Social media can be understood as web-based communication platforms that allow users to interact, share, and receive information. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, Snapchat, Reddit, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Flickr, Spotify, and even Tinder can all be considered social media platforms.
These platforms are social, so it's helpful to design your content with engagement in mind. Rather than thinking of social media as a place to simply broadcast information, how can you invite members of your online community to like, comment, share, and interact with you and others around your online presence? Can you ask questions? Encourage discussion? Incentivize engagement? All of these are important to keep in mind while creating and planning your social media content.
Before you dive into creating and posting content on your social media platforms, you need to know who you are trying to reach. Who is your target audience? How old are they? Where do they live? What do they like? What are their priorities? And where do they hang out online?
Be as specific as possible. This may mean a smaller target audience, but it will be a more engaged one.
Once you know who you are trying to reach, think about what they are looking for. Social media is widely considered a place where we craft stories about ourselves. How do you fit into that? If someone from your target audience shared some of your content or went to see your show, how would that help them craft their story? How does your company or production add value to their lives? How does it affirm their values? This may seem like a lot of thought to put into just to get someone to click on your ticket link, but as Seth Godin writes in his book Tribes, “Marketing is no longer about the stuff you make, but the stories you tell.”
Think about how these considerations affect the way you talk about your company or show. What kind of language are you using? Is it formal, playful, aggressive, silly? How do other people talk about you and your work? How can all of this bridge the gap between your show, company, or event and your online audience?
Be creative — you are, after all, an artist producer! Apply the same creativity to your online content that you would bring to your artistic work. You can start by looking at companies you like or connect and observing what they do with their social media. What works? What doesn't? A couple of ideas to get your wheels turning:
- Host a caption (or meme) contest for free tickets to your show
- Have a member of your team take over your social media account for a day
- Shout out other organizations. Wish other shows happy opening or publicly thank the coffee shop you’ve been meeting at (and don’t forget to tag them)!
- Create a GIF of a funny thing that happened in rehearsal
In this four-part video series on YouTube, Generator staff Keshia and Annie walk you through Producing Social Media. Watch the introduction video below:
There are new social media platforms coming out all the time. YouTube or Vimeo are video-centric, Pinterest is great for highly visual, product-centric content, Snapchat appeals to a younger crowd, and LinkedIn serves the professionals. The best bet is to think critically about who you’re trying to reach and how, and determine which platform(s) you’d like to use based on that. Below are a few of the most popular social networking sites and the best ways to use them.
PRO TIP: Be realistic with your goals. How many platforms can you realistically manage while producing your show? It’s better to post consistently on one platform than inconsistently on many.
USERNAMES: There are different implications for changing usernames on each platform. In general, try to create your accounts under a more permanent name (usually the company or collective) than the show name. This will help you retain followers as you move from project to project, rather than having to start up new show-specific accounts every time. It's also a good idea to try to be consistent with your usernames across platforms where possible.
HIGHLIGHTED CONTENT: Facebook and Twitter both allow you to "pin" posts to the top of your page. This can be a great way to provide the basic information about your upcoming project (like show dates, times, pricing) in an easy-to-refer-back-to place. On Instagram, you can create story highlights to point your audience to specific content when they visit your bio.
Twitter is a platform for broadcasting “tweets”, short messages up to 280 characters long. Tweets can contain images, video, hyperlinks or text but must stay within the character limit. This challenges you to keep your content clear and concise. Twitter can be accessed through the Twitter app or from your laptop/desktop.
|Best For||What's Free?||What Costs?||What Works?||What Doesn't Work?|
|telling your followers and the public what is happening in the moment||Creating an account and posting with Twitter is all free||You can pay to increase the visibility of your tweets to a targeted audience||Hashtags are searchable on Twitter, so you can increase the public visibility of your tweet by using the keywords or hashtags that your target audience is searching for||Some people say that your tweet loses its value about 20 minutes after its last "interaction"|
The "Punch Line" – impactful and concise copy
|You can set your budget, choose how long your campaign will run for, select which tweet(s) you want to campaign with and determine your targeted audience by specifying their age, gender, location, and interests||tag other companies using their handles (Example: @username, @GeneratorTO) in your tweet|
|Retweet others’ tweets if you think your followers will find them interesting, or try adding a comment to start a conversation|
|Posting at peak hours - 9am and 3pm Monday through Thursday (this may change depening on your target audience)|
A general-interest social media platform that allows users to connect in a variety of ways - from posting text updates, pictures, and links to joining common-interest groups, to live streaming video, or messaging in real-time. A Facebook Page (rather than a personal public profile) can be a great way to represent your show or company. Note that Facebook Pages needed to be administered by (and therefore attached to) personal profiles.
|Best For||What's Free?||What Costs?||What Works?||What Doesn't Work?|
|Engaging with your already-established audience||It’s free to create a Page and post on Facebook||Facebook allows you to pay to increase the visibility and engagement of your posts||Posts with images and video tend to have high engagement (for videos, posts perform best if they're uploaded directly to Facebook, rather than hosted on YouTube or Vimeo)||Facebook is not a great place to find new followers|
|Text, photo, video, and links are all fair game and there is no limit to the length of any post||You can post, comment, and like content as your Business Page and even stream video in real-time using Facebook Live||There’s a range of complexities to Facebook advertising, from ‘Boosting’ posts to creating ‘Campaigns'||Best times to post to Facebook are during the week (between 9am and 7pm)|
|Engaging special interest ‘Groups’ (Example: |
Toronto Theatre Zone)
|You have the capability to choose your objective, budget, timeline and target audience||Connect with others by tagging individuals or other Pages in your pictures or text comments|
|Creating an ‘Event’||Enabling posting by others on your events is a great place for audiences to share reviews or testimonials|
|Analytics - Facebook provides data on how many people engaged with or without the help of your ad dollars|
.PRO TIPS: Posts with an image do better than those without - if you're trying to upload a link that isn't automatically generating a preview image, try using the Facebook Sharing Debugger. And if you're having issues tagging another Facebook page in your post, use the page URL to help you: e.g. if you're trying to tag Generator, and the Generator page URL is facebook.com/GeneratorTO, tag @GeneratorTO. To schedule posts in advance for your Business page, you'll get the best functionality through business.facebook.com (Posts and Stories section).
A platform for sharing photos and videos. While your Instagram feed can be viewed from your computer, you can only post using the Instagram app on a mobile device. You can include a caption with your photos and videos, and unlike Twitter, the limit is lengthy: 2,200 characters.
|Best For||What's Free?||What Costs?||What Works?||What Doesn't Work?|
|Connecting with creatives and artists due to its visual nature||It is free to create an account and post on Instagram||Promoting posts||Colourful, high-quality photos get the most engagement||It can be tricky to gain traffic to an external website or ticket sales hub on Instagram because links in post captions aren’t clickable|
|Hashtags - with a 2,200 character limit, you can include a lot of hashtags to help make your content more searchable||You can take pictures from within the app or upload from your phone’s photo library||Story Ads, Sponsored Ads in Instagram Feed (photo, video, and carousel ads to name a few)||Instagram generally sees the most action outside of work hours (before 9am and after 5pm), when people are enjoying their leisure time||Videos over one minute cannot be uploaded to Instagram feed or stories (but can be uploaded via IGTV)|
|Uploading a large volume of short term content - Instagram Stories are a feature that allows you to add multiple photos and 15-second videos to appear in a slideshow-like format that will disappear after 24 hours||Include a clickable link on your profile page, and direct your followers to “follow link in bio” when you post|
Featuring content on your profile using Highlights (highlighted stories)
|Hashtags are searchable, so including these can help you reach an audience beyond your existing followers|
|Share short videos, multi-clip videos with audio, effects, and new creative tools on your feed and the "Explore" page using Reels||Hashtags, tagging, and using effects. When you share reels featuring certain songs, hashtags, or effects, your reel may also appear on dedicated pages when someone clicks on that song, hashtag, or effect.|
|Long-form, vertical videos via IGTV - a platform for vertical videos up to one hour long that links to your Instagram account||Put hashtags down to the bottom of a caption to avoid the text clutter that may distract from your photo (one way to do this is by using "." to separate lines)|
|Going live via Instagram Live||Tagging others in your photos or in your captions or comments|
A platform for sharing videos. Your channel acts as a gallery and archive for all of your video content. You can also use Ppaylists to curate content (including videos uploaded by other YouTube users).
|Best For||What's Free?||What Costs?||What Works?|
|Trailers, artist interviews, spotlights, and fundraising campaign videos - this is a great place to host a video you link to in a newsletter as anyone can access it without needing an account||It is free to create an account and post on YouTube||Colourful, high-quality videos under 2 minutes get the most engagement|
|Vlogs in ASL||Use the recommended video pop-ups at the end of your videos to promote other content, and direct your followers to “subscribe” when you post|
|Closed Captions - adding and editing CC is relatively straightforward||Concise, engaging content. Creating a script or storyboard can help you get the most of your screen time|
|Longer videos. By default, you can upload videos that are up to 15 minutes long. Verified accounts can upload videos longer than 15 minutes.||Hashtags and locations are searchable, so including these can help you reach an audience beyond your existing followers|
|Playlists that feature your own content alongside videos by other artists|
The best way to reach Deaf audiences is by creating a ASL vlog promoting your show. This is a way for Deaf audiences to learn and get excited about a performance in their own language. Deaf Spectrum provides this service, but be sure to contact them early, as these things take time! Vlogs can be hosted on Facebook, Instagram or YouTube.
Although it can seem like a lot of social media is happening in real time, planning your social media content is not only possible but important to maintaining consistency (and managing your time). Here are a few social media tools that we find extremely useful:
Hootsuite allows you to manage your presence from all major social networks like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and YouTube from one dashboard. Hootsuite is free for one user with up to two social profiles. You can schedule up to 5 posts under the free plan, and save unlimited drafts beyond that. Hootsuite also offers 50% off on all of their plans for nonprofits if you need something a little more robust. Hootsuite allows you to pre-program alt-text on your posts for Twitter. At the moment it does not offer that feature for Instagram or Facebook - which means you have to go back and add the alt-text in those specific apps, after the post has been published.
Canva is a user-friendly tool for creating graphics and designs for pretty much anything. You can access a huge library of customizable templates to start, and from there, you can drag and drop icons, images and graphics to create your own web and print media design and graphics. There is a free version of Canva, and Canva Pro is $149.99/year (calculated at $12.49/month). Check out their rates and features here. Canva offers its premium version for free to registered nonprofits.
If your visual brand is really important, UNUM and Later are great tools to help you plan and lay out your Instagram posts for maximum visual impact and cohesion. UNUM and Later both function as all-in-one apps that can also be used via web browser, with free plans are well as paid options.
Linktree is a tool that allows you to direct users to multiple destinations through your bio link on Instagram. You simply paste in new URLs to the platform as needed, then drag and drop the links to reorder them. It's a great way to have links to fundraising campaigns, calls for submissions and articles without replacing your company website in the bio.
Facebook and Twitter both have capacities to schedule your posts. Unfortunately, you can not schedule Instagram posts within the apps, but this is possible with some online tools (like Hootsuite, Later, and Agora) that can help you manage your content across platforms, occasionally for a small fee. Scheduling reminders to post in your phone can be helpful, and when all else fails, a simple spreadsheet for yourself with dates and content will help you stay on track.
Hootsuite put together a great list of 9 Social Media Templates to Save You Hours of Work on their blog. There’s one for every stage of your social marketing journey—from planning and creating content, to publishing posts and measuring results.
Should you invest in boosted posts and social media ads? There is no definitive answer as to whether or not your social media advertising dollars equate to more people at your show. But they can help your content be seen by more eyes and can sometimes be more cost-effective than printing postcards and posters - especially since you can be really specific about who you're targeting. If you’re hesitant about advertising, try investing a few dollars to boost a post. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter will all provide you data about how many people saw that ad, what percentage of people saw it because you paid, and how many people clicked through.
Tracking your analytics/insights are a helpful way to see what kind of reach your posts are having. They can help you identify trends to better engage with your audience over time, and they can also be useful when talking to funders about your influence and your connection to your audience. For example, you may use social media reach numbers as a way to illustrate brand visibility benefits to a potential sponsor.
If you are set up as a business account on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube, you can access your insights very easily.
|View options||last 7 days or last 28 days||last 7 days or last 30 days||customizable: set a date range of your choice||customizable: set a date range of your choice|
|Metrics||actions on page, new page likes, page recommendations, new followers, page views, post reach, post engagement, page previews, story reach, video views||accounts reached, impressions, profile visits, website taps, top posts, top stories, likes, comments, saves, shares||engagement rate, link clicks, retweets, likes, replies, top tweets, impressions||impressions, impressions click-through rate, views, unique viewers, watch time, average view duration, average views per viewer, new subscribers, top videos |
*very robust analytics as they are captured through Google Analytics
|How to access||'Insights' via your business page||'Insights' via your business page||'Analytics' via the 'More Options' menu on your business page||'Analytics' via the 'YouTube Studio' menu on your channel|
Note: this table is accurate as of January 15, 2021. These platforms change what they measure, and how to access the measurements, quite often.
Facebook and Instagram automatically show you the percentage change in each metric compared to the previous period. However, they make it difficult to directly access data that's more than a month old, so you might find it useful to set a monthly reminder to capture it so you can track your insights over time. It's also useful to keep a note of your total followers over time as those totals are not captured in the analytics offered by the platforms above.
We recommend tracking your social media analytics alongside your Website Analytics, as they often interact with one another and together tell a clearer story about how you're reaching people over time.
A sample snapshot of monthly Twitter analytics.
Short answer: No. Different platforms require different types of content. Linking your accounts means simultaneously posting the same content across multiple platforms. Hootsuite makes this easy to do, and if your Facebook and Instagram business accounts are affiliated with each other, Facebook will probably encourage you to "cross-post" content. However, cross-posting the exact same content doesn't allow for the nuances of different platforms and different audiences you may be reaching. Audiences who follow you across platforms may become disengaged if they see the exact same thing multiple times, in multiple places. To avoid distilling the value of your content, post content that is specific to that platform!
Capitalizing each word in a hashtag ensures screen-readers can parse the words correctly for sight-impaired users - #AccessibilityForTheWin!
Some popular hashtags we often see: #TheaTO #CdnCult #TorontoEvents
Creating a show-specific hashtag? Think about the future life of the show and where it's playing - if it's at a festival, maybe you can include that: e.g. #ShowNSTF (Next Stage Theatre Festival) or #ShowSW (SummerWorks). Otherwise, in Toronto adding "TO" to the end of a show name or a shortened version of the name is a frequent hashtag strategy: e.g. #ShowTO.
Click to download:
Analytics Tracking Template* (preview below)
- If the automatic download does not work, try right-clicking the link and opening it in a new tab.
- Check out this free pdf download on Content Marketing for Non-Profit Arts Organizations by Paul Gravett Consulting on how to grow your audiences when you aren't marketing for a specific show. He also has a Direct Marketing for Arts Organizations PDF with 33 time-tested marketing techniques that will keep you on track and get your ticket sales soaring.
- 82 Free or Low-Cost Online Tools & Mobile Apps for Nonprofits: An article by Nonprofit Tech for Good that lists apps and tools that may improve your web and email communications and your social media campaigns.
- The Noun Project is a huge free library of icons. All images available as free downloads. Users can purchase a royalty-free license to support artists and get more options.