Monday, January 31, 2011
A Few Thoughts On Chicago Fan Day
These days, when a new Broadway show is announced, you can expect a Facebook fan page and Twitter account to follow, often even on the same day. It seems that once the account is made, marketing teams sometimes struggle with how best to use it. Short-lived shows like Ragtime, Elling, and The Scottsboro Boys had Facebook and Twitter pages, but they clearly didn't help with ticket sales. A few months ago, Chicago announced the first ever Facebook Fan Day. If 10 of your Facebook friends "liked" Chicago on Facebook, you would get a free ticket. The event was held yesterday and though I was slightly worried when I received my general admission ticket in the mail that it would be chaos, the afternoon went smoothly.
I heard accounts that people started lining up as early as 9 a.m. for the 2:30 show, but I arrived closer to 1. Apparently I should have arrived earlier for pizza, but I did get a cupcake and coffee. Everyone received a commemorative shirt and a plastic bowler hat. Perhaps the trick to keeping everyone civilized was free stuff. When they opened the doors around 2, everyone walked in an orderly fashion, and we were able to get a perfectly fine seat in row G of the orchestra, next to Vincent Pastore and two rows behind Karen Ziemba. There were plenty of Chicago alumni in the house, including Chita Rivera. I wish it would happen more often, but seeing a show with a packed and energetic crowd is a thrill and the cast was clearly loving it. They even added a few Facebook references.
This was a smart marketing move. The end of January is traditionally a slow time for Broadway, especially now with all the snowstorms. Chicago has been running for close to 15 years, so they can certainly afford to give away all the seats for one performance. They received tons of publicity from the theater sites that covered the event, as well as fans tweeting about it and writing about it on Facebook. Fans commented on Facebook about how incredible the show was and how grateful they were to be there, adding to the sense of goodwill. Chicago currently has 19,259 Facebook fans, enough to fill the Ambassador Theatre about 17 times. Time will tell whether this will translate into increased grosses.
An event like this would be harder to pull off for newer shows, but I think the key is to recruit new fans, while being interactive and engaging the fans you already have, which this event accomplished. I look forward to seeing where technology takes Broadway in the future.