The Art of the Business

A blog dedicated to artists who are serious about their business.

Mobile Tagging: Posters? September 29, 2010

In March, I got this cool package in the mail. It was called Stickybits, and here’s what was in it:

Stickybits are like little post-it notes that have barcodes on them. You scan the barcode and “attach” it to something: a website, a file, a video. Then, out in the world, someone sees your Stickybit, is intrigued, downloads the reader to their smart phone, scans your barcode, and is taken to whatever you attached to it.

My inner nerd was pretty excited about this, but the wind got let out of my sails, because the app was only available for Android and IPhone, and I have a BlackBerry.

Flash forward…

Recently, I was reading WIRED Magazine (yes, I’m a nerd), and came across this advertisement:

Interesting, right? These things are popping up more and more, so I did some more research. Microsoft has their own Tagging Software.

So, I got to thinking: you all know how I feel about posters. In a nutshell, I think they are a marketing tool that has a very low ROI, and the main reason is because there is nothing about a poster that you can take away. Will you remember the URL? Probably not. You might take a photo of it with your camera phone, or have your poster linked to a phone number you can text for more information.

What if we could attach or print a bar code on posters? People could download the software, scan the code, and be taken instantly to a website where they can find out more about the play, watch a trailer, and, most importantly, buy tickets.

It’s a great idea in theory, but this technology has a long way to go:

  • You have to have a smartphone to access the applications (although more and more people are getting them)
  • The technology only works on some smartphones (see my example above), while others are still in development, because it’s so new.
  • Does the technology actually work? I downloaded the reader app for the Microsoft tag and scanned it a dozen times, and it kept coming up with an error message. It never took me to wherever it was meant to. Meaning: it was a fail.
  • There is no across-the-board reader: for each of these tagging systems, you would have to download a separate reader app.

I really love this idea from a marketing perspective, but it feels to me like it still needs a lot of work before it works in the real world.

Has anyone used one of these tagging systems? I’d love to hear of your successes or failures. Or if anyone is planning on putting such a system into place, I’d also love to hear about that.

Linkage:

http://www.beqrious.com/

http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/the_scannable_world_mobile_phones_as_barcode_scanners.php

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Arts Organization Website Essentials: The Main Three Questions September 27, 2010

Filed under: Arts Marketing,Business of Arts,Guest post,Marketing with websites — Rebecca Coleman @ 6:38 am
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A guest post by Brian Seitel.

Recently Rebecca Coleman posted on her blog a link to an article describing the most essential elements of a website for an artist.  Individual artists often have different goals than arts organizations, and as a theatre artist that moonlights as a web developer, I thought I would offer my insights as to what makes a good arts organization website.  It really boils down to three questions that each visitor will have and absolutely must be answered as soon as possible.  I call these the Main Three Questions (how original, right?).

Studies have shown that visitors allow any given website about 5 seconds before they make up their minds about whether they want to stay or not.  That means you have 5 seconds to grab their attention and keep them on the site to hopefully at some point make what’s called a “conversion” — selling a ticket or reservation.  The easiest way to grab a user’s attention is to provide relevant content immediately.  The less clicking they have to do, the better!

They’re rather simple, and when you read them, you’ll probably think to yourself “Of course. Why is he stating the obvious?”  The truth of the matter is that a great many arts organizations focus too much on the blog and getting donations, and not enough on the Main Three Questions.  What are these questions?  I’m glad you asked.  They are:

  1. What piece of art is being produced?
  2. When (and if not an organization with a permanent venue, where) is the production?
  3. How do I get tickets or make reservations?

The absolute number one reason a visitor comes to your website is to see what is currently going on with your organization.  Once they’ve figured out what the event is, they want to know the event location and dates.  If they don’t know when and where it is, then they can’t schedule time to see the show, right?  And finally, once they’ve checked their schedule and realized that they are indeed free that weekend, they’ll want to know where to buy tickets or make reservations.

Here is an example of what I’m talking about:

The Goodman Theatre (Chicago, IL, USA) – http://www.goodmantheatre.org/

As you can see, the biggest, most prominent element on the page is a guy’s face next to the name of the play Candide.  Underneath are the dates and times.  Below and to the left you can see a smaller section dedicated to upcoming plays, and each play has a “Buy Tickets” link. See? Easy peasy.

Some more examples:

The Philadelphia Orchestra (Philadelphia, PA, USA)- http://www.philorch.org/
The Lincoln Center (NYC, New York, USA) – http://new.lincolncenter.org/live/
Vancouver Art Gallery (Vancouver, Canada) – http://www.vanartgallery.bc.ca/
The Fox Theatre (Atlanta, GA) – http://www.foxtheatre.org/

The blog, donate buttons, photo galleries and other things that you put on your site are completely and totally irrelevant until the audience has decided that they want to learn more about your organization.  After all, if I don’t know what you’re producing or if I’m not interested in any of your upcoming events, why would I want to read your bio or blog?

Keep it simple:  what, when, and how?  Your audience will thank you, and your organization will benefit.

Read a longer, more detailed version of this post here.

Brian Seitel: Born nude, helpless and unable to care for himself, Brian overcame these handicaps and became a juggler for a passing circus. After saving a poodle from a burning building by jumping from the fourth floor, Brian gave up the traveling lifestyle and turned to more daredevil routines by spending all his time talking about social media, web development, and the arts. You can follow him on Twitter as @briandseitel.

 

Creating Young Ambassadors September 24, 2010

The topic of creating an audience for the future is one of keen interest to me. And is to a lot of folks who know that they will eventually rely upon the youth of today to fill our theatres tomorrow.

I came across this great article from The Miami Herald that talks about a new teen ambassador program that allows teens to attend one performance per month for free, in exchange for the teens writing reviews of the show and sharing them through their social networks.

It’s brilliant on many levels. I’ll be very interested to read the follow-up story.

Read the entire story here.

 

Can SMS Save Our Souls? September 22, 2010

Filed under: Arts Marketing,Australia,Business of Arts,Marketing Ideas — Rebecca Coleman @ 7:59 am

While in Australia, I had a few conversations with folks there about how they are using SMS messaging to get bums in seats.

One gal I met at one of my workshops said “If I get a text message from a friend to come and see their show, I will probably go.”

Here are some quick statistics about our use of text messaging:

  • In September 2009, Canadians sent approximately 100 million text messages per day.
  • In total, Canadians sent 3 billion text messages in September 2009.
  • For the first nine months of the year, a total of 24.7 billion text messages were sent (from January 2009 to September 2009).
    This is up significantly from the previous year, when a total of 20.8 billion text messages were sent in 2008.
  • Text message volumes have been doubling every year since text messaging was introduced in 2002.

Statistics provided by the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (from January 2010)

And one more thing: while most people I know text, we all know that it skews to the younger demographic.

We don’t use SMS campaigns to market our work here in Canada, but maybe we should start. I had a conversation with John Paul one day while we were on a plane about how they have used SMS to market shows. I’ve summed it up here.

1. You first need to sign up with an SMS gateway provider. I’ll include some links to some at the end. This gets you a phone number that people can respond back to, but you don’t get any messages on your phone. All of the work you do goes through a website interface where you can write and schedule your messages, collect data, and respond back to people’s texts.

2. You need to collect data and mobile numbers. There are a couple of options for this. First, you can ask the people involved in your show if they would mind giving up the contents of their mobile’s phone book. Second, you can create a data input page (for example, if you already have an e-newsletter sign-up, mobile number can be one of the input fields) that is connected to your website or blog. Third, put the word out using social networking that you are collecting mobile numbers for an SMS campaign (it may help to tease with discount or value-added offers), and link to your data input page. Finally, you can put the number on any hard-copy propaganda you have out there: posters, postcards, etc.

A screenshot from TextMagic

3. Build your campaign. If you are using someone else’s phone numbers (and here is where it gets a bit dodgy), you need to segment your list to just that person’s contacts, and send those contacts a text that references the person you got their number from. For example:

Liz Sidle wants you to know about her new show, Dreamweaver, October 28-31, at Performance Works!

You also have to give them an out. So, you need to say something like

To stop recieving messages like this, reply with "STOP"

The tricky bit is that you only have 160 characters to work with.

You should not overwhelm the person with messages. And with SMS, the effect is more immediate than with email. So, for example, you could do a “day-of special” where you could send a text message saying that you are offering them a special discount that is only good for tonight or tomorrow night. They simply reply with the amount of tickets they want. You can phone them, or request their email address to close the sale.

While in Australia, I met a really cool guy named Craig Lambie, who is working on a SMS program specifically for the arts. I can’t tell you too much about it because it is currently in progress, but I’ve been invited to beta test (nerdgasm!), and will certainly let you know when it’s launched.

Has anyone out there had success using SMS campaigns? I’d love to hear from you.

References:

How to Set Up an SMS Campaign

www.textmagic.com

www.clickatell.com

 

Getting the Kids In September 20, 2010

Here’s what we know: children who are exposed to the arts from an early age, will, statistically speaking, probably grow up to be life-long consumers of art.

So, if you take your kids to see The Nutcracker every year at Christmas, chances are, when they grow up, they will continue to go to The Nutcracker every year at Christmas, and take their own families as well.

We are blessed in this city with companies like Carousel, and the VAG has family programs, as well.

For my birthday last month, I wanted to see the Impressionist exhibit at the VAG. I am a lifelong impressionist lover, Degas being my favorite artist. I went with my sweetie and my seven-year-old son. It wasn’t his first trip to the VAG, and he was pretty well behaved for a seven-year-old, but a couple of weeks later, when I visited the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, I discovered Kids’ Activity Trails.

I was there to see the main exhibit: European Masters: Stadel Museum 19-20th Century. It was an amazing collection, and I got to see lots of Impressionists and whole room (Sally Stubbs!) of Beckmann.

As I was wondering through, I noticed small plates, similar to the plates that contained the name and description that accompanied each painting. These plates were hung lower, at a kid’s eye-level, and featured a large letter and a couple of questions. The Trail worked two ways: first of all, as a kind of a treasure-hunt for kids: they had to go through the gallery and find all 26 letters of the alphabet. Second, each plate had a word on it (corresponding to its letter of the alphabet) that asked a question related to the painting to which it referred. (sorry I don’t have photos, they weren’t permitted in the gallery)

I couldn’t help but think how much Michael would have loved it. It was engaging and fun for kids.

In order for us to get kids hooked on art, it has to be affordable, and there has to be something there that engages them.

Have you seen any great examples of engaging children in art recently that you’d like to share?

UPDATE: I just saw this great Editorial in The Star written by Des McAnuff, the AD of the Stratford Festival (the Canadian one), and it’s perfect for today’s blog post.

 

A Website Checklist September 17, 2010

Filed under: Arts Marketing,Business of Arts,Marketing with websites — Rebecca Coleman @ 5:53 am
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You know you need a website, right? But not just any website. You need something that is designed with usability in mind (meaning, people who aren’t super technically adept can find their way around with a minimum of effort), is graphically pleasing to the eye, and has the right information (and not too much of it) on there.

Though an art website is the beginning of the selling process, a poorly designed and ineffective website can stop a prospect from investigating that artist’s work further.  A professional artist website should have the following 10 basics for a visitor to evaluate whether they want additional information about the artist, their art work and experience.

This great article on Artsy Shark has a checklist of 10 items that should be on your website.

Click to read the rest of the article.

Hat-tip to Lili Vieria De Carvalho.

 

Are Facebook Invites Dead? September 15, 2010

Okay, so I consider myself to be a social media enthusiast. I love it, I love talking about it, and learning new things.

So it hurts me to say this, but I am afraid that the Facebook invitation may be dead.

Here’s the thing: I get tons and tons of invitations. I have over 700 friends, and I like 250+ pages. All of that adds up to many, many events that I get “invited” to. And I’m really terrible at going through them and responding. It’s just a time thing–it’s a pretty low priority in my world, especially seeing as my theatre viewing is mostly limited to shows I am doing publicity for.

There’s one more thing: I have had producers in the past have hundreds of people RSVP “yes” to their Facebook invites and then be dismayed when less than half of them actually showed up at the box office.

Facebook invites, it goes without saying, are a bit lame. Because it’s easy to check the yes box when you don’t have to fork over any cash.

In my experience, only about 40% of the yesses on your RSVP list will actually translate into sales.

Applications to sell tickets directly through Facebook are currently happening, although these are not yet accessible to the little folks (read: us) just yet.

What do you think? Is the FB invite dead?