The Facebook Failure Fallacy

I had the pleasure of talking on the phone with a couple of Sold Out Run followers last week. It was incredibly useful to hear people describing what they were actually doing with their marketing right now, and hear the questions they had. Even in talking to such a small number of people, I noticed a recurring theme: people feel like they are failing at social media – particularly Facebook.

I know exactly why. It’s got one of the largest user bases of any software platform in history. A cottage industry has sprung up of experts who will tell you how you can use Facebook to become a millionaire. Surely this can be used to sell tickets, right?

The answer is… well, sort of.

First things first: the culture around Facebook (created by the media and to an extent Facebook, itself) has created this implication that if you aren’t making more money with Facebook than you know what to do with it, you’re doing it wrong. So we beat ourselves up about it and lament that we haven’t found out the social media key that every other business seems to have mastered.

You might be doing solid B+ work on Facebook, and it could feel like a D-

You might be doing solid B+ work on Facebook, and it could feel like a D-. That’s in part because Facebook is a complex and ever-shifting beast that is intentionally vague about how their system works. Don’t be too hard on yourself, and don’t compare your results to those of people in completely different situations.

There are certain industries and products that sell extremely well on Facebook. Fashion and personal grooming seem to be doing very well to me – presumably because we’re seeing pictures of ourselves side-by-side with our friends and favorite celebrities, and we are consciously thinking about how we look.

Now I don’t mean to imply you should write off Facebook. If we take a look at what major movie releases do on Facebook, there are some good tips we can absorb: their strategy is built around creating a water cooler conversation about the movie that reaches a fevered pitch on opening weekend. In many cases that can translate very well to promoting a stage production.

But even Hollywood doesn’t put all their eggs in the Facebook basket – or even most of their eggs.

How should you grade yourself

There is value to looking at what other theatre companies are doing on Facebook, and these don’t have to be your local competition. Look for far away theatres in similar-sized markets. You aren’t necessarily looking for inspiration (because I don’t think most theatre companies are knocking it out of the park) but for a benchmark.

In many cases you’ll find you’re doing better on Facebook than you think – and when that’s not the case you’ll often see clear examples of social media activity that isn’t out of your reach.

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  1. I’ve done Facebook ads for shows and gotten tons of buzz, comments, likes, and shares – however, very few of these translated to actual ticket sales. Rather frustrating I think while social media is all the rage, nothing can replace actual personal networking

    Joni Lambert on Tue, Apr 5th, 2016 at 6:59pm
    • I see that, too, Joni. The most successful theatre stuff on Facebook seems to be around amplifying social proof. So you can share successful reviews (whether formal articles by critics or just quotes from people who liked the show) but you still need to get a seed group of people to the show first before you can start sharing their reactions.

      Clay Mabbitt on Wed, Apr 6th, 2016 at 6:55am

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