Event promotion on a shoestring
October 28, 2019 3:11 PM   Subscribe

I convinced a spoken word star to stop in my town on his world tour, and the people who indicated they'd support me...kind of disappeared. What's the best way(s) to advertise?

We're old friends, so I'm determined to go on with it, even if I need to distribute 10,000 fliers myself. I have asked people involved (openers and the venue owner) to post the event on FB and invite people. We have EventBrite set up. I rarely use twitter and have maybe 6-15 followers. Google Ad wants a minimum of $1.65 a day, which doesn't seem too terrible, but it would be out of my pocket. Have any of you run shows and are Google Ads effective? Any other thoughts on promotion? I'm googling "promote a show" and so on.
Thanks in advance for helping me pack the house (a tiny darling venue, so I should be able to swing it).
posted by intrepid_simpleton to Media & Arts (15 answers total)
Response by poster: To be clear, we already have a nice FB event page with a link to EventBrite set up.
posted by intrepid_simpleton at 3:15 PM on October 28, 2019

A spoken word star? Figure out what locally produced shows on your public radio stations might be a good fit and contact the hosts or producers.

Before you do this, you might also see if your friend would be available for any on air stuff and what their availability would be.
posted by yohko at 3:17 PM on October 28, 2019 [3 favorites]

Does the "star" have a twitter/social media presence? Would he be willing to say to *his* fans - "Hey guys, I'll be at $VENUE in $TOWN on $DATE - come on out and say hi!"
posted by mskyle at 3:22 PM on October 28, 2019 [7 favorites]

Contact your friends individually. Even if they've never seen spoken word before. This star is probably good enough to convert newbies.

Seriously - individual invites. Write a nice e-mail - a different one for each person - saying that *you* are producing this show, and why you care enough to do that. Convey much you love this performer, and why you love them, and telling your friend why you think they particularly will have a wonderful time.

This has worked on me twice -- and I was glad I went to the even both times.

It will be extremely effective.
posted by amtho at 4:49 PM on October 28, 2019 [5 favorites]

Make sure to submit the event to any and all local event listings--alternative newsweeklies, popular online blogs for the city, your city/metro area newspaper. Have a short description and illustrative graphic ready to go for quick posting. Search for "[CITY NAME] events," and you'll likely see a bunch of online calendars which will accept event submissions. If you'd like to go one step further, you can write a brief press release and email it to local journalists who might pick it up for a story/interview.

On FB, seek out local groups for poetry/writing/open mics. Share the FB event to these pages--you may have to get accepted first--with some personal text highlighting why the group might be interested in the event. You can do the same on Meetup as well, either by joining and posting or directly reaching out to relevant group organizers suggesting the event as a meetup for their group.

Post a few updates to the FB group as the date comes closer--videos of the poet, a graphic quote, links to the event being shouted out elsewhere. (Gently) encourage the poet/venue to share these to their pages as well. This'll keep the event on peoples radar; you should post in the event the morning of as well reminding folks to come out that night!

Good luck and have fun!
posted by youarenothere at 4:51 PM on October 28, 2019 [2 favorites]

DEFINITELY send individual messages! You copy-paste of course, but start with the person's name. Email or Facebook. And if you can, offer something to make the person feel special rather than spammed:

"Hi (Lisa)! How are you? I loved (thing) you posted recently!

I'm writing because I decided to take a leap into producing- I've always wanted to produce shows! And for my very first show, I convinced my very favourite spoken word artist to come to town!!!

(Artist) is so cool- they talk about (issues) and their music is (adjective); they (won Award or were described by Newspaper as Quote).

They always put on a really amazing, (energetic / funny / chill / describe the vibe of the evening) show. I thought in particular that it would appeal to you so I thought I'd invite you personally- I would LOVE to see you there!!

Date, Venue, Time.

Regular tickets are $15, but I love Artist so much that I'm offering my close friends 2 for 1 tickets so you can bring a friend and make a night of it. Just (quietly!) use the password "Appletree" to get your second ticket free at the door.

Hope you're well, friend! Let me know what's new in your world, and I would be so happy to see you in person!"

A few years ago I did this to publicize a show on a major holiday weekend - I sent about 60 emails offering free tickets - and got a completely packed house.

Remember that it's better to give away free tickets than to have empty seats, so if your sales aren't going well, just "paper the house" as they say in theatre, by offering free tix to EVERYONE. Your Artist never needs to know, you just pay them whatever they were contracted.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 4:57 PM on October 28, 2019 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: you just pay them whatever they were contracted

I'm going to use these last two brilliant suggestions, with modifications. I have slight problem with free tickets since the performer is expecting half the house and since he's the one that set the ridiculously low price ($10 advance, $15 at the door), I'm not in any shape to tinker with that. The house is expecting the other half, and although she's a friend, she's a businessperson, too. And no reason to expect her not to be, as she has to make a living.

Again, any experience with google ads/are they worth it? I already thought of local rag and even the local public radio.
posted by intrepid_simpleton at 6:47 PM on October 28, 2019

If something like this were happening in my town, I’d go. (36 year old queer female) That said, I never pay attention to Google Ads. But I learn about most things happening around town via Instagram. Local rag might have an Instagram presence, or there might be specific local accounts that promote local events. The host venue will have an Instagram account.
posted by nathaole at 7:28 PM on October 28, 2019

I'm a little fuzzy on MetaFilter events, but I think you might be able to post it there, too.
posted by amtho at 8:37 PM on October 28, 2019

Google Ads can be a very quick way to burn through whatever budget you allocate quickly without really achieving anything useful unless you have a well-thought out campaign and take the time to test and optimize it. There are a lot of default settings that probably aren't what you want (Google's goal is to maximize its profit, not use your budget efficiently), and an art to crafting and targeting ads, not to mention having the tracking mechanisms in place to measure effectiveness and ensure you're getting your money's worth (you want to know not just how many people click on your ad, but how many tickets those clicks sell, how much time people spend on the landing page, etc...), compare performance between different keywords, Google ads vs Facebook ads, etc...

If that all doesn't sound like something you're comfortable managing, I'd see if you can find someone with some experience who can help.
posted by zachlipton at 10:24 PM on October 28, 2019

I personally ignore long copypasta event invites sent to me directly via FB messenger. Maybe because I hate large blocks of text in the small chat window. I respond way better to invitations worked into a conversation, obviously, but if you can’t manage a real conversation with 20 people, it’s more realistic to just say “I’m producing this event! It is/Is it your kind of thing!/? (Link)”.

If you’re really keen to spend money, promoting the event on Facebook would be the best way to reach me. When I’m on FB, I’m more likely to be reaching out for community/connection, as opposed to browsing Instagram, when I am in a more self-focused mindset focused on my inner life, not my social calendar.

Research Facebook groups or local clubs with a relevant subject matter. Post to reddit. Invite a few local influencers who align with the event ethos and would spread the word on social media. Offer to comp their tickets.
posted by itesser at 11:45 PM on October 28, 2019 [1 favorite]

Google Ads are not going to be your tool here. They're a black hole of no results for small budgets. Spend your money on Facebook ads promoting the specific event posting you made. Make sure that event listing is absolutely and completely public, has photos, includes price and address, and plainly says what the event is. (I don't know what it is about arts folks but they so often give their events mysterious names or just assume everyone knows who the talent is - assume we don't know and EXPLAIN in brief, plain language). I've done this dozens of times across the country and sold out most of the shows for as little as $10 a day. Go for slightly narrowed Facebook targeting. For example, restrict it geographically but within 50 miles. Use lots of overlapping and intersecting interest targeting - get creative. Poetry, readings, literature, public radio, books, authors, book launch, art gallery, etc. You're looking to target the OTHER things people are ALSO interested in who might like your artist too, including local museums and nonprofits by name. And your local public radio and TV stations and shows by name. Use as many intersecting interests as you can. Don't restrict to the followers of a single page. Get these ads going ASAP and run them up through the day of the event. This works for me and it can work for you.
posted by Mo Nickels at 5:00 AM on October 29, 2019 [4 favorites]

FWIW, I have recently attended 2 events specifically because the paid promotion facebook event listing showed up in my newsfeed.
posted by Sophont at 2:19 PM on October 29, 2019

Try contacting local meetup groups, post about it on your local subreddit, and find event-centered Facebook pages or groups in your city. Try libraries and local colleges too! Some professors do a thing where students can go to literary or theater events for extra credit, or will send out information on the department/major listserv.
posted by storytam at 5:24 PM on October 29, 2019

I promote small events several times a year around the country, and the two platforms that have been most successful in terms of actually creating ticket sales are (a) Facebook ads, and (b) Eventbrite. I was surprised by the latter, but apparently there are people who use it like a listings magazine checking to see what's coming up in their area.

The other things that work: leaflets and posters, particularly in the venue and culturally-similar spots.
posted by Hogshead at 7:57 PM on October 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

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