Ahh, ‘engagement.’ It’s a word you’ve likely heard numerous times as it relates to social media, marketing, and growing a strong following as you build brand recognition. If you’re not quite sure what exactly audience engagement is – or how to cultivate it – On The Stage can help get you started with the Pro Producers Mindset Guide. But before you download this helpful E-book, here are a few key points to know about audience engagement itself. 

What is Audience Engagement?

Whether you’re championing an eager high school theatre program or are working in the big Broadway leagues, all theatre-makers share a common goal: maximizing audience engagement. 

But what is audience engagement? In simple terms, an engaged audience is an audience that is enthusiastically enjoying your work. More than that, an engaged audience wants to support your work through a variety of avenues – other than just coming to see a show. 

Engagement comes in many forms. Some are easily measurable, while others are intangible – but you’ll know it when you see it. A few engagement examples include:

  • Consistent ticket sales 
  • Social media shares, follows, comments, and general enthusiasm 
  • Excited lobby talk after a show
  • A positive response at the end of a show (Standing O, anyone?) 
  • The purchase and utilization of branded merchandise 
  • A solid return rate of patrons, show after show, and season after season 
  • Local media coverage and organic buzz around your community  

Perhaps you can look at the list above and check off a few of these goals; maybe you can only check off one – either way, there’s always room for improvement. So if you’re looking to grow that audience engagement, you’ve now got a solid idea of what to aim for as you move forward. 

Understanding Your Audience

The first way to increase your audience engagement? Understand said audience! This will require some effort that relies on more than just assumptions about who’s visiting your shows. That’s right – it’s time to look at some hard data!  

The best way to get a grip on that hard data is by involving leadership and key stakeholders in your analysis. These can include any company members that may lend valuable insight into your research – like social media managers, artistic directors, box office managers or any marketing professionals on your payroll. (But yes, you can do this solo if you’re a one-person operation!) 

Once you’ve gathered your team, it’s time to collect data on your audience subsets. Data collection can be as precise as looking at insights on your social media platforms, or as enjoyable as talking to loyal patrons about their experiences at your shows. When it comes down to it, doing your research is all about developing a cast of composite characters who make up your unique community. This is often called creating buyer personas.

Each persona should include the following: 

  • Name – After naming them, think about how this subset fits into your community
  • Demographics – Determine this persona’s age range, level of education, income bracket, occupation, etc. 
  • Motivations – Explore why this persona attends the theatre
  • Challenges – Think about what factors might stand in the way of this persona buying a ticket or stepping up their level of support to become a subscriber
  • Personality – Decide which types of theatre this persona likes. Are they willing to take risks with material or new technologies? 

So, remember: the goal here is to create fully fleshed-out characters, so that you can connect and meaningfully engage with the real people they represent. That way, you’re gaining useful insights into your real-life patrons – which will in turn help you grow relationships, add new channels to your marketing  strategy and increase guest attendance. 

Questions to Ask

As you’re creating your personas, there are a few questions to ask yourself about them as you go. The more questions you ask yourself the better, as it means your personas are further developed and easier to market towards. These can include the following: 

  • What does this subset want to experience as part of a theatrical community? 
  • What types of theatre does this persona like? 
  • Is theatre a major part of this persona’s identity, or just a form of entertainment they occasionally enjoy? 
  • How social is this persona, in general and in terms of their engagement with theatre? 
  • How willing is this persona to take risks with material they aren’t familiar with or technologies they haven’t used before? 

How Can You Measure It?

Since engagement is sometimes intangible and always ever-changing, it can be difficult to measure accurately. However, there are a few ways to gauge how engaged your audience is. These include: 

  • Checking your insights on social media: Most social media platforms have data collection for business pages, meaning you’ve got a goldmine of information about your audience at your fingertips. These insights can show you how many people are looking at your page; where your followers are from; their ages and locations; and which posts are the most popular with your audience.
  • Hosting promotional contests or giveaways: By hosting giveaways, contents, or other events, you can see in real-time how many people are interested in what you have to offer. You can also see the type of patron you’re attracting. 
  • Fostering community partnerships: These events can be co-sponsored with local organizations, whose work addresses themes related to the show. Again, you can tangibly see just how many people are engaged with the work you’re doing when you host in-person events. 
  • Analyzing your website traffic: Take a look at your website data and see which pages and content are getting the most views. How long are people staying on pages? Are they clicking on embedded links in your content? 
  • Compare ticket sales/RSVPs to attendance: Are people who confirmed their attendance to a show actually showing up? How about people who bought tickets? While a few no-shows are to be expected, it’s something to think about if people are committing to attend but not actually coming to the show.
  • Use QR codes: Utilizing QR codes around town or at the ticket booth with show or merchandise information is a great way to grow your email list contacts and see just how many people are interacting with your content around the community. 
  • Get audience feedback: A great way to grow audience engagement is by, well, asking said audience about their favorite and least favorite performances, the type of content they’re enjoying, or advice on other questions you might have as you plan your season. 

How Can You Nurture It? 

Like anything good, audience engagement needs to be nurtured if you want it to thrive. Remember, fostering the Pro Producer’s Mindset is all about 1) giving your audience opportunities to opt in and help spread the word about your show, then 2) rewarding them with an authentic community experience once they’ve committed. Here are a few ways to keep the engagement alive: 

Utilize Mailings: Your email contacts are a great tool – don’t be afraid to use them! Luckily, On The Stage offers an all-inclusive sales and marketing platform to make use of that database in a sophisticated, efficient way. 

Utilizing the Pro Producer’s Mindset perspective, it isn’t enough to blast your message out to past patrons via email and hope it inspires them to take action or visit your show. Instead, send email marketing at different points in your show’s progression, from the announcement of your work to ticket sale notifications, previews, opening night messages, and post-show follow-ups. 

Remember, each of these emails should feature your show’s key art and link directly to your show site. (And yes, On The Stage can help with the automation of these messages, and the formation of your website, too!)

Utilize Social Media Marketing: If an email database is tool No. 1, then social media is tool No. 2. The very purpose of social media, from a business perspective, is to allow content to reach new and potentially well-matched audiences to your work.

Remember: there is no perfect formula for cultivating, understanding, and nurturing audience engagement. After all – the Pro Producer’s Mindset is all about creating unique and compelling opportunities that are holistically related to the show itself. If you want to learn more about utilizing the Pro Producer’s Mindset, download the guide now, and book a demo with the experts at On The Stage today.