For the latest edition of ‘A Few Minutes With…’ we decided to speak to the Director of Communications and Audience Services at Colchester’s Mercury Theatre, Robin Fenwick.
The Mercury Theatre is a theatre based in Colchester, Essex, that’s now become known throughout the UK for offering some very highly regarded productions. As well as producing a lot of their own work under the title of Made in Colchester, they’re also a theatre lucky enough to receive some of the most esteemed touring plays to hit the UK. With their current productions including ‘An Evening With Pam Ayres’, ‘Three Men In A Boat’ and the international smash hit comedy ‘Bouncers’, it would appear the theatre is one busy hub of theatrics.
Here’s what Robin had to say on his experiences with social media and the digital world in which the theatre has become so heavily involved in.
Could you describe your company’s activity on social networks?
We’ve put a lot of effort into growing our social media connections over the last year, including quite a significant spend on boosted and promoted posts in order to grow ahead of the organic ‘curve’. We use social media both as a customer service channel and to add value to the Mercury brand and customer experience. We share behind-the-scenes content, run competitions, respond to questions and reviews and also try and involve our audience in productions with things like prop requests or events and tours.
Are there elements of your company now that would not have been possible without social media?
Social media helps us to deliver on two major strategic priorities – to attract more first-time attenders and increase the proportions of customers who become repeat attenders. Increasing re-attendance is about building a relationship that goes beyond individual shows and growing a connection with the venue and the team here.
How has your relationship with your customers/clients changed with the dawn of social media?
As we’re increasingly less constrained by cost-heavy formats like brochures and newspaper advertising, we can actually share much more content that’s of interest. We’re also receiving more feedback than ever and have put in place new processes to ensure that we’re capturing feedback through all channels and acting on it. A single Facebook comment or a Tripadvisor review can be a ‘light bulb moment’ and have a significant impact on how we work.
Which social media campaigns or accounts have really caught your eye recently?
The LAD Bible – it has over 9m likes on Facebook and although I’m not one of them, their highly shareable (and frequently Not Safe For Work!) content regularly surfaces in my News Feed because of the high level of engagement my friends have with them. While this says a lot about my friends it’s also a testament to The LAD Bible’s understanding of what motivates their audience, and how compelling the power of surprising content can be.
What have you found to be the most positive and negative aspects of using social media for your company?
The answer to both is audience feedback – the nature of live performance is that most of the time, the shows are hits (a lot of effort goes into selecting shows which are right for us) but occasionally there are misses. That’s incredibly valuable because it helps us continually refine the programme in a way that’s helped us grow the audience here and dramatically increase the number of first timers. There’s no doubt however that when a show’s a ‘miss’ it’s challenging to receive the feedback.
What advice would you give to businesses looking to improve their social media activity?
Be bold. Be ambitious. Don’t be afraid to stand out. Link your activity to your organisation’s strategic goals wherever you can. Be open to change and be prepared to be lead by your audience; it’s a democratic space and all participants in it hold some of the ‘power’ together. Ultimately, be authentic and credible. Your audience will know if they are being marketed to or if you’re being fake. Finally, do twice as much listening as talking because you’ll be a better business for it.
For more information on the Mercury Theatre and their latest productions follow them on Twitter @mercurytheatre or call the box office on 01206 573948.