I’m Tweets Vs. Tickets — A POV on Forbes’ article about Broadway’s Twitter Stats

“One big takeaway? Tweets don’t generate sales (gasp!)”

This weekend Lee Seymour wrote a thoughtful article in regards to the recently released Twitter stats on Broadway shows — he asked at the end of the article if there are any key takeaways that he missed. As the VP of Content & Community at theatrical advertising agency SERINO/COYNE (and Twitter #lover and #maven), I want to dive a little deeper and shed light on the bigger picture that Seymour wasn’t able to. In a lot of ways, it’s like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. While I love that Twitter published these stats, more likely than not, it was based on volume of mentions and not quality of mentions, engagement or influence.

Allow me to explain my point of view in these 10 takeaways:

1. Social media’s job is to earn interest and impressions, and educate. Its job is to catalyze word-of-mouth, and in our world that means quality, not quantity. Our next conversation, really, should be what is happening on Facebook, Instagram and the newest darling, Snapchat. The fact remains there is no direct correlation between Twitter to ticket sales. Saying tweets don’t generate ticket sales is a sweeping generalization because the role of Twitter (and social media in general) is not a direct response one, it’s about advocacy and word-of-mouth.

2. Twitter is not the primary social channel for the Broadway demographic, it’s Facebook. Facebook drives substantially more traffic to most show websites (scale of 1.5 billion users and demographically more on-target).

3. Celebrities are great investments, but if they aren’t on social, it’s a non-starter. In the article, Seymour states, “The Elephant Man, The River, Constellations, Skylight, An Act Of God all recouped their costs (and China Doll is on its way), but none of them made it into the top 15 for tweets. This is where Twitter and box office numbers are most at odds.” During An Act of God’s Broadway run (a show I was very proud to work on and the first Broadway show based on a Twitter account), Twitter was the highest referral to the show’s website. Averaging web visits that were comparable to big musicals, a bulk of that came from social media with Twitter leading the pack. We have hard data that shows that 66 percent of the website traffic from social was from Twitter, generating a significant number of sales. Also, the show’s celebrity actor Jim Parsons is only on Instagram, and there is no way to link out in an Instagram post.

4. Not true that nonprofits are non-tweetable. Roundabout, Lincoln Center Theater and MTC cover the bulk of the non-profit theatre on Broadway and for the most part they tweet their whole season from their institutional accounts. Also, many of the nonprofits use hashtags to differentiate the shows and that doesn’t seem to be accounted for in his article.

5. Customer service actually sells tickets. Customer service can prove that Twitter does sell tickets. One literal example is a ticket sale through engagement. Many of us theatre marketers will jump to Twitter to search for people who are generally talking about Broadway. People often look to the networking site for recommendations from their friends. Sometimes the shows can even jump in to sway the opinion. One key to mastering sales through social is to have a killer community management team who can react quickly to this. See this example of the Misery social team responding to a users tweet about what show to see the next day:

6. Hashtag conversations may not be accounted for. Often people will not tag the show’s handle or even use the correct dedicated hashtag. Many just put in the #NameOfShow. It’s not clear if that data has gone into the Twitter report we’ve been referring to.

7. Theatre source information is more influential than ever before. Theatre websites (Broadway.com, BroadwayWorld, Playbill, Theatermania, NYTimes) function as theatre news sources and use Twitter to drive traffic to their own websites where visitors can learn about a show and opt to buy tickets. These Twitter accounts contribute greatly to the exposure and sales of shows (and why theatre takeovers have been very popular). Broadway.com, for example, handles show tickets exclusively through its site, focusing their social to drive traffic to sell tickets.

8. People are more popular than shows, but it depends on how long they’ve been running. Of course Lin-Manuel Miranda’s account has been larger than Hamilton’s number of Twitter followers — he’s been on it since the very beginning and very publicly uses his following to generate excitement around the show. Overall, it’s about how long you’ve been active on Twitter, your engagement and a personal touch that makes your handle unique.

9. Word-of-mouth sells tickets. According to the Broadway League’s June 2013–14 report which surveyed 9,431 people, the top three reported sources for obtaining information were Broadway.com, personal recommendations and Ticketmaster. Over 4 percent of those surveyed said they’d heard about a show exclusively on Twitter. You see, Twitter might not be getting the credit it deserves… I’m curious to see what the Broadway League’s 2014–2015 survey will say when it’s released in February. Stay tuned.

10. Many tweets don’t link to a website or a point of purchase. Twitter doesn’t get credit for sales that may have been sparked on its platform. Since the platform is all about short-form content and engaging with users, not every tweet is linked back to the show’s website or point of purchase. There isn’t an easy vehicle to buy tickets on Twitter and therefore the platform doesn’t get credit for the sales. If a potential buyer comes to a show’s website from Twitter and then decides not to move forward, they can always call the box office or just Google the site.

Both my and Seymour’s points tee up a question we should all consider: What solution can we create to increase audience numbers, engagement and sales using Twitter and other social media platforms as a part of the media mix?

Where is Twitter moving? How are we going to make the platform a bigger part of the sales game for entertainment? As we dig deeper into social engagement and focus on driving people to a show’s website, or even its ticketing site, it’s all about the quality of content we are creating to do so.

What do you think? Tweet me @jimglaub and let me know your thoughts.