you want to build yourself up so that your work can be found nationally (or internationally) and create more opportunities, you’ll need to have content ready and available online. It’s also going to give you the feedback you need so you know what works and what doesn’t. These are all suggestions on creating an online presence for you or your group. Hopefully this is helpful for anyone interested in establishing an online presence or in need of the first steps to marketing themselves.
Ryan Nallen is a writer and performer in Chicago. He is a graduate of iO, Second City Conservatory, and the Annoyance. He plays with his independent team Risky on the Rocks, the Harold team Denver at iO Chicago, and with the Incubator team Desperado at The Playground Theater. He is an Associate Producer for Big Little Comedy, on the Marketing Committee at the Playground, and a Midwest Representative for the National Improv Network. You can also follow his online ramblings at @TheRyanNallen.