Monday, June 9, 2014

One Writer's Social Media Campaign: What Worked, What Didn't

Recently, I started promoting my writing with special events -- readings and lectures -- and using social media to publicize those events.  I read at public libraries, youth hostels, adult education centers, and fringe theater festivals. The results: My readings and lectures were mentioned on numerous Web sites and by media outlets that normally wouldn't have given me the time of day. This blog post describes social media tactics I used as well as what worked and what didn't

I assembled my short fiction into a one-man show called "The Chronic Single's Handbook." Recent performances were mentioned in publications such as the Orlando Sentinel.

Readings and Special Events for Writers

To paraphrase Kurt Vonnegut: Writers are in show business. Put on a good show and you'll get noticed. But reading straight from your book is boring. Some better options:
- Rework short scenes from your fiction and creative non-fiction into stand-alone stories, memorize them, and enhance with a little acting. Tips on reading your work in public.
- Non-fiction writers can create entertaining lectures. Contrary to popular belief, Powerpoint presentations can be engaging -- just keep them short and kooky.  Lectures and Powerpoint presentations I've given
- Then find venues and festivals that will let you read/perform/lecture. Look for organizations that have in-house marketing staffs that will promote your event. Recent venues and festivals

After you've read at your local library and hit up your friends, family, and co-workers several times, you'll need to branch out to other cities and other audiences. Drawing an audience in a distant city is tough.

Over the last month, I've performed scenes from my book at fringe theater festivals in Atlanta and Orlando. Here's how I used social media and Web marketing to generate awareness of events held far from my hometown of Boston.

Web and Social Media Marketing for Events


1) Help the Venue Promote You

- I provided a short description of my event, plus photos, links to my Web site, links to my youtube channel, a press release -- whatever they want.
- I met all deadlines and size requirements. If they wanted a 60-word description, I didn't send a 70-word description.

My Results: Excellent
- I was listed in printed and online show catalogs produced by the venues.
- I was mentioned on the venues' Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr pages.
- In Orlando, I was listed in a preview in The Orlando Weekly.
- In Orlando, I was reviewed by the Orlando Sentinel and the art publication Watermark. These articles were picked up by blogs and social media.

2) Ask Fans, Followers, and Connections for Help

- I created a Web page describing my event.
- I created a short note linking to the Web page and asking people for help.
- In the short note, I explained -- specifically -- how people could help and made it easy for them to do so. (I asked people to post a link to the Web page and ask their friends to retweet it on Twitter and share it on Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn.)
- I sent the short note to email contacts and posted it to other email lists, such as a college alumni email list, my blog, and as a social media update.
- LinkedIn: This site has a unique feature that lets you sort your contacts by location and send them a note. I created groups of contacts in Orlando (about 10 people) and Atlanta. (about 15 people). I sent them a note through LinkedIn. Several people offered to post my note to their connections. (More on how to do this next week.)

My Results: Mediocre, but worth trying.
- Email: About half of my contacts read the email. Several posted to Twitter, etc as I had asked. The key benefit: I connected with former coworkers, friends, and other contacts who I only email a few times a year.
- Social Media: I got a few retweets and shares.
- Not sure if this brought anyone to my shows.

An email blast to my Mailchimp contacts was opened by about half of them.

Sample of note I sent over LinkedIn

3)  Posted to Related Social Media Groups and Pages

- I searched Facebook and Google+ for groups in my target cities. For both Orlando and Atlanta, I found a bunch. My book is about a chronically single guy who takes a trip around the world looking for the woman of his dreams. So, I looked for groups in my target cites that catered to singles, travelers, or folks interested in the arts.
- I checked the rules of the groups to see if posting links was OK. If so, I joined. If I wasn't sure, I dropped a note to the group owner and asked if I could post my event.

My Results: Negligible. Not Sure if this is worth the time.
- One group owner posted my link on his group and personal Facebook page.
- A few people in a Google+ group liked and commented on my post.
- Not sure this brought anyone to my shows

4) Posted to Meetup Groups

- I joined and searched by city and interests (arts, travel, and singles)
- After joining, I posted my show as a possible event for the group.
- In most cases, the event never got posted to the group.
- In a few it did and I was listed as the host.
(more on this next week)

My Results: Negligible, but worth trying.
- In one Orlando group, seven people signed up to see my show.
- Only one showed up.
- In one Atlanta group, the moderator asked me to pay to $50 post my event. I declined.
- Why it's worth trying: I did an event in November that was picked up by a Meetup in Boston and five people showed up. A friend did an event last year and dozens of Meetup folks showed up. lets you search for groups of people with common interests in other cities. Then you can post your event. Though my results were mixed, the process doesn't take much time and is probably worth trying.

5) Contact Media in Target cities

- I created a press release with links to a basic online press kit with photos, a resume, and other information the press might want.
- I asked the festival organizers for a list of local media contacts in Atlanta and Orlando.
- I also Googled each city for editors who cover arts and entertainment. I found a few editors with email addresses and emailed my press release. For those who didn't post their email addresses, I located them on Twitter, followed them, and sent them a tweet about my show.
- Many media sites have events calendars: I uploaded my event to the calendars.
(more on press releases next week)

My Results: Good
- My event was listed in dozens of events calendars.
- But I was not interviewed by the local press.

6) During the Shows
- I took selfies and other photos, and posted them to my Facebook and Twitter pages. I always mentioned the venue, so they could see I was working to promote myself and the festival.
- Each morning, I Googled my name and my show for mentions that I might share with Facebook and Twitter followers.
- For Facebook, I posted to my Author Page, then logged out and logged in using my personal account. I went to my Author Page and then liked and shared the link.

My Results: Good
- My posts on my Facebook Page reached ten to twenty times more people than normal.

A post of me with a 6' 7" female impersonator at the Atlanta Fringe festival reached 193 of my Facebook fans. Typically, my posts reach about 20 of my 2,000 fans.

More on Special Events and PR

- One Writer's Platform: Events and PR

- Promote Your Writing: Events, Readings, and Fringe Festivals

- My Note to Blog Subscribers Requesting Help Promoting Recent Events

Photo credit: George Skene, Orlando Sentinel / May 16, 2014

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Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Professional Update/Upcoming Comedy Performances

Dear All,
My apologies in advance to anyone who has already seen this on Facebook or elsewhere. But once again, I would love a little help spreading the word about my upcoming performances.
I) Executive Summary: What I'm Up To
- Polishing a novel, The Loneliest Planet, which I've been writing for the last six years. The manuscript will go to agents and publishers in early 2015 (I swear!)
- Lecturing about online marketing for writers at colleges and adult education centers around Boston.
- My one-man show, The Chronic Single's Handbook, will be featured at theater festivals in Orlando, FL; Atlanta; and Edinburgh, Scotland; this spring and summer.
II) Pleading and Groveling
Can you help me get the word out about my upcoming shows?
- Mention to people you know who might go, post on Twitter, Facebook, etc. (Sample Tweets and links below. Also, I inserted my online flyer and link at the end of this note.)
- I'm happy to reciprocate and share your events or news on Twitter, Facebook, etc.
Sample Tweet:

A friend performs his show Chronic Single's Handbook: FL (5/14-24) Atlanta (6/5-8) Edinburgh (8/1-16) Go or RT
Sample Facebook Post:
A friend will perform his one-man comedy play, The Chronic Single's Handbook, in Orlando, FL (5/14-24) Atlanta (6/5-8) Edinburgh, Scotland (8/1-16). The play is about a never-married guy who takes a trip around the world looking for the woman of his dreams. Please go or share.
III) More Detail Than You Want
1) Here are some links to youtubes of me performing two scenes from a December performance in Boston. For the upcoming theater festivals, I'll have props but no mic, which means I'll be able to move around the stage.
- Opening scene:
"Chronically single? You've got lots of company"
Content warning for adults situations, black tongues, sadistic medical professionals.

- "One Day in Thailand"
Lady boys, tuk-tuk scammers, and the day I was almost gay.

IV) Online flyer for the show
The link:
The actual flyer:

"The Chronic Single's Handbook": Shows for 2014

The Chronic Single's Handbook: One man's global search for love

A solo performance inspired by actual events  
featuring Randy Ross 

Exotic Locales


A body-spa named The Curious Finger.

Early praise for The Chronic Single's Handbook:
"Hysterical, side-splitting, profound, a tour-de-force of droll insight. One of the year's best."
-- Randy Ross, writer/performer, The Chronic Single's Handbook
"The balance on your credit card is overdue. Please remit immediately."
-- Bank of West Boston

Upcoming Shows (all shows last one hour)

1) May 14-24 Orlando International Fringe theater festival

- Wed, May 14 (11:30 pm)
- Fri, May 16 (9:00 pm)
- Sat, May 17 (4:20 pm)
- Wed, May 21 (10:30 pm)
- Sat, May 24 (3:15 pm)

Red Venue, Lowndes Shakespeare Center
812 E Rollins
Orlando, FL 32803

Tickets, more information.
- Cost: $12, plus one-time $9 fee for a festival entry button, which is required to see any show at the festival (sorry).

Sample show program

2) June 5-8 Atlanta Fringe theater festival

- Thurs, June 5 (8:00 pm)
- Fri, June 6 (11:00 pm)
- Sat, June 7, two shows (5:00 pm and 9:30 pm)
- Sun, June 8, (2:00 pm)

Highland Inn Ballroom Lounge
644 N. Highland Ave.
Atlanta, GA 30306

Tickets, more information 
(tickets and prices available in May (should be $10 to $15. In addition to tickets, you will need to buy at $3 festival entry button.)

Sample show program

3) August 1-16 Edinburgh Festival Fringe theater festival

Dates/times (all shows start at 7:05 pm or 19:05 using local 24-hour time)
- Mon-Sat, Aug 4-9
- Mon-Sat, Aug 11-16

theSpace @ Surgeon's Hall
Nicholson Street, EH8 9DW
Edinburgh, Scotland

Tickets, more information 
(tickets are 8 British Pounds, or about $12; there may be other fees)

Sample show program

4) Boston-Area Appearances

- May 1, with Judah Leblang at Somerville Public Library (details)
- Events calendar with more listings.

5) Watch Videos Excerpts from Recent Performances

 - Opening scene: "Chronically single? You've got lots of company"
Content warning for adults situations, black tongues, sadistic medical professionals.

- "The Day I Was Almost Gay"
Content warning for prescription drug abuse, gooey sunburns, and men kissing on the lips.

Thanks again!