From an early age, my coping method in any crisis has been to throw myself into activity. When the lockdown began, I switched into ‘hyper-drive mode’, taking part in online play readings and showcases several times a week (some of which I set up myself) as well as running various free Zoom classes in puppetry, comedy and other skills I felt confident passing on.
It has been fun, but I think I have reached the point where my brain needs a rest from being creative. However, with work thin on the ground, this isn’t the time to become invisible, either. I feel I am missing a trick by not making more use of the clips and recordings that have been generated from all the activity to build my online profile until castings pick up.
What holds me back a little is knowing that there already seems to be an ever-growing flood of theatre and performance online and I am not sure how best to ensure my own small projects are noticed in the midst of it all?
In ‘normal’ circumstances, a common query at this time of the year would be from theatremakers on how to promote their shows on the busy festival circuit.
Any first-timer who has stood on the Royal Mile in the middle of the Edinburgh Fringe with a handful of flyers – and seemingly, the entire theatrical world – in competition for the same customers can probably empathise with your online version. Online or offline, the best way to create your own marketing strategy is to briefly switch from performer to punter mode.
What techniques and approaches have make you click on a video or post? Just as importantly, what are the over-the-top pitches that make you immediately swipe past or delete?
When you create your posts, remember that people log on to different social media platforms at different times, depending on daily schedules, where they are located in the world. Try reposting at different times and see when you get the most responses.
Tempting though it may seem, be careful about jumping on hashtag bandwagons and shoehorning a link between your own project and whatever is trending. This can be irritating and, if the hashtag relates to a real and sensitive issue, you could be viewed as simply cashing in.
While encouraging you to promote your online projects with the same energy and optimism you would apply to offline leafleting, there are one or two technical pitfalls to watch out for.
Several social media platforms use algorithms which identify when multiple identical posts are repeated in a short space of time and flag them as spam. Even if you are sending out the same basic information about your shows or classes each time, it is best to include different images or vary your text content in some other way to avoid posts being deleted or, even worse, suspension of your account.
Even more importantly, if your online content involves sharing content from plays, classes or workshops you have run via Zoom or similar channels, make sure you get permission from any visible or audible participants.
Returning to lessons from the offline world, there is one approach you can take to promoting yourself that has been working for theatremakers since the live festival began and can be implemented immediately and for free: the more generous you are in supporting and sharing other people’s work, the more likely they are to do the same for yours when the opportunity arises.