I’ve been working for TCG for a little over a year, and in that time I’ve seen social media usage by our member theatres (and by us!) grow exponentially. This can largely be attributed to the fact that around the same moment that social media began to move beyond the boundaries of the personal to accommodate businesses, the economy started to crumble—and suddenly social media seemed like a more obvious tool than ever before. Theatres in particular have been successfully using social media for audience development, fundraising, marketing and more–and the costs are largely limited to manpower.
Many of our members have been on Facebook and Twitter for some time now, and I’m guessing the next social media must-have for theatres is going to be Foursquare. It’s a location-based mobile social media application, and, like Twitter, it’s an incredibly simple concept: it allows users to share their physical location with their network of friends. If you’re looking for something to do, but don’t feel like contacting all of your friends to find out where they are, you can simply check their statuses on Foursquare. Conversely, if you’re hanging out somewhere or attending an event and want others to join you, Foursquare provides an easy way to let everyone know where you are. Or maybe you’re somewhere—a show, a concert, or a bar-and want to know if anyone else you know also happens to be there—Foursquare makes it easy to find out.
Foursquare’s simple concept lends itself to a host of more complex dynamics. Entering your location on Foursquare is termed “checking in” and the user that checks in the most at a particular spot is crowned the “mayor” of that location. Various businesses that recognize the potential in Foursquare have begun offering prizes and privileges to incentivize checking in—a theatre-specific example of this would be offering users who check in at your theatre two or more times a 10% discount on their next ticket purchase, or rewarding the mayor of your theatre with a backstage tour. Importantly, Foursquare recently announced an open API (application programming interface), meaning that developers will be able to create third-party applications on top of Foursquare’s technology, which will likely revolutionize the way it is used in the same way applications have been crucial to Twitter and Facebook (think Tweetdeck and Mafia Wars).
At the Fall Forum I heard a lot of theatres talk about the trend towards last-minute ticket buying, and I also heard it echoed on the NEA webcast discussion of the Survey of Public Participation in the Arts–imagine the implications something like Foursquare could have for dealing with this issue. I’m really eager to hear stories about any theatres that are already using Foursquare, as well as ideas for how theatres could best adapt Foursquare for their own purposes.
Claire Mazur is Management Programs Associate at TCG. Prior to working for TCG she completed her masters in Arts Administration at Columbia University, and prior to that she completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Chicago. She is particularly interested in how social media—and the internet in general—is changing the way art is bought, sold and consumed.