Top ten ways to sell your Edinburgh Festival Fringe show on Twitter

Author Mark Fisher

AS THOSE who follow me @markffisher will confirm, I’ve been using Twitter relentlessly since the start of the year as a way of promoting The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide. I’ve been doing this for a number of reasons:

  • I have something to sell and Twitter is a way to communicate with would-be buyers.
  • A hell of a lot has been said about social media marketing (usually by new-media “gurus”) and this was an opportunity to put it to the test, separate fact from fiction and see if the self-appointed experts were blinding us with science.
  • Having written a book that gives advice to Edinburgh Festival Fringe participants, I feel the least I can do is put some of that advice into practice. If I’m telling you to get on Twitter and Facebook, I better get on it too

So what have I learnt? Here are my top ten observations based on my own use of Twitter and on what I’ve seen of other people’s use of it.

  1. The potential is astonishing. It’s easy to forget Twitter did not exist before 2006 nor Facebook before 2004. Until very recently, if you had wanted a respected figure to endorse your show, you would have had to go to considerable effort to contact that figure, let alone persuade them of your worth. Having done that, you would have had to go to the expense of producing vast numbers of flyers. If we’re talking about a figure such as Stephen Fry, you’d have to print 4 million flyers to reach the same number of followers – and even then, you would have no certainty the right people would see them. Compare that with Twitter: you send a tweet to the respected figure; if you’re lucky, the respected figure retweets it; straight away, many thousands of interested people will see it. A process that would have taken weeks can now happen in a couple of minutes – and at no cost. This is in addition to your regular followers who, by choosing to follow you, have already identified themselves as potential audience members.
  2. People are smart. They know if they’re being sold to. They know if they’re being hoodwinked. If you use Twitter purely as an advertising medium, they will see through you.
  3. People want to read something interesting. I am at an advantage withThe Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide, because it is packed with quotations from experts on the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. If I send a tweet saying “‘If you’ve got a 2-star review, get a 3-star review next time,’ @StephensSimon in Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guide,” it is unquestionably a plug for the book, but it is also pretty interesting – at least to my target market who recognise Simon Stephens as a leading playwright and a voice to be reckoned with. @lyngardner, the Guardian theatre critic, retweeted that one to 14,000 followers. That’s 14,000 more people who know about the book. But this brings us to the next thing:
  4. Know your market. It may give your ego a boost if someone with lots of followers retweets you, but if those followers are unlikely to be interested in your show, you aren’t going to achieve very much. Think about your show, think about what’s interesting about it, think about who it will interest and target them. In his recently published e-book How to Produce, Perform and Write an Edinburgh Fringe Comedy Show, comedian Ian Fox says he noticed his 2006 show The Butterfly Effect attracted a crowd who were interested in chaos theory as well as the usual comedy punters. The theme of your show could attract a new audience for you and Twitter can help you find them.
  5. Save a set of relevant Twitter searches. Work out the phrases your potential audience will be using, search for them on Twitter and select the option to “save search” each time. You can then check the results every day or so. The people who are interested in the same things as you could be the audience you are looking for.
  6. Go for the soft sell not the hard sell. What you’re trying to do is build up a community of interested people around your show. They won’t stay interested if they see only adverts. They will stay interested if you continue to give them interesting things to read or look at. By associating yourself with a shared interest, you will build and sustain interest in your show. It won’t happen over night; you have to think long-term.
  7. Back Twitter up with blogs, videos and other updates. When I post this blog, I will send a tweet about it. It is quite possibly the very tweet that led you here. You were interested in the topic I mentioned in the tweet and you thought you’d check it out. Sorry to get postmodern on you, but in the process of finding out about social-media marketing for an Edinburgh Fringe show, you have learnt there is a book called The Edinburgh Fringe Survival Guideand maybe it’s the kind of book you’d like to read. Spend some time figuring out the equivalent for your show and produce blogs, videos and other updates on subjects that will interest your audience. Don’t be cynical about it. Although I’m winding you up with all this self-referential stuff, I’m genuine in my interest in the subject.
  8. Use all the media available to you. Some of your potential audience will use Twitter, some Facebook, some Tumblr. Try to be there for them in every case. I confess, I have limited presence on Google + and Linkedin and no presence on Tumblr; my kids told me it wasn’t my kind of thing – were they right?
  9. Don’t forget old media. At times, I have felt a little embarrassed at the amount of messages I’ve been sending out. For a while, the first thing people would say to me when I bumped into them was, “I see you’ve been busy with your social-media marketing.” It was hard to know whether to be pleased the message had got through or ashamed for being so blatant about it. But frequently, the next person I bumped into would say, “Oh, have you written a book?” However much noise you think you’re making on the internet, there will be many, many people who will not hear it. Either they’re not in your social-media circle or they’re not big computer users. You cannot afford to lose these people. For them, you need all the traditional and Fringe-specific marketing methods I describe in the chapter called The Marketing Campaign.
  10. Don’t rest on your laurels. Having built a community of people around your show, you need to keep them interested. Not only are they your potential audience, but they are also your potential advocates. Their word of mouth and endorsement will be invaluable. Keep them on side and don’t neglect them.

These are some initial thoughts, reached by trial and error and still open to refinement. If you’re anything like me, you won’t always get it right, but sometimes you’ll strike a chord and, when that happens, you should learn from it and try to strike that chord again.

No doubt you’ll have ideas of your own. Please add your comments below.

7 Replies to “Top ten ways to sell your Edinburgh Festival Fringe show on Twitter”

  1. For specifically selling/ promoting your Fringe show I would consider these three things:
    1. Follow the #edfringe and #edfest tags on twitter and follow the people that tweet them. Between now and August converse with these people – no doubt you'll have lots to tweet about!
    2. Use the image you used for your Fringe programme entry for your social media profile – you'll help people call your show to mind if your image is consistent.
    3. Really think about Facebook – who is likely to fan your page – are they mostly friends and family – are they ALL going to come to your show? It might look good to have a nice number of fans – but is this time well spent?

    Finally – of course – tap the Fringe office – they media office is open from now – email them (mediaatedfringedotcom) and they'll help! There is a How to Sell Your Show Roadshow planned for May which will also cover social media, and PR – where you'll be able to ask people like Mark, Lyn Gardner for their direct advice on selling. Hope this helps!

    1. Good tips, thanks, Sally. Think I've been ticking most of your boxes (phew!)

      Slightly disagree about Facebook in that it has some advantages over Twitter: it's better at giving a visual link to articles, you can write more and it's likely to reach a slightly different group of people – but you're right, they do have to be the right people.

      Also, although friends and family may not be your core market, they can help get the word out to people who are, so not entirely a waste of time.

      People who I don't know are starting to befriend my book on its dedicated Facebook page, so that's a way for me to keep in touch with them.

  2. Last year at Espionage they had a #hashtag intended for talking about shows in the venue. Not really sure that worked.

    My favourite tweet read something along the lines of

    "Bunch of militant b*stards on the door tonight, they won't let me in."

    1. Yes, I sometimes think hashtags are wishful thinking – though I guess you've got to start somewhere.

  3. I would say social media is important in pushing your career in the long term, it's got as Mark says unlimited potential with who you can reach. I've had some great exchanges on twitter with Michael Winner* of all people, and the Gregg Jevin joke which ended up trending is proof how quickly something can become a phenomenon on twitter.

    Picking up followers is important as a long term goal for most comics today.

    With regards to pushing Fringe shows I think it's limited as at the end of the day you're after people who are going to be within a square mile of Edinburgh city centre, during August.

    Oh and thanks for the mention of the book Mark. I've got a version that you can read in the bath now.

    * I'm a big fan of 70's cinema.

    1. I agree – unless you're planning to begin and end your career on the Fringe (and no harm in that if you are), you can keep using Twitter etc to keep people interested in everything you're up to.

      Getting Michael Winner to your show – now that would be a coup.

    2. If I changed the name of it to "The Wolesley" and moved it to London I might stand a chance.

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