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Can Manhattan Theater Club Create “The Place?”

November 11, 2010

In the list below, which music and art organizations do you recognize and are any nonprofit organizations?

  1. Manhattan Theater Club
  2. Lincoln Center Theater
  3. Brooklyn Academy of Music
  4. Atlantic Theater Company

Now, do you know Christina Ricci or Laura Linney?

It’s easier to answer question two, right? However, both Ricci and Linney currently star in the nonprofit Manhattan Theater Club’s Broadway production, “Time Stands Still.” Actually, all four organizations listed above are among the top ten nonprofit theater organizations in NYC.

So, how can Manhattan Theater Club (MTC) make answering question one just as easy as answering question two? The first step is strengthening its brand identity. One underutilized channel of communication is social media. In general, MTC and most NYC theater organizations have social media accounts that promote their upcoming shows and events, but they’ve only tapped the real essence of social media.

Let’s take a look:

MTC Home Page:

The homepage is a little cluttered, but generally easy to navigate. The social media presence, tucked into the bottom of the page, should be more visible. I’d create a right sidebar and include a Twitter feed with the latest posts along with the links to Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and a prominent RSS feed. After multiple views, I located the email/newsletter subscription link, which for a first-time browser is essential. In “The Brand Gap,” Marty Neumeier writes, “The ability to subtract features is the rare gift of the true communicator.” And I couldn’t agree more.

MTC Facebook page – 2,025 fans as of 11/10/10

Comparing ING DIRECT and MTC illustrates how differently Facebook can be utilized. MTC does a nice job updating fans on current MTC news, but if you look closely, the posts collect a “like” or two “likes.” In comparison, ING DIRECT’s latest post collected 17 “likes,” but even more importantly 55 comments: because ING DIRECT cultivates conversation in its established community. And ING DIRECT’s topic is finance – so, a theater company should be able to motivate a similar response. MTC’s Facebook page can be much more than articles and “likes,” it can become a community where MTC can build and foster ongoing relationships with both patrons and theater enthusiasts, alike. It has an opportunity to create the place for likeminded individuals to connect and share stories, thoughts and opinions, as well as to establish itself as the “go to company” for professional insight and feedback.

@MTC_NYC – 2020 followers as of 11/10/10

Each time I visit @MTC_NYC, the background grows on me. At first it appeared too busy, but it doesn’t distract from the content. The tweets, however, follow a similar fashion to that of its Facebook page. MTC posts interesting topics, like an interview with Christina Ricci, which I’m sure gets hits, but in addition, MTC needs to focus on content that will stimulate conversations and build relationships with its followers. So, followers will not only retweet posts, but also @reply and participate in the conversation.

YouTube:

MTC maximizes its YouTube channel by including relevant material people can relate to. It posts quick and engaging clips highlighting the upcoming season, interviews with the cast and crew and sneak peeks into opening night and other festivities. There is still an opportunity to further develop and expand this program, for instance, bringing the audience “backstage.” I’d be curious to hear your thoughts or ideas?

So, we’ve covered MTC’s current social media practices, but the opportunities are endless. MTC is in a position to establish itself as the social media leader in both the nonprofit and theater arts sector. There are many ways in which MTC can reach its full social media potential. One example is capitalizing on the blogosphere. If nothing else, a theatrical performance will stimulate a mixed bag of reviews and opinions. From the costumes to the set design to the performers, people love to talk about their reactions, conclusions and recommendations. So, what better way to support this exchange than to contribute a few company blogs.

And if any theater organization can be “first to the table,” it’s MTC. Over the past three decades, Artistic Director Lynne Meadow and Executive Producer Barry Grove have developed MTC from a successful off-off Broadway showcase to a renowned Broadway theater organization. But, why stop there? If MTC doesn’t move first on social media, a different organization will.

There is a community of theatergoers, lovers and participants looking for the place to converge, grow, and communicate.

Manhattan Theater Club might be just the spot.

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