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Twitter performs at the Edinburgh Fringe

Thousands of people descend on Edinburgh every August for the world’s biggest arts festival, the Fringe, now 64 years old and big business. This year’s event just wrapped up and was no different, with a constant stream of people roaming the city’s streets. It can be a marketer’s dream come true, but with the sheer volume of shows competing for attention, it’s also easy for performers to get lost among the crowd.

With the practical applications of social media in advertising becoming more and more apparent, it was only a matter of time before a double-act was forged with the Fringe. For those who haven’t been, a day’s schedule is always subject to change, particularly if a show’s marketing – whether in the form of poster, flyering or special offer – is enough to pull you in for an hour.

Comedian Joe Lycett, who appears in BBC1 programme Epic Win, believes 2011′s Fringe has shown off the possibilities of comedy promotion using social media He told me:

“Twitter, this year more than ever, has been harnessed by performers to publicise shows, particularly one off events like The Wrestling or The Alternative Comedy Memorial Society. It’s a great way of getting the right sort of audience who are already aware of you and your style in some capacity. Then people tweeting about the events when they are there creates even more of a buzz.”

This hectic scheduling ties the Fringe perfectly to social media – particularly Twitter. Provided an act has a large number of followers (something which can be easily done in 11 months on the circuit), and a good relationship with them, tweets can be sent out with special show offers on days when ticket sales look to be particularly slow. Of course, this heavily depends on how many of the act’s followers are actually at the Fringe, but this is something that should lie in the hands of promoters.

Managed properly, a comedy agency’s Twitter account can provide a subtle bridge between a marketing and informative service. The agency acts on behalf of the act in order to reach as big an audience as possible. This corresponds to Twitter like so:

Twitter at Edinburgh Comedy Festival

How this works:

- @Agency knows how many tickets for @Act’s show that day have been sold in advance, and whether it needs a bit of a promotional push to fill the room. They then send out a tweet containing discount information, which is only valid once followers retweet it.
- @Act then retweets @Agency’s message to their followers, multiplying the number of people who see the discount tweet. If those followers then take an interest in the offer, they must retweet it to their followers to use it, multiplying the audience again.
- With the added #edfringe hashtag, thousands of @Followers in Edinburgh can suddenly be made aware that there is a special offer on @Act’s show, and it starts at The Caves at 23:30. Some @Followers may be at a loose end come 23:30, and some of them will come and see @Act, but they’ll have to retweet the original message to their @Followers first.

Further points:
Why get Fringe revellers to retweet (as represented by the big arrow)? Quite simply, it exposes the tweet to bigger numbers and allows @Agency direct access to @Act’s fans. This provides a perfect opportunity to follow up later on with future show offers.

@Agency works on behalf of @Act, and should be promoting @Act whenever necessary. Promotion is not the responsibility of @Act – their job is to work on the show.
In addition, @Agency should be making use of Twitter searches to make sure that any positive mention of @Act’s Fringe show is retweeted along with any relevant hashtag.

Wrapping up:
It’s hard to move six feet in Edinburgh without a flyer being thrust in your face urging you to see a show. What a successful Twitter account can achieve is the harnessing of information about acts and special offers, as well as any positive reviews, straight to the smartphones of revellers all over the city. It allows those visiting the Fringe to check out what’s on offer on their terms and in their own time, and is a great way to further market the increasing number of acts treading the board’s at the world’s biggest arts festival.

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  • Andrew V

    Only getting 2 for 1 and having to retweet the tweet are signs that I should immediately unfollow the account. With regards the retweeting, if I want to take up an offer like that I’ve got to message or call my friends anyway asking if they want to go. And more often than not I’m going to fringe shows solo as I’m local and work nightshift, so 2 for 1 is alienating and useless as a promotion.

    I’m worthless to my friends / followers if I am just a sockpuppet to advertisers. RT this and @Colacompany will donate 50p to an AIDS charity. It would make me look like an utter tool.

    Got here via #edfringe

    • Michael

      That’s a valid point, Andrew, as there’s definitely a fine line between decent offer and spammy advertising.

      Still, the strategy I outlined would be aimed mainly at tourists and visitors to the festival (not to alienate locals like yourself) as they normally don’t travel up alone, making a 2-for-1 offer more relevant for them.

      In saying that though, I do think that there should also be offers in place for people who go to shows solo. Perhaps that can be done in a more straightforward ‘Show this tweet on the door for 1/2 off’ way.

      Thanks for your feedback!

  • John Mc

    Reminds me of a chap I saw at The Fringe this year. He’s called Sanderson Jones, and the deal with his show is that you can only buy tickets from him. He’s playing London later this year and has been using Twitter to let people know where in London he is at times, so they can find him to buy tickets.

    I know it’s not directly related to this piece but it just goes to show that performers are using Twitter (and other social networks) in all sorts of interesting ways – and it doesn’t just have to be about promotion. It can be part of the performance itself, too.

    • Michael

      Sanderson is cool, and his idea is brilliant. I think those comics (and agencies) who can really get a handle on how to promote themselves using social media, especially at festival time, will reap big rewards.