Comprehensive research report to accompany my Social Media Strategy recommendations for Yale Repertory Theatre. May be useful to other theatres in particular, and non profits in general, in trying to understand the scope of current social media usage by institutions and their constituents.
By Devon Smith
Director of Research and Analysis
Yale Repertory Theatre
January 8, 2010
As the Director of Research and Analysis at Yale Repertory Theatre (and avid social media fan),
in October of 2009 I was tasked with developing YRT’s social media strategy for 2010. The work
plan I assembled included:
1. Review YRT’s current efforts in social & digital
2. Update (and/or expand) measurement metrics created previously by the Marketing
3. Summarize field’s use of social & digital media efforts, impact, and measurement
4. Compare how YRT “measures up” compared to our peers
5. Recommend YRT’s social & digital media strategy for the coming year
This report focuses on Step 3—attempting to capture LORT theatres efforts and impacts in
social media. It assumes the reader already knows a fair amount about each of the socialmedia
platforms, and instead skips straight to my findings. Here are the most important conclusions I
drew from my research about each platform:
• Facebook—everyone’s using it, and some theatres are getting an extraordinary amount
of user engagement on their pages. It may be the best way to keep fans interested in
• Twitter—has become a great way to engage fans in informal conversations, with a focus
on the idea that Twitter is the ultimate two way street. Fans are already talking about
your theatre online; why wouldn’t you want to respond?
• YouTube—is an incredibly cheap way to reach a very large, very diverse population, if
you have the video production skills to pull it off. And forget everything you’ve heard
about videos having to be 30 second polished commercial spots in order to go viral.
• MySpace—is over. Leave it to the musicians, because few theatres, or their fans, have
any remaining interest.
• Flickr—is promising, but no one’s found a great use case for it, yet. Until then,
Facebook’s photo albums should probably cover all your needs.
• Blogs—seem to me to be not worth the effort, if all you’re blogging about is an inside
look at your theatre company. Although there are a thousand (ok, maybe a dozen)
topics I think theatres could be blogging about, which might be great attention
I’ve been most surprised that theatres have thus far focused 99% of their attention for social
media on marketing. What about the development office? What about as a way to organize a
production team? What about as a way to demonstrate thought leadership to the rest of the
arts administration field?
I also wanted to note that this research is very superficial—future research could (and should!)
attempt to uncover how to best disseminate social media knowledge throughout the
organization, put sharper teeth on ROI metrics, address the problems that organizations are
by Devon Smith 2
already facing in using social media, and develop more innovative business cases for social
media in the theatre.
On the whole, LORT theatres are dedicating time and effort almost exactly proportional to the
rest of the country’s use of social media. The below chart shows that Twitter is used by more
theatres than its size would actually warrant, and blogs are a bit underused. But since there are
only 76 LORT theatres, as a field we are surprisingly on track.
What follows is a compilation of the research I’ve done over the past 3 months. The tone is a bit
more colloquial than a formal research paper, and the content and theory may be a little
haphazard, but on the whole it should be valuable.
From October‐December 2009 I conducted original research on 6 major social media platforms:
Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, MySpace, and Blogs, and conducted an online survey about
social media staffing hours. I used the 76 League of Resident Theatres (LORT) as a bounded
population of peer theatres to Yale Rep. Where possible, I’ve listed contributions made by
everyone from classmates to colleagues, professional bloggers to published books. Apologies
for any broken links, repetitive statements, or sweeping generalizations. All of the raw data
collected has also been posted to my blog at http://devonvsmith.tumblr.com/
by Devon Smith 3
All but 3 LORT theatres maintain a presence on Facebook. Numbers of fans range from 129‐
6,623. Some theatres are posting content more than 15 times per week, and generating up to
100 wall comments per week from their fans. Other than wall posts, photo albums and event
pages are the most widely used content by theatres.
In this study, I have tried to use as many data points as possible to capture the full range of the
field’s use of Facebook, as well as fan’s responses. This quickly complicated any potential
measurements of effort, impact, and return on investment. However, based on the (far too)
complicated indexing method that follows, compared to the average LORT theatre:
• 11 theatres have achieved significantly higher impact relative to their efforts. Later
drafts of this study will include a more in depth look at these theatres.
• 4 theatres achieved higher impact than their peers, but with above average effort
• 42 theatres exerted less effort than their average peer, and also found less impact
• 16 theatres have unfortunately exerted greater effort than their peers, but found less
When theatres maintained multiple group, fan, and/or personal profiles, I used the most
generous interpretation of their “primary” page by selecting the type with the highest number
of fans/members and most recent activity. Similar to the Twitter findings, many theatre’s
websites did not include a link to their Facebook page. It should also be noted that many
theatres are currently rebuilding their Fans from their Members (due a change in Facebook
architecture), thereby clouding true usage, efforts, and impact.
LORT Theatres on Facebook
Not on FB
by Devon Smith 4
Facebook offers a high degree of flexibility in terms of the type of content a theatre wishes to
include on their page, and how a fan might interact with the sight, other than simply viewing it.
I found 7 data points that measure a theatre’s activity on Facebook.
• Upload photo albums; disregarded different sizes of photo albums, and whether albums
were integrated Flickr streams.
• Events created; disregarded efforts of individual events.
• Weekly wall posts; captured for the 7 days prior to measurement date (week of
November 11, 2009); primarily used as a proxy for frequency of efforts since most wall
posts come from uploading photos, videos, notes, etc.
• Uploaded videos; disregarded video length, and whether videos were integrated
• Pages favorited.
• Notes written; disregarded whether notes were integrated RSS feeds.
• Links shared; disregarded whether links were integrated RSS feeds.
Other interesting efforts I observed (but did not use in the study) included:
• Guthrie Ford’s Theatre have special “Buy Tickets” sections of their pages
• ART highlights theatre merchandise for purchase
• ART and Florida Stage both use a “splash page” function for users to land on
• Alliance has their own Facebook Application
• Kansas City Rep has a music player on their page
• Many theatres have separate pages for alums and/or interns
• Several theatres embedded twitter & blog feeds on their Facebook pages
I found 10 data points that measure a fan/member’s interaction with a theatre’s page. In all
cases, I disregarded that a theatre’s fans/members likely include some small number of paid
• Fans or members.
• Weekly wall comments; captured for the 7 days prior to measurement (week of
November 11, 2009), disregarded difference between like, reply, and comment.
• Photo comments; summed comments from theatre and fan uploaded photos.
• People discussing; summed number of people that posted to a discussion forum,
disregarded that staff and/or theatre could be posting to open forum, disregarded
number of comments per person.
• Fan photos uploaded.
• Reviews written; disregarded sentiment and length of review.
• Members of a theatre’s “Facebook Cause.”
• Total contributions to a theatre’s “Facebook Cause.”
• Donors contributing to a theatre’s “Facebook Cause.”
• Fan videos uploaded.
• The following fan’s interactions were deemed too time consuming to capture
accurately: comments on videos, notes, links, all interactions on Events pages.
by Devon Smith 5
The following chart summarizes the above mentioned data points for all LORT theatres. Note
that “Average” is per theatre, and includes those theatres/fans not using the feature.
73 LORT Theatres % Usage Total Average
Photo Albums 99% 772 11
Events 86% 1,032 14
Weekly wall posts 78% 313 4
Videos 74% 568 8
Favorite Pages 67% 269 4
Notes 51% 1,245 17
Links 34% 1,634 22
Fans or Members 100% 84,183 1,153
Weekly wall comments 78% 847 12
Photo Comments 74% 913 13
People Discussing 42% 153 2
Fan Photos 33% 217 3
Reviews 14% 23 0
Causes‐#Members 7% 706 10
Causes‐$ Donated 7% 1,932 26
Causes‐#Donors 7% 44 1
Fan Video 5% 8 0
Thus, on average:
• Theatres are adding page content about once per business day
• A wall post by a theatre generates 2.7 fan comments
• A photo album uploaded by a theatre generates 1.2 fan comments
• Causes donors give $43.90
To begin thinking about possible Return on Investment, I first needed to estimate the
“investment” involved in posting content to Facebook. I believe the cleanest measure of this is
time. Ideally, I would like to know the average number of minutes that a theatre is posting
content to Facebook, and use that information to scale effort to average amount of content
posted per week. Unfortunately, Facebook doesn’t give a clear indication of a page’s time in
existence, thus leaving me without a denominator in the “total content/weeks in existence”
Therefore, I assumed the following average number of minutes each of the following activities
took, based on my own experience. Score can also be interpreted as relative scale of effort (so
that on average it takes a theatre 10 times as long to create and manage an event as it does to
post something to their wall). Note that all data points capture lifetime activity on Facebook,
by Devon Smith 6
except for wall posts and fan’s comments that are measured weekly. However, wall posts likely
occur far more often than the other types of activities, hopefully nullifying the inconsistency.
In general, this ignores the differences in creating original content, and instead focuses on the
time spent to transfer the content to Facebook, under the assumption that much of the content
is being used across multiple platforms (theatre’s website, blog, Twitter, etc). This also ignores
automated feeds (for example, many theatres seem to use the Notes function as an RSS feed
for their blog), however it still likely took some amount of time to create and maintain that
Efforts Score Type
Events 10 Build
Photo Albums 10 Upload
Videos 5 Upload
Wall posts 1 Write
Notes 1 Write
Links 1 Write
Favorite Pages 0.25 Click
Every theatre is using Facebook towards different ends:
• Marketing productions and maintaining brand awareness
• Empowering users to create their own production related content
• Engaging directly with users
• Raising money
Under the assumption that theatres desire and benefit most from user engagement that
requires more time, effort, and/or financial resources on the part of the fan/member, I’ve
constructed a relative index, as follows. Score can also be interpreted as the number of
minutes (or relative impact) a theatre earns (or saves) per unit of impact. So for example, a
theatre earns 20 minutes of staff time per dollar raised online, and saves 10 minutes of (PR)
staff time per review, etc.
Impact Score Type Use
Causes‐$ Donated 20 Give Raise $
Causes‐Donors 10 Give Raise $
Reviews 10 Compose Empower
Fan Video 5 Upload Empower
Fan Photos 5 Upload Empower
Wall comments 2 Write Engage
Photo Comments 2 Write Engage
People Discussing 2 Write Engage
Causes‐Members 1 Click Marketing
by Devon Smith 7
Fans/Memb10ers 1 Click Marketing
Clearly, the idea that “Return” should be measured strictly by user effort and “Investment”
should be measured solely in staff time is fraught with issues. In theory, it’s through all of these
efforts that fans (at some point down the line) are more satisfied with their theatrical
experience, buy more tickets, donate more, and introduce new consumers to the theatre.
Additionally, when multiple staff members from across different departments are updating
Facebook content, not everyone’s time should be represented as equally “expensive.” Finally,
I’m only able to measure publically available data, inside Facebook’s walled garden.
Therefore, in absence of all of that data, I’ve created my own measurement of efficient return
First, each of the various types of efforts and impacts have varying degrees of prevalence
throughout the LORT + Facebook community. So, I scored each theatre’s efforts and impacts as
an order of magnitude index centered to the average case. For example, if a theatre posted to
their wall 30 times this week, and the community average was 15, the theatre earns a score of
+1 (=(30‐15)/15) for that factor. If a different theatre posted only 5 times this week, the theatre
earns a score of ‐.66 (=(5‐15)/15) for that factor. This (somewhat falsely) assumes that the
field’s average effort is ideal effort.
Second, each effort and impact was weighted according to the score listed in the above tables.
So for example, a theatre with a Video Effort Factor Index of 2 (meaning they have posted three
times as many videos as the average theatre) has a Video Effort Score of 10 (=2*5). Similarly, a
theatre with a Fans Impact Factor Index of ‐1 (meaning they did not engage in the activity at all)
has a Fans Impact Score of ‐1 (=‐1*1).
Third, a theatre’s 7 Effort Scores are summed (so an above average number of fans may make
up for a below average number of videos posted) for a Total Effort Score, and their 10 Impact
Scores are summed (so an above average number of fan videos may make up for a below
average number of fans) for a Total Impact Score. For example, a Total Effort Score of 10 means
that a theatre expends 10 times the amount of effort as the average theatre, while a Total
Impact Score of ‐10 means that a theatre’s fans are 10 times less active than the average
Fourth, ROI is measured as: (Impact – Effort) / Effort. Because the impact and effort scores can
be positive or negative, I’ve adjusted ROI (multiplied it by ‐1) so that any time Impact > Effort,
the ROI score is positive.
The table that follows summarizes the 3 key indices, and each theatre’s rank within that index.
by Devon Smith 8
Arizona Theatre Co (14.29) (55.71) (2.90) 53 54 41
Maltz Jupiter (12.65) (49.94) (2.95) 48 33 42
Hartford Stage 23.86 (48.20) (3.02) 12 27 43
Barter Theatre (12.95) (52.21) (3.03) 50 38 44
Intiman Theatre (12.59) (51.28) (3.07) 47 35 45
Yale Rep/Drama (12.20) (53.86) (3.41) 46 45 46
South Coast Rep 22.31 (54.99) (3.47) 13 51 47
Great Lakes Theatre (11.15) (50.48) (3.53) 44 34 48
Alley Theatre (11.78) (57.24) (3.86) 45 66 49
Fords Theatre 6.52 (22.21) (4.40) 22 16 50
Marin Theatre (10.11) (54.77) (4.42) 43 49 51
Old Globe 15.61 (53.70) (4.44) 15 43 52
Alliance Theatre (9.53) (54.00) (4.67) 42 47 53
People's Light (8.52) (55.89) (5.56) 41 58 54
TheatreWorks (7.32) (48.79) (5.66) 37 28 55
Pasadena Playhouse (4.47) (29.86) (5.68) 34 18 56
Florida studio (8.23) (55.82) (5.78) 39 57 57
Philadelphia Theatre (8.43) (57.41) (5.81) 40 68 58
Pittsburgh Public (8.00) (55.10) (5.89) 38 52 59
McCarter Theatre 10.97 (54.69) (5.99) 19 48 60
Two Rivers (7.29) (56.54) (6.76) 36 62 61
Merrimack Rep 9.42 (56.80) (7.03) 21 63 62
Delaware Theatre (5.15) (55.79) (9.83) 35 56 63
LaJolla Playhouse (2.91) (32.29) (10.09) 32 19 64
Cleveland PlayHouse 5.66 (53.25) (10.41) 23 40 65
Wilma Theatre (3.31) (53.75) (15.23) 33 44 66
George Street (2.02) (35.61) (16.60) 30 21 67
Play Makers Rep 2.98 (47.44) (16.93) 24 24 68
San Jose Rep (2.48) (51.94) (19.91) 31 37 69
Geffen 2.31 (49.12) (22.28) 25 30 70
Georgia Shakespeare 1.21 (47.81) (40.51) 27 25 71
Arden Theatre 0.97 (46.17) (48.55) 28 23 72
Goodman Theatre 0.72 (56.08) (79.04) 29 59 73
Final Note: An Easier Method
I realize that this indexing method is likely too complicated to operationalize. Thus, I wanted to
give a quick back of the envelope method for potentially calculating ROI:
Simple ROI = # fan comments/# theatre wall posts
This reduces the noise of Facebook down to a single element. It’s clearly not a complete
picture, it doesn’t account for a huge variety of factors, but it’s simple and a short hand for
showing whether your fans are engaged with the content you’re posting. Measure this over
time, and you can begin to get a sense of how you can get the best “bang for your buck” online.
by Devon Smith 10
Kansas City Repertory Theatre: the Story of a Facebook Profile
Facebook Insights is only available to Page Admins. In the absence of public data, I decided to
do a little data collecting of my own. KCRT made the #2 spot on my list of Facebook Pages with
higher average returns relative to their LORT peers—in KCRT’s case, this was driven by a high
number of user comments, and their usage of Facebook Causes to raise money online. Several
key findings from the past 14 days:
1. Fan’s “like” twice as often as “commenting”
2. Asking questions generates the highest level of user engagement
3. Fans seem to be slightly more interested in administrative (rather than artistic) driven
4. While only 56 fans engaged, KCRT reached 17,600+ people
5. While 70% of engaged fans are women, men tend to engage more frequently
6. Only 24% of engaged users are students, those students tend to engage less frequently
It’s challenging to tease out the collective effect of all of these efforts. We’ve seen on a macro
level that theatres that post more often and with greater variety of media tend to have higher
levels of engagement. So a quick word of caution about relying too heavily on just one type of
media (wall posts, photos, videos, links, etc) or just one topic of conversation, regardless of
“how effective” it seems to be.
First, a general idea of KCRT’s activity level. Several lessons:
• Fans “like” items more often than they comment
• Dialogue takes effort (not only posting an original item, but following up also)
• Some posts seem to be generating more likes or comments than others.
• Weekends are fairly quiet
KCRT Efforts Fan Likes Fan Comments KCRT Followup
by Devon Smith 11
Now a deeper dive into what exactly KCRT is posting. There’s no secret formula for how each of
these activities should be allocated each week, but kudos to KCRT for using many different
kinds of media.
KCRT Efforts (Mode)
18 Wall Post
It’s thus far unclear if fans engage more with certain kinds of media, or if it’s more about the
topic of the post. This is clearly subjective, but I defined as follows.
• Promotion—link to a feature story, ticket discount, reminder about dates/time/price of
upcoming production, etc.
• Administration—often a “behind the scenes” look at what’s going on in the office:
photos of the marketing team setting up the lobby, a question about satisfaction with
eating/drinking inside the theatre, etc.
• Artistic—often a “behind the scenes” look at what’s going on in rehearsal: a “making of”
webisode, a post about tech, etc.
• Observation—anything that doesn’t mention the production, theatre
KCRT Efforts (Intent)
by Devon Smith 12
Then I tried to classify the intent of fan’s posts. Again, subjective. Defined as:
• Comment—Commenting on a post (ie KCRT posts a photo, a fan comments)
• Response—answering a question asked of them
• Question—asking a question of KCRT
• Thanks—should be obvious
• Likes—should be obvious
• Posts—Making an ‘unmotivated’ comment, not in reference to a KCRT post (this did not
occur in the 2 weeks of the study, but did appear on day 15)
Fan's Activity on the Wall
109 1 Likes
As mentioned previously, KCRT does a great job following up after Fans have posted online.
Definitions same as above.
KCRT Follow Up
by Devon Smith 13
Now that we’ve got a sense of activity level, I tried to make a guess at cause/effect.
Important lesson learned: Asking a question engages fans (surprise!) and requires less average
follow up. Ideally, this data would be captured over a longer period of time. It’s challenging to
be any more specific with a relatively small dataset.
Average Response per Post
Posts by Type # Likes Comments KCRT
Link (news article re: production) 1 4.0 1.0 1.0
Photos (admin) 2 2.0 3.5 0.9
Photos (rehearsal) 3 2.3 0.7 0.5
Video (making of webisode) 1 5.0 2.0 1.0
Video (rehearsal) 1 4.0 4.0 0.8
Wall comment (admin) 4 4.8 1.5 0.7
Wall comment (artistic) 6 3.3 0.7 1.0
Wall comment (observation) 1 7.0 0.0 0.0
Wall comment (promotion) 5 4.6 1.6 0.5
Wall comment (question) 2 8.0 7.5 0.5
*note that the KCRT column refers to follow up comments (see previous graph), and are
calculated as an average per fan comment.
Do fan’s engage more with certain modes of media? Based on this chart (and again, being
cautious of the small data set), fan’s seem most engaged by wall posts and videos.
Total Ave Total Ave
POST MODE # Likes Likes Comments Comments
Link 1 4 4 1 1.0
Photos 5 11 2.2 9 1.8
Video 2 9 4.5 6 3.0
Wall Post 18 85 4.7 33 1.8
But we learn something slightly deeper when looking at the intent of the post. It seems like fans
enjoy hearing about not only what’s going on “on stage,” but also in the office. A true surprise.
Total Ave Total Ave
POST INTENT # Likes Likes Comments Comments
Promotion 6 27 4.5 9 1.5
Administration 8 39 4.9 28 3.5
Artistic 11 36 3.3 12 1.1
Observation 1 7 7.0 0 0.0
by Devon Smith 14
So we might ask, just who are these fans? How closely do they match ticket buyers? Could they
just be staff at the theatre? Is it the same 4 people in constant conversation? Would it be bad if
it were? How far of a 2nd degree reach does KCRT have?
Over the past two weeks, 56 fans (3% of total fans) made a total of 150 “actions” (likes or
comments), for an average engagement of 1.3 actions per engaged fan per week. Pretty
amazing to stay “top of mind” for so many people if this is maintained over the course of an
These 56 fans have a collective total of at least 15,690 friends (11 fans did not have friend data
publically available). As particular posts by KCRT gain traction (high number of comments or
likes), those posts begin to appear in the Newsfeeds of their Fan’s, and their fan’s friends. This
second order reach is important for not only gaining new fans, but hopefully (down the line)
new ticket buyers. KCRT also obviously also reached their own 1,904 fans. This assumes
(naively) that there is no overlap among fans’ friends.
As can be expected, actions weren’t very evenly distributed among fans. While they didn’t
follow the typical 80/20 rule (the top 20% of fans accounted for less than 60% of activity), over
a two week period:
Distribution of Fan's Actions
by Devon Smith 15
Similarly, different fans engage in different ways. While very difficult to capture graphically, I
noticed that fans tend to transition up the scale of engagement (first liking, then commenting,
then commenting on multiple items). Note that I’m jumping in mid‐stream, so this is a fairly
Similar to the generally held perception of ticket buyers, women far outnumber men. Note that
this is based on a visual interpretation of fan’s profile photo and name (2 fan’s were
organizations and thus excluded from gender breakdown).
by Devon Smith 16
The genders behaved slightly differently as well. Men posted more frequently, were more likely
to both “like” and “comment,” and were less likely to be seniors.
Frequency Activity Type Age
# Actions Like Comment Both Student Regular Senior
Male 3.2 50% 19% 31% 20% 80% 0%
Female 2.5 61% 26% 13% 27% 64% 9%
The next graph is interesting, but also:
• Far more prone to error
• Based on a visual interpretation of a fan’s profile photo and listed networks (8 fans gave
no indication and were thus excluded)
• Broken down by the industry standard ticketing categories
Again, small differences between the age groups. Students are not more active than others (as
some would expect), Seniors are less likely to “like” a post (and not also comment on it).
# Actions Like Comment Both
Student 2.1 58% 25% 17%
Senior 2.0 0% 66% 34%
Regular 3.1 64% 18% 18%
by Devon Smith 17
Wrapping up, it would be great to:
• Use Facebook Insights to splice the data over time, and more accurately/quickly
• Deliberately experiment with different modes and intents of content and track user
• Find if there is a ceiling of activity level which turns (unengaged) fans off
• Identify a way to capture the impact of an original "voice" to theatre's posts
In a nod to the ever‐helpful @kerryisrael, it's also important to keep in mind that:
• Some theatres maintain production specific pages in addition to their 'main page' which
may account for some variance between theatre's activities
• Theatres have the choice to allow fans to engage with their page in different ways
(restricting certain activities) and may have very good reasons for doing so
• Since KCRT didn't have any original fan posts (only fans responding to KCRT posts), I
wasn't able to delve much into the different value between the two types of
• Even if you're saving time with an integrated feed for your blog, twitter, flickr, or
YouTube on your Facebook Fan Page, it's important to keep the conversation going on
Facebook with organic posts, comments, and responses
by Devon Smith 18
82% of LORT theatres are on Twitter, following an average of 474 users, and being followed by
an average of 631 users. The median theatre began using Twitter in early March of 2009, and
tweets just less than once per day. In any given week, the average theatre will be mentioned by
11 other users (hereafter referred to as an @mention).
Theatres use of Twitter really took off about a year ago
Twitter User Since
1‐Jul‐07 28‐Dec‐07 25‐Jun‐08 22‐Dec‐08 20‐Jun‐09 17‐Dec‐09
In that time, theatres have acquired a total of just under 40,000 followers collectively
by Devon Smith 19
They have collectively tweeted close to 15,000 times
And by rough measure (days in existence/total tweets), tweet about once per day. Although,
it’s likely this significantly undercounts current tweets per day (since it’s common for an
account to lay mostly dormant its first few months).
Tweets per Day
by Devon Smith 20
And the fans are responding!
@mention per Week
The following graph shows the distribution of each of 62 LORT theatre’s efforts (tweets) and
results (# of Followers, @mentions, and listed). The first vertical line measures the top 20% of
activity; this is what we’ll be focusing on. So for example, the top 12 theatres that received
@mentions over a 7‐day period accounted for 72% of all LORT’s @mentions. This comes close
to the commonly found 80/20 Pareto Principle we tend to find in cause & effect events.
Meanwhile, the top 12 theatres accounted for only 42% of lists that a LORT theatre appeared
by Devon Smith 21
Why is this the case? I think because lists are so new that (as discussed later), number of
followers is the best predictor for number of lists you appear on. However, a small number of
theatres are doing something different to grab user’s attention, and inciting them to
interaction. What are they doing that’s so different? My goal is to discover.
Who are they? The top 3 are quickly becoming the usual suspects: @americanrep (110),
@ACTtheatre (71), @pcsghost (48).
A few caveats: I’ve collected data over the course of a single week—maybe these theatres were
running twitter contests, maybe your theatre was dark that week and didn’t have a lot to talk
about. More importantly, maybe @mentions aren’t the best measure of user engagement…
by Devon Smith 22
In order to better understand who the best and the brightest (theatres) were on Twitter, I
created a quick index that valued both demonstrated impact, and best practices in the field.
Category Points Notes
@mention Number of @mentions in the 7 days prior to Oct 27, 2009
Followers As of October 19, 2009
Frequency '=Total tweets/time in existence
Total Tweets As of October 19, 2009
Time in Existence As of October 19, 2009
less than 1 year 0
1 year + 5
Web Badge Location Based on cursery search of theatre's website for their Twitter
None 0 username
Home Page 5
Twitter Name Subjectively based on how closely Twitter username
Non‐Branded 0 matched theatre name and/or web url
Client Included under the assumption that theatres using desktop
Facebook 0 applications (like TweetDeck) are able to better manage
Web 3 their Twitter presence
Desktop App 5
by Devon Smith 23
Based on those qualities, here’s how everyone stacked up:
Theatre Username Score Rank
ACT Theatre ACTtheatre 93 1
Portland Center Stage pcsghost 83 2
American Repertory Theatre americanrep 80 3
Arena Stage arenastage 78 4
Cincinatti Playhouse CincyPlay 70 5
Manhattan Theatre Club MTC_NYC 68 6
South Coast Rep SouthCoastRep 68 6
Laguna Playhouse Lagunaplayhouse 68 6
Alliance Theatre alliancetheatre 65 9
Kansas City Rep KCRep 63 10
Old Globe TheOldGlobe 63 10
Center Theatre Group CTGLA 58 12
Huntington Theatre huntington 58 12
Denver Center PA DenverCenter 56 14
Trinity Rep trinityrep 55 15
Roundabout Theatre RTC_NYC 55 15
Guthrie GuthrieTheater 54 17
Asolo Rep AsoloRepTheatre 53 18
Pasadena Playhouse PasPlayhouse 51 19
Fords Theatre fordstheatre 48 20
Play Makers Rep playmakersrep 48 20
Cleveland PlayHouse ClevePlayHouse 48 20
Florida Stage floridastage 46 23
Rep Theatre of St. Louis repstl 45 24
Lincoln Center Theatre LCTheater 43 25
Milwaukee Rep MilwRep 43 25
Arizona Theatre Co ArizonaTheatre 41 27
Seattle Repertory seattlerep 41 27
Capital Rep NY CapitalRepNY 40 29
Two Rivers TwoRiverTheater 36 30
Signature Theatre sigtheatre 35 31
American Conservatory ACTSanFrancisco 35 31
Berkeley Rep berkeleyrep 35 31
Georgia Shakespeare GAShakespeare 33 34
Actors Theatre Louisville ATLouisville 33 34
Hartford Stage HartfordStage 33 34
Goodman Theatre GoodmanTheatre 33 34
LaJolla Playhouse ljplayhouse 31 38
Wilma Theatre TheWilmaTheater 31 38
Arkansas Repertory TheRep 30 40
Shakespeare Theatre Co shakespeareindc 28 41
by Devon Smith 24
Arden Theatre ArdenTheatreCo 28 41
Intiman Theatre IntimanTheatre 28 41
CenterStage CENTERSTAGE_MD 26 44
Alabama Shakes AlabamaShakes 26 44
San Jose Rep Sjrep 23 46
McCarter Theatre mccarter 23 46
Indiana Rep IRTlive 21 48
Round House RHT_roundhouse 20 49
Geva Theatre gevatheatre 18 50
Merrimack Rep Merrimack_Rep 15 51
People's Light peopleslight 13 52
Maltz Jupiter JupiterTheatre 13 52
George Street georgestreet 13 52
Alley Theatre club615 13 52
Clarence Brown Theatre Co clarencebrown 10 56
Syracuse Stage syracusestage 8 57
Great Lakes Theatre GLTFCleveland 8 57
Long Wharf Long_Wharf 5 59
Virginia Stage VAStage 5 59
Yale Rep yaledrama 3 61
Barter Theatre BarterInsider 0 62
by Devon Smith 25
A relatively new addition to Twitter, I wanted to better understand what the drivers were
behind a theatre being “listed.” The most likely suspects would be:
• engaged users (as measured in number of recent @mentions)
• user network size (as measured in number of followers)
• prolific postings (as measured in number of lifetime tweets)
Of the 59 theatres tweeting, EVERY SINGLE ONE was being followed by at least one list, with the
avearge theatre being followed by 20 lists! Interestingly, @GuthrieTheater has the highest
number listed (71). Based on the following graphs, It looks like # of followers is the best (single)
predictor of the number of lists following you.
by Devon Smith 26
So we've seen who (some of) the leaders in the field are, based on my (explicitly subjective)
index. Now let's take a deeper dive into a few cases to see what we can find...
@pcsghost from Portland Center Stage is prolific, experimenting constantly, and has 2,000+
followers. Let's assume that they're a good test case to see how social media best practices can
lead to ROI. First, an admission: I'm a snoop. I love checking out what other people are doing,
and copying methods and practices. No sense in recreating the wheel right? So, I'm posting
without permission from @pcsghost, and hoping for the best!
Check out this (free, and available to anyone) data from TweetStats:
Monthly average tweets have been growing fairly consistently for over a year now. I think we
can assume from this that @pcsghost is posting when the theatre's dark, as well as when
there's a show running. Wonder what was going on in January?
by Devon Smith 27
This is measured in EST, and they're PST, so count backwards by 3 hours for everything. It looks
like Natalie's tweeting when she gets into work, then doing other things for a few hours, and
then ramps up again in the lunchtime hour. Incessent tweeting is exhausting. Beth Kanter has a
great post about how to deal with social media information overload.
Who are these folks that @pcsghost is tweeting with most often? Looks like a few other
portland theatres, their own individual show accounts, and a few thought leaders in the field.
Twitter's not just about connecting with your audience, it's also a great way to faciltate
communication internally, and to learn from peers and other smart folks. Notice that replying
to other tweeters accounts for nearly 1/3 of their activity online!
by Devon Smith 28
ReTweeting embodies one of the underlying principles of social media: give and ye shall
receive. When you notice an interesting tweet, and you think your followers might be
interested, ReTweet. Embrace the power of networks‐‐it's called "social" media after all, not
This is a tag cloud of @pcsghost tweets. The bigger & bolder a word is the more often they've
used it. I think tag clouds are most useful as an overview summary to remind me what I've been
talking about lately. It looks like @pcsghost is a fan of portland, tickets, and a few specific
productions. One of the ways followers will find you is by searching for words they're interested
in. In fact, as Google and Bing begin incorporating real time search into their search engines, it
will become ever more important to tag your posts as related to theatre in your city. And don't
forget that url shorteners like bit.ly can help save you valuable characters (instead of
by Devon Smith 29
Xefer shows much the same information at TweetStats, but includes @mentions (replies) in
their analysis. This can help give you some indication of not only when your best tweeting hour
is, but also when you tend to get the most replies. Twitter exists most usefully in real time; if
you find yourself tweeting on saturday afternoon, and no one's responding, your time might be
better spent elsewhere.
Foller.me shows you where your followers are from. Social media's clearly become a global
phenomenon. True, a few of these followers might be spam bots, but most are real people,
who are really interested in what @pcsghost has to say, and has their own network of friends
around the world who might one day be ticket buyers. Especially useful data for those of you
who tour (inter)nationally.
by Devon Smith 30
TwitterCounter allows you to compare the follow rate of up to 3 different twits, and gives you a
few nifty tools to predict how many new followers you should be expecting in the upcoming
month. Much in the way that you can match ticket sales graphs to marketing activities,
experiment to see if you can produce spikes in follow rates based on what/when/how you
by Devon Smith 31
Ok. So this one's a little out there. Twitalyzer attempts to measure the 5 key metrics they think
are most important on the web. If nothing else, this is a good reminder about some of the
issues you should be thinking about. For now, pay less attention to the raw numbers.
by Devon Smith 32
Using American Repertory Theatre to Track @mentions
Twitter has many uses, not all of them right for everybody; Brand Espresso describes them as:
1. Public Relations
2. Customer Service
3. Loyalty Building
6. Thought Leadership
7. Customer Acquisition
Since @americanrep has been generating a ton of @mentions, I wanted to delve a little deeper.
First, a review of the past 9 days.
This is a graph of the past 9 days of activity by @americanrep. It was an unfortunately time
intensive process, and per usual, subjective. Here's the criteria I tried to use:
• RT: @americanrep retweeting someone else's tweet. In almost all cases, those (original)
tweets mention @americanrep.
• Response: @americanrep and someone else having a conversation. At times, difficult to
distinguish from the RT.
• Commentary: @americanrep talking about internal goings on (staff meetings), non‐
theatre events (happy halloween), or similar.
• Promotion: @americanrep promoting their show, or offering links to additional
• FollowFriday: @americanrep recommending folks to follow.
What do we learn? @americanrep is doing GREAT work at facilitating a two way conversation,
not just broadcasting ticket discounts.
by Devon Smith 33
Same idea, now applied to a search of "@americanrep." Slightly different criteria:
• RT: someone RT one of @americanrep's post. Often this was one of the Promotion posts
• Response: someone tweeting back and forth with @americanrep.
• Mention: someone tweeting about @americanrep (who then uses this great
opportunity to reach out to folks)
• FollowFriday: someone recommending to their followers to follow @americanrep. In
most cases, this was another theatre
What do we learn? There's a whole lot of folks out there just chatting about ART with their
online network. Talk about an incredibly rich opportunity for direct marketing!
Overall @americanrep is tweeting about 10+ times per day, driven primarily by interactions
with other tweeps.
by Devon Smith 34
Matching these two graphs over an extended period of time could tell us some pretty
interesting things. For example, @americanrep is seeing an explosion of responses on
November 5 because of a question they asked their followers: What's your favorite
Shakespeare play? Depending on what your goals are for using Twitter, this can be a great way
to get your brand in front of a bunch of eyeballs (not only the people who follow you, but their
followers too), and engage your followers in topics that interest them.
So here's where things have the potential to get really interesting. This graphs daily tweets by
@americanrep versus to or about @americanrep. On most days, you would expect the line to
match up (for a company that's trying to really engage online). On days where the blue line is
above the red, it might feel like you're talking to the ether. In this case, a lack of chatter on
Halloween makes a lot of sense. On days when the red line is above the blue, you're getting
by Devon Smith 35
good traction on something; the key will be figuring out what that is...in today's case‐‐duh! The
Now that we've seen the numbers, back to my original intent...
by Devon Smith 36
Final thoughts: I'm starting to think about if #FF (Follow Friday) tags should be included in my
Twitter Index as a measure of influence. Certainly if other folks are recommending you to their
followers, you're doing something right. Also, someone needs to build a tool (and quick!) that
counts tweets and sorts them into various buckets. Seriously folks, I'm a full time student. Who
else is going to have the time or patience to hand count this stuff??
by Devon Smith 37
• Only 9 LORT theatres don’t have their own YouTube channel
• Viewers engage almost entirely on the “per video” basis rather than on a theatre’s
• On average, theatres have uploaded 28 videos to their channel
• Videos don’t have to be short, include production footage, or be about a musical to be
• Men age 45‐54 were the single largest demographic watching the Top 20 (most
• Related videos are the top referral sources for the Top 20 videos
• The vast majority of views occur more than 2 months after the video has been posted
(somewhere in the neighborhood of 80%)
First, a little perspective on online videos: According to Comscore, 84.4% of U.S. Internet users
watched at least one online video in October 2009, and the average person watched 10.8 hours
of video for the month. Facebook’s unique viewers rose by 25% from the month prior, while
everyone else’s viewership was relatively flat. Overall:
October 2009 (Comscore)
Unique Viewers (000)
Videos per Viewer
by Devon Smith 38
As of December 1, 2009: 88% of LORT theatres have their own YouTube channel. Georgia
Shakespeare was the first theatre on board, and City Theatre is the most recent. The latter half
of 2007 and the early half of 2009 were particularly busy times for theatres to enter the world
of online video.
(LORT) Theatres on YouTube
4‐Apr‐06 4‐Apr‐07 4‐Apr‐08 4‐Apr‐09
The average theatre has 27 subscribers to their channel, while Center Theatre Group, Denver
Center Theatre, and the Roundabout Theatre all have more than 100 subscribers.
Subscribers per Theatre
by Devon Smith 39
The average theatre’s channel page (the repository for all of those videos) has been viewed
1,770 times, with Portland Center Stage and Arena Stage having the highest number of views.
Channel Views per Theatre
The average theatre has uploaded 28 videos to their channel, with Denver Center, Ford’s,
Huntington, McCarter, and Portland Center Stage being the most prolific.
Uploaded Videos per Theatre
by Devon Smith 40
Channel comments were virtually non‐existent for most theatre (on average less than 1, at
most 7). This leads me to believe that users aren’t engaging at the channel (brand) level, but
rather on individual videos. However, subscribers seem to have a more concentrated impact on
channel views than number of uploads (thought both are positively correlated).
Drivers of Channel Views
0 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000 7000
So, let’s take a closer look at individual videos. The top 5 most popular videos for each theatre
averaged a total of 14,622 views, or just under 3,000 views per video. Center Theatre Group,
with nearly 110,000 views won nearly twice as many “Top 5 Videos” views as their next most
popular colleagues at ART.
Top 5 Videos' Views
by Devon Smith 41
Out of those 335 videos (67 theatres x top 5 videos from each), I more closely examined the top
20. There were 11 theatres represented in the Top 20:
# Videos in Top 20
(1) ART (4)
St. Louis (1)
Arena (1) (2)
Alabama (1) SCR LCT (2)
And the actual number of views per video:
Views for Top 20
The Color Purple Opening Night in LA
South Paci_ic Video Montage
Next to Normal
Jersey Boys Opening Night in LA
Cabaret: Storm Large TV Spot
American Idiot‐the Trailer
The Donkey Show Promo
Curtains Commerical for the New Broadway
A Christmas Carol Trailer
About the Ritz
Fences by August Wilson
The Glass Menagerie at the Cleveland
Sleep No More Production Photos
Adapting Oliver Twist for the Stage
The Importance of Being Earnest
The History Boys
Culture Clash in America
Mike Daisey Audience Protest
Noises Off at the Cleveland Playhouse
South Paci_ic Tony Performance
‐ 10,000 20,000 30,000 40,000 50,000 60,000
But here’s where I ran into a bit of a problem. These 20 videos don’t have a whole lot in
common, and certainly nothing clearly distinguishes them from (for example) the least watched
20 videos of the sample.
by Devon Smith 42
One of the most common rules of thumb I’ve heard is that in order for a video to be
“watchable,” it has to be short. But nearly 1/3 of these Top 20 were longer than 3 minutes:
>3 min 20%
More words of wisdom: “videos have to be about xyz.” Even though 60% of the Top 20
constituted what I considered “Trailers” (clips of a show with a call to action to buy tickets), that
probably under represents the percentage of all theatres’ videos posted which are trailers.
News Clip 60%
by Devon Smith 43
Nobody would watch a video about a play, right? Wrong again. Although it is worthwhile to
note that every video in the Top 20 was directly tied to a production.
Maybe these videos were all just produced a long time ago and views have been accumulating?
Nope. But we will return to this idea momentarily for further investigation.
Video Upload Date
1‐Jul‐06 17‐Jan‐07 5‐Aug‐07 1‐Feb‐08 8‐Sep‐08 7‐Mar‐09
2 2 13‐Oct‐09
by Devon Smith 44
Only young people watch videos on YouTube, so why bother? Actually, 2/3 of viewers are over
Age Demos for Top 20 Videos
55‐64 13‐17 2%
It’s long been noted that women dominate both the theatre going audience, and the ticket
buying decisions. But apparently, YouTube is a pretty good way to reach men:
Gender Demos for Top 20 Videos
Note that in general, men tend to dominate the online video watching population, so this graph
isn’t all that surprising. Folks interested in watching online video about theatre seems fairly
representative of the general online population.
by Devon Smith 45
In fact, Males age 45‐54 are the largest single demographic of these Top 20 videos. Could it be
that partners/spouses are using video to convince these men to attend the theatre with them?
Demos for Top 20 Videos
Female 18‐24 Male 13‐17
2% 2% Male 45‐54
Male 25‐34 28%
13% Female 13‐17
How are all of these people finding these videos? 1/3 of the time simply as people browse other
videos on YouTube (meaning the more content you have online, the more likely someone will
happen upon your video), and ¼ of the time viewers are watching the video on a site other than
YouTube (so it’s important to embed videos on your theatre’s website, and your other social
Source of Views
Viewed on channel
1% Related video
View from mobile 33%
1% on other
Referral from other site
4% Google search
by Devon Smith 46