(As some of you may have noticed, Sue’s away this week! Thus this post was written by her Communications Coordinator, Lisa, who is writing in the third person right now… Enjoy!)
Low ticket sales and small houses? Can’t get reviewers out to your show? The solution may be in Web 2.0. …
Web 2.0., as defined by O’Reilly Media in 2004, refers to the current movement in web development and design that aims to facilitate communications, information sharing and collaboration. Today’s online culture is all about the sharing of knowledge: testimonials and reviews make up a large part of this information sharing. Online users have come to trust and make use of these reviews when they shop:
What does this mean for ticket sales?
In a 2008 survey done by Kudzu.com, 86% of consumers said they read online business reviews before making purchasing decisions; 90% of whom say they trust these reviews.
Word of mouth is king in the buyer game, so it doesn’t really matter how many advertisements you take out in Now Magazine; the majority of consumers are looking to their peers for recommendations. As David Carlick says “Your brand isn’t your product, it’s what people say about your product”. Web 2.0 is helping to extend the reach of individual reviews and recommendations, making use of forums, reviewing sites and comment sections to gauge public opinion and help consumers make informed decisions.
We know word of mouth sells show tickets, so can we utilize Web 2.0’s penchant towards information sharing and user reviews in the theatre world? We are not, after all, trying to sell a flat screen TV or minivan; opinions on our products are far more subjective. Social Media is a good place to start: Twitter, Facebook & Google+ can be utilized to generate discussion about shows. Unfortunately, as those conversations, and the accounts that host them, are often controlled by the theatre companies themselves, they are not impartial and considered less reliable for users.
What about a dedicated site for unbiased, multi-user reviews? Most online newspapers and blogs, such as Now, The Grid & Blog T.O., have a comment section where show-goers can share their opinions, but these are underutilized and text heavy. Reviewing sites like Yelp, Amazon, FourSquare, and Epinions, provide rating systems and criteria for business and products which make for easy aggregation. While perhaps too simplistic or restricting for the arts, a rating system would make shared reviews easy to assess.
We need an accessible, unbiased, online space in which to provide theatre reviews. Individual reviewers are unable to take in all that a city of this size has to offer. A collection of multiple reviews would provide would-be-ticket-buyers a space in which to make informed decisions about the shows available to them. There is, of course, the chance that sites like these can be trolled or stacked by people hoping to destroy or hype shows, but the use of site-specific profiles or linked social networks could help avoid these problems.
After searching Google to see if I could find such a site, I came across Toronto Theatre‘s user review section. It allows users to review the shows they’ve seen using a five star system with space for commentary. Have you used this site before? Have you heard of other theatre-reviewing sites? Would you direct your audiences to them?
Or have you thought of other ways to utilize the ‘user review’ Web 2.0 phenomenon? How can we increase ‘word of mouth’ on the web? Let’s share what we know and get people talking!