Post image for The Future of Engagement

On Wednesday, April 4, Shane D. Hudson will lead the A-ha! Leadership Webinar, The Future of Engagement: Social Media and Your Audience. This webinar is free for Member Theatres and will feature Shane’s  insights into the future of digital engagement within our field. He will discuss the latest trends in social media, the future of audience engagement using digital technology and how live theatre can embrace digital audience development. He will also give some brass tack tips and tools for getting started or getting out of the social media rut. The deadline for registration is Friday, March 30, so register now.

Shane took a moment out of his busy schedule to answer some of our questions about the future of engagement – read on, and then join us on April 4!

1. Was your conversion to believing social media could be the future of audience engagement a road to Damascus moment or more gradual?

Potentially both, I was the very slow to get onto the Internet at all. I remember thinking, back in 1993, that email would never take off. I guess I was wrong. I did get onto Facebook at the very early stages, probably sometime in 2006, but it wasn’t until the early days of the 2008 election that I really started to see the power and influence of social media. It was about that same time that the executive director of the North Carolina Theatre Conference asked me to do a presentation on social media for the NCTC Producing Gathering. She had the foresight to know that theatres needed a resource for social media, and she knew that I had an interest. The rest is history. I’ve been a social media consultant since that time and have worked with clients all over North Carolina.

2. What is the biggest misconception about social media holding theatres back?

There are three misconceptions.

First, social media doesn’t sell tickets. Social media is about building relationships. Theatres should look at social media as an outreach tool, as a way to connect with patrons and potential patrons, and as a way to listen to what others are saying. Oh, and don’t use social media to try to get young people to the theatre. Focus on your programming and your mission. Yes, young people are the most active users of social media, but the fastest growing demographic on Facebook is women ages 55 and above!

Second, there is no “right” way to use social media, but there are many wrong ways. There is no magic bullet. Theatres need to experiment with what works because each theatre, and each audience, is different. What are the wrong ways? Refusing to use social media at all, being scared of social media and the threat of negative feedback, and using social media as a bullhorn are all ways to use social media incorrectly.

Finally, stop worrying so much about ROI. What is the ROI on word of mouth, and how do you measure it? New tools are being developed all the time to assist in measuring the ROI of social media, but the most important thing is to have an active presence and commit to developing relationships.

3. What is the next big thing in social media, or have we reached the end of “the next big thing”?

There will always be a “next big thing” in media. The quill pen, the printing press, the telegraph, the radio, the television are all tools that furthered the ease of communication.  Social media is just the next step in this evolution. The real difference is that social media is a two way street. Social media allows people to engage with your business in a way that they can’t with forms of media. That said, I don’t think Google+ will overtake Facebook anytime soon. Facebook will be king for a long time to come.

4. What would be your 140-character Twitter pitch as to why our Member Theatres should tune in to the Webinar?

You’ve made the switch to Facebook Timeline and you have an awesome new cover photo, right? Uh oh.

5. What was the last great play you attended?

I’m biased, but I truly loved Belleville by Amy Herzog and directed by Anne Kauffman at Yale Repertory Theatre. It is a truly wonderful, thrilling, and suspenseful drama. I’m a bit of a musical theatre nut though. I’ve seen Spring Awakening six times and listen to the cast recording every day.

6. Share a recent success story regarding social media and audience engagement.

Unfortunately, too few theatres are really using social media effectively because we are all understaffed and underfunded. Situation Interactive is doing some amazing things like their Twitter campaign for Next to Normal several years ago. We will talk about that example during the webinar. The most thrilling example in general terms is what President Obama is rolling out for his 2012 campaign. Keep an eye out for what his campaign does over the next few months. They are going to do some truly revolutionary things.  I’m also very impressed that Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company had created a new department called Connectivity.

7. Recent years have seen you living in Chapel Hill, Boston and now New Haven. What’s your favorite thing about each city?

Chapel Hill – Carolina Blue skies, the unbelievable staff, artists, and students at PlayMakers Repertory Company, frozen mint juleps at Crook’s Corner, my family, and my poodle Gabraham Lincoln.

Boston – The beautiful Esplanade along the Charles River, the incredibly strong theatre community, and the American History just around every corner.

New Haven – The Yale School of Drama, of course, and all the wonderful people here, Pepe’s pizza, and the long run to the top of East Rock.

fShane Hudson
Shane D. Hudson, Social Media Consultant for the Arts (MFA candidate ‘14, theater management, Yale School of Drama) is from Chapel Hill, NC. Before attending Yale, he was the assistant director of development for PlayMakers Repertory Company. He also served on the board of directors for Arts North Carolina and Triangle ArtWorks and was a social media consultant for arts organizations throughout the state. Shane received a BFA in theatre management from Emerson College in Boston. While in Boston, Shane produced musicals at the Emerson Majestic Theater, served as general manager and marketing director for Blue Man Group, managed the historic Charles Playhouse and was the executive director of StageSource, the Alliance of Theater Artists and Producers. He also served on the StageSource board of directors for eight years. Shane founded GhostLight Media Inc., a consultant group providing New England arts organizations with general management, marketing and event planning services.

August Schulenburg is the Associate Director of Communications at TCG. He is also the Artistic Director of Flux Theatre Ensemble, winner of the 2011 Caffe Cino Fellowship Award. He is a playwright whose produced plays include Riding the Bull, Carrin Beginning, The Lesser Seductions of History, Dream Walker, Rue, Jacob’s House and Other Bodies. He is also a director (most recently Ellen McLaughlin’s Ajax in Iraq) and actor (the recent film, The Golden Scallop). Learn more here.