How do you market theatre on social media? What strategies can a social media manager use to promote plays and musicals? How does TikTok’s trending culture influence the type of content that a social media manager puts out? These are questions I think about every day.
I’m a social media manager at Fun Love Media, a Houston-based social media and content creation agency. One of my clients is Stages, one of Houston’s oldest and largest theatre companies. In Stages’ 2023/24 season, the company will produce eight plays and musicals with a wide range of stories, styles, aesthetics, and audience bases. To say there is something for everyone would be an understatement. While the full spectrum of Stages’ work attracts a diverse audience base, it also poses its own set of challenges for social media management. Put simply, every show requires a different strategy that supports the overall social media strategy for the company. Stages’ recent production of POTUS: or, Behind Every Great Dumbass Are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive by Selina Fillinger, which ran from September 1-October 8, 2023, was no exception.
Every content shoot has different goals. You wouldn’t market A Chorus Line the same way you’d market Wicked. My strategy for the POTUS content shoot couldn’t have been further from the content shoot I had done for Always… Patsy Cline, which opened in July and is still running at Stages. Always… Patsy Cline is a musical featuring 27 of Patsy Cline’s most iconic songs. The show benefits from Cline’s name and from how recognizable her music is. It’s an easy show to market on social media. POTUS, on the other hand, is a new play without much cultural capital. Although the first part of the title is recognizable, POTUS alone sounds like a serious political play about the President of the United States. Although the actual POTUS does factor heavily into POTUS, the play really isn’t about him. It’s about the seven women around him who keep this country afloat. As the women in the play continually ask each other, “Why aren’t you the President?” Indeed, these women are badasses.
Given their badassery, the wild and wacky women of POTUS deserve a social media strategy that captures this seven-alarm fire of a comedy. POTUS truly is Bridesmaids meets Veep with a side of The West Wing so I wanted my content to match that vibe.
During the POTUS content shoot, I had a 30-minute window to work with the cast (in addition to being able to shoot b-roll of the show during the final dress rehearsal). Giving social media managers proper time to work with casts is critical to creating high-quality content to promote the production on social media. In 30 minutes I was able to shoot content to make at least 15 videos. Since my POTUS content had to run simultaneously with content for Always… Patsy Cline, season subscriptions, upcoming shows such as Switzerland and Table to Stage, and any news/press about the theatre, I didn’t need as much content as a theatre that only produces one show at a time. I am also fortunate to have high-quality photography from Melissa Taylor to use for any static social media posts.
Before the content shoot, I began researching TikTok and Instagram Reels trends that matched the mood of the show. Since POTUS features seven actors, I knew that tried-and-true theatre trends would work well. Staple trends such as “Pass the Phone,” “Cast Glow Ups,” “Reasons to See [Show Title],” and “Runway Walks” easily tied into POTUS. I also curated TikTok trends such as “Pretty Girls Walk Like This” which made sense for POTUS. “Power Poses” also factor heavily into the plot of POTUS so I also planned to shoot content of the cast doing their Power Poses. But why let the fun stop at the cast? I also had Stages’ staff do their own Power Poses for a video.
In addition to curating trends, I compiled a list of songs that worked within the dramaturgy of the play. Luckily, the Broadway production’s “Bitch Beats” playlist is readily available online as are “Bitch Beats” playlists from various productions throughout the country. Songs such as Barracuda” by Heart, “Look What You Made Me Do” by Taylor Swift, and “Confident” by Demi Lavato” became the backbone of the sonic landscape of my POTUS content. I also weaved in trending songs such as those on the wildly popular Barbie soundtrack (“Dance the Night Away” by Dua Lipa, “Barbie World” by Nicki Minaj and Ice Spice, and “Speed Drive” by Charli XCX”). With my own “Bitch Beats” social media playlist in place, I shot content with these songs in mind. After the content shoot, editing videos to match these songs was easy since this playlist was the framework.
While showing up to a content shoot with a shot list is critical, social media managers also must be flexible. Some of my best content was things that weren’t on my shot list. That is, once I saw the space (both the set and the lobby displays), I adjusted my strategy.
When I walked into Stages for the content shoot, I quickly noticed a lobby display I didn’t expect to see. There was a “Punch the Patriarchy” sign and a blow-up punching bag. It didn’t take long for me to decide that I was going to get the cast to throw their best punches on camera. And that’s exactly what we did. I filmed the video like a mini action movie, complete with tracking shots of the cast walking toward the lobby display with their most grimacing “I’m gonna fuck shit up” faces. I then created a montage of each actress punching the punching bag while the entire cast cheered. I then had each actor punch toward the camera, which I put into slow motion during the video just as Demi Lovato’s “Confident” goes into the slowed-down section of the song. The mini “Punch the Patriarchy” shoot was such a success that I then had staff members create their own version (set to Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do”). These videos perfectly captured the energy of POTUS and became some of the most successful videos during the 5-week run of the show. Moral of the story—don’t be afraid to have fun.
POTUS is a really funny play that features seven meaty roles. There’s tons to play with within the script and the world of the play. With this in mind, POTUS was an easy show to create content for. Other shows (especially dramas) might pose a different set of challenges. For POTUS, I was able to lean into many of the TikTok and Instagram aesthetics that proliferate on those platforms. And that’s precisely my advice: lean into these silly, chaotic, and ridiculous aesthetics when you can, when it makes sense. That’s how you strike social media gold.
This post was written by the author in their personal capacity.The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of The Theatre Times, their staff or collaborators.
This post was written by Trevor Boffone.
The views expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect our views and opinions.