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Social Media Marketing Case Study: George Bernard Shaw Goes Social

Like George Bernard Shaw?

Over 5000 people “Like” him on Facebook – over 700 are following and having conversations with the deceased playwright daily on Twitter all resulting in record number online ticket sales.

Social Media Marketing Campaign Objectives:

To increase direct online sales by growing traffic to the website www.shawfest.com, and by engaging new audiences outside of the traditional target demographics for the theatre company.

The primary objective was to present the Shaw Festival, and each individual Play to a wider group of would-be theatre goers who may have not otherwise considered attending, or had preconceived ideas about the theatre, or the specific productions for the season.

The overall objective in developing the social media strategy was to engage the growing fan base who are actively living online by providing them with insight to the Shaw Festival (with a behind-the-scenes focus), regular special offers (ensuring fans are driven to the special offers page regularly when offers are available), customer service (answering questions about the ticketing process and travel to the area), George Bernard Shaw quotes and information about the plays to generate interest, and useful information for those visiting (events, festivals, Niagara-on-the-Lake visitor info).

The theatre company, located in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, produces ten plays each year and is a key tourism driver for Niagara-on-the-Lake and the Niagara region as a whole.

The multi-channel digital strategy launched Summer 2009, and was created by online marketing firm A Couple of Chicks e-Marketing, and managed in co-ordination with the Shaw Festival in-house Marketing Communications team with the overall goals of increased online ticket sales and new audience development.

The Strategy:

To develop a way to impact and talk directly to Shaw’s audiences in places they are comfortable interacting, as well as to encourage viral distribution of the Shaw and its productions online.

Developing a voice and tone for each community, building out content such as comments about the productions, backstage photos, video’s, images – and developing a strong engagement level with this audience was the focus in the early growth stages for the campaign.

A unique strategy was developed for each social channel.

Once Shaw himself started tweeting quotes and responding to comments and questions (from the grave of course), and the Facebook page for the theatre grew to include commentaries, discussions and more – followers began flocking to the Facebook community, the Twitter page, the YouTube channel, the theatre Blog – and back to the main web asset www.shawfest.com to transact via a communities page that brought all of the social channels together in one place.

The campaign was also supported with Google Adwords campaigns as well as optimized Press Releases, website content development, and ongoing Search Engine Optimization.

The Challenges:

1. Ensuring that the social media communities were not only large in number, but also actively engaged. It was uncertain if the target audience would move from discussing and browsing to buying.

2. Determining an accurate ROI on each tactic.
Tracking was put in place to ensure that sales conversions could be measured back to the specific social media efforts. Facebook only offers were also created.

3. Building up the community base for a niche theatre with different plays targeted to different audiences. Considerations included determining how to build followers who were within drive-in radius (the traditional core market) and to ensure Facebook and Twitter audiences moved to transact by creating the proper user path that encouraged click thru to the website.

Campaign Tactics:

Facebook Fan page, Facebook Tab Development, Twitter community development and strategy, Theatre Blog (featuring behind the scenes), YouTube channel and Flickr photo page development – brought together within a Social Communities page entitled “Stay Connected”.

Campaigns within each community included Facebook specific Ticket offers, contests, behind-the-scenes videos, Blogs written by members of the company, videos with candid conversations with the actors and directors – all integrated into the larger marketing campaign messages. The campaign was measured using conversion tracking in Google Analytics as well as through campaign specific ticket rate codes.

The Blog:    http://blogs.shawfest.com/

The blog serves a dual purpose, generating content for consumers – and generating content that can be indexed in the search engines. The Blog can be easily integrated with other social media efforts and vice versa.

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/shawfestival

Engages and builds a new fan base by providing insight to the Shaw Festival (behind-the-scenes focus), regular special offers (ensuring fans are driven to the special offers page regularly when offers are available), customer service (answering questions about the ticketing process), Shaw quotes and information about the plays to generate interest, and useful information for those visiting (events, festivals, NOTL info).

This was supported by a Facebook Ad campaign to build the initial Fan Base and to push specific offers to a targeted audience.

Twitter: www.twitter.com/shawtheatre

The strategy behind Twitter was primarily brand development and a key to engaging the audience;  it also serves as a customer service tool and a PR monitoring/growth mechanism to correspond with media. Twitter maintains the “voice” of Shaw himself with commentaries about the plays, politics and other musings.

Shaw Festival Theatre

YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/theshawfestival

YouTube.com was used to grow multimedia content and house video content where it can be sourced from other social media venues, and add to overall online distribution of the Shaw brand. Back of the house video’s, Shaw commercials and other video’s were added to engage the audience.

George Bernard Shaw goes Social

Go behind the scenes at the Shaw Festival Theatre

‘Stay Connected’ Communities Page: http://www.shawfest.com/Home/Stay-Connected

The website was updated with a ‘Stay Connected’ communities page to offer a central portal for all things social media. The community’s page drives traffic to the various social media outlets in which Shaw participates and serves as the landing page from social media into the site – and to the online ticket box office.

Results Summary:

With Social Media as an evolving advertising medium, the Social Media Marketing Strategy was extremely successful in generating buzz, traffic to the main website and sales. The campaign was featured in the Globe and Mail, and used as a best practice case study at a leading Canadian Online Marketing Conference. The campaign also successfully built a platform that will continue to evolve and drive targeted traffic and sales moving forward.

By growing connections (fan base, followers), aggressively distributing content, and building the level of engagement with new core audiences outside of the typical target audiences, the Shaw Festival was successful in expanding brand awareness with new audiences, and increasing ticket sales online by 25%.

As a result of the digital marketing efforts, Shaw Festival has experienced significant e-commerce sales growth:

• The Spring 2010 season (April 2009 to June 2010) was 7,000 tickets ahead of Spring 2009, selling almost 50% more tickets for the April launch of the season than the April 2009 season.

• Year to Date 27% of sales are online and currently sales are $325,000 over the Year to Date total last year at this time.

Traffic to the website increased by 17% over the same time in 2009.

Other Campaign Highlights:


Year over year increase in Website traffic reaching a peak at almost 4,000 unique visits in one day.

• Increases Engagement with website users visiting over 9 pages per visit and spending over 5 minutes on the site.

• Referring sites such as Facebook, Twitter and other social channels provided more search engine visibility as well as more Referring traffic back to the transactional website shawfest.com.

The Social Media Marketing campaign and Web Marketing efforts were also supported and integrated into an aggressive offline campaign that included traditional marketing vehicles such as print and radio – and resulted in growth of new audiences and record attendance.

The Shaw Festival is currently planning for the 2011 season and for the 50th anniversary celebrations.  George Bernard Shaw continues his musings on Twitter “often quoting himself…as it adds spice to the conversation”

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