Your Theatre Twitter Resolutions

I made them for you so you don’t have to think too hard.

The average theatre human finally discovered Twitter in 2010. There are plenty of folks coming behind you so please get out of the doorway but you aren’t the first either so settle down.

The primary faux pas that folks make when first wading into the Twitter waters (it’s also true for blogging and e-blasting but less so) is ignoring the “social” and focusing on the “media”. So let’s see if we can shift that a bit…

To wit:

  1. I’m sure you’re very good at what you do. That doesn’t mean I have any idea who you are, what you do, or where you’re from and that doesn’t make me stupid. Give context in your posts as to where you are and what you’re doing.
  2. As to #1: Make sure there’s a reason that you’re sending this message about what you’re doing to the universe. Twitter is powerful because it’s a broadcast medium. But as with all broadcasts people stop tuning in if te content isn’t worth it to them (right NBC?). Is this message or event something that belongs in your Facebook posts, on your blog or only in your newsletter? It’s okay to not shout every piece of news to the heavens. (this is of course for company based Twitter-users)
  3. Don’t just cut and paste lines from your press release into the Hootsuite or Tweetdeck window. It reads like your Mom yelling into her cell phone because she can’t hear you very well. Yes this thing works, yes we can hear you. Now say something and say it to us not at us.
  4. Loosen up your tie. It is okay to not have a business voice at all times. Of course comply with your companies agreed upon guidelines (try these to build off of if you don’t have any) but allow the person who is speaking for your company (or heck just you if it’s you) to really speak. Astoria Performing Arts Center, Boston Court, and American Shakespeare Center all have %100 more of my attention than they had before Twitter solely because of the engaging personal nature of their social media presence. You can do it too.
  5. Don’t spam. Don’t spam – don’t. Don’t do it Sam I am. Do NOT SPAM. It’s a block-no-take-backs.
    Okay sure simple advice, but here’s the trick – you probably don’t think you are. If you push all of your content every morning at 9AM EST and you have 9 posts or 35 posts… it reads as spam. No matter how much content you have packed into those 140 character morsels, if you highjack my feed at any point it reads as spam. That doesn’t necessarily make you a bad person – but it is a problem. There are easy (free) technological fixes to the problem in terms of scheduled posts. Look into them.
  6. Be there (aloha).
    Have you ever ridden one of those electricity generating bikes like at the New England Museum of Science? You power a row of light bulbs with your mighty ministrations and are amazed at how much energy you produce! Until about the end of that sentence when you rev your little 10-year-old legs down to normal speed and realize you only light two bulbs. Until you get too tired and need to go get some popcorn and you light zero lightbulbs.
    photo by Jeffrey Smith
    You only exist on Twitter if you’re posting. You only exist broadly on Twitter if you’re interacting with others. This doesn’t need to be full time 24/7 but if you’re not responding to mentions and direct messages you fade from view pretty quickly.
  7. It’s a two-way street.
    I want two things in an actor, the first being an ability to listen. Heck it was the first piece of advice I ever got in college. I showed up eager to prove that I was good and that I knew what I was talking about. My friend Jeff pulled me aside and said point blank, “you need to shut up and listen for a minute”. Everyone at school had done what I had. Given time I 1.) learned more 2.) figured out what I knew (or had experienced) that they hadn’t and was able to share that. It can be unbelievably invigorating being in a room full of smart people who love the things you love, but don’t lose your brain. Follow a bunch of folks or lists, or hashtags and simply see what’s going on and get a feel for the dynamic. Then jump in the game.
  8. The other thing I want from my actors is generosity. Generosity on and off stage. I like’em punctual and prepared so they’re not wasting time, I like them giving scenes as well as taking them ferociously. You have to be generous on Twitter. You can’t have every idea first. In fact the chance that you had ANY idea first is pretty slim. You can’t be working on every concept. You can’t have read every article ever (or written every article ever). Retweet. Link. Share. It does a few things. It lets people know that you’re listening. It gives people in your sphere an idea of your likes and influences. It leaves a paper trail for you of all the things you’ve read and liked. And heck it’s just neighborly. Do avoid becoming a quote machine though or simply a platitude passer. The theatre folk on twitter get the Beckett quote twice daily. Feel free to affirm the group but don’t shop for your affirmations at QuoteWalmart.com.
  9. Have an opinion, but not a binary opinion.
    If you want to rant in talk radio fashion about something? That goes on the blog. If you want to discuss it? Bring it to Twitter. There is no discussing a binary opinion. If there is no grey area, and anyone who disagrees with you is stupid? Go hang out at Digg. Or SomethingAwful.
  10. Stop assuming.
    Don’t assume that your not knowing someone means they’re unimportant.
    Don’t assume ANYONE is unimportant.
    Don’t assume that everyone agrees with you. (You’ll be disappointed)
    Don’t assume that no one agrees with you (and whine about persecution)
    Don’t assume their disagreement means they don’t like you.
    Don’t assume that disagreement means lack of “professionalism” on their part.
    Don’t assume that disagreement means they’re stupid.
    Don’t assume that a person is solely the sum of their posts.
    Don’t assume that a person posting means that that is all the theatre they have done today.
    Don’t assume that no one posted anything while you weren’t looking, before you started looking, or before you knew there was such a thing as Twitter.

And one for free?
If you don’t like someone? Don’t follow them just because you’re “supposed to”. Unfollow and make your life better. I recommend to lots of folks that they not follow me because I’m high volume and not always on topic. It doesn’t hurt my feelings.

And folk? I yammer a lot (in general) about the Right Way, but there is only one real rule though. The Golden Rule of Twitter – don’t do anything that you hate when other people do it.

  • Bilald

    You forgot one: Don’t ask the rest of Twitter if they think it should be spelled “theater” or “theatre.”

    Just don’t do it. Don’t.

  • I hereby incorporate this by reference.

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  • Kcatmull

    This is actually fantastic advice, and not just for the theater people — for anyone doing social media. Really first rate post. I may pass this around my office.

    (small query: you seem to be using “enervating” in an unexpected way?)

  • Thank you ma’am.

    And yes I blew it on enervating – correcting now 😉

  • +1

    ….times a million.

  • Anonymous

    Great intro to the medium. I especially like #10, Travis, in all its ‘don’ts’.

  • Dammit! I was just about to revive that one to get my @mention count up on Klout!

    It turns out that AMC Theatres uses the “re”, too, so all the theatre vs. film arguments are garbage. I was really hoping to mention that on Twitter, AND NOW I CAN’T!

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