Recently I attended the Melbourne production of Strictly Ballroom. Yep, that’s right! The famous film by Baz Luhrmann has now been turned into a musical. Always a fan of the theatre, it struck me how different the experience is these days, compared to when my parents dragged me off to see Phantom of the Opera many years ago.
Savvy arts producers, event organisers and curators have recognised the shift towards online arts and entertainment consumption and have gotten creative. What they’ve found is that by including the audience in the production, they create an unforgettable experience and turn audiences into participants and co-creators.
While this idea has been stirring in the arts world for awhile, it’s interesting to me that the concept of audience as participant still hasn’t caught on in a big way in the world of business events and marketing… not to the degree it could anyway.
Business events are still run in a way that is reliant on the presenter vs audience model, even in the inbound marketing sphere. I wonder if content marketers could be missing opportunities to deepen relationships within niche communities by doing events in the same way year in year out. So let’s explore this concept of collaboration from a marketing perspective.
Why turn audiences into participants and co-creators?
Marketers flog the term audience a lot, however, after falling out of love with the word “audience,” I have started changing my vocabulary in an effort to better connect with the people I serve. If you can encourage people to co-create content with you and with the brands you work with (some have been referring to this concept lately as crowd-publishing but I think it’s more than that…maybe “crowd creating”), that not only makes them feel more involved and empowered, but it also helps you understand your community.
In a recent interview on the Your Brilliant Un-Career podcast show, guest Dr Sarah J Buckley shared about how she encourages participation and creates massive engagement through creating a community of contribution. If you haven’t listened yet, go and download it now because that interview is chock full of social media marketing gold from someone who is in the trenches doing it, and doing it well.
How to create a community of contribution
Creating a community of contribution means changing your thinking about audience and presenter. [tweetherder]Audience connotes a passive receiver of a performance or broadcast, whereas participant means “included in” or helping to drive the activity or show.[/tweetherder] This doesn’t mean you don’t present or broadcast or share your expertise, it just means that if you want to increase your engagement, it helps to empower and include the people who wave the flag for you and your brand.
The challenge then is to think of ideas to turn your audience into participants. In the Strictly Ballroom musical, they did this in a small way by getting the audience up on stage throughout the show and blurring the lines between stage and audience through the way the set was designed. In doing this, they created memorable moments of surprise and delight that people felt compelled to share. They deepened the level of engagement with the arts experience. How can you take the lessons from this and apply it to your own business?
Here are 20 ideas to help you turn your audience into participants
1. Host a podcast and invite your community to be on it.
I do this with Your Brilliant Un-Career and am enjoying the process immensely. People hear the same experts on a variety of other shows. I like interviewing known experts and learning from them, but also think that there are many many other stories out there worth sharing. I thought, at first that the shows with unknowns in them wouldn’t get as much traction, but the stats have proven me wrong. People love to hear about experiences they can identify with!
2. Publish community views on a topic in a blog post.
Be sure to state up front, this is for a blog post. People love to share their opinions but they also like to be asked for their consent.
3. Create an event project that everyone can collaborate on.
How can those experiencing an event help co-create a story or an experience? An example of this is a performance based on the topic of bullying that is currently touring Queensland. The show, Shift, was built upon the experiences shared by teenagers and in every school the show performs in, teens are invited up onto the stage to participate in and contribute to the show.
4. Feature members of your community in an interview, making them the stars of your blog!
This is such an easy thing to do. Just create a Google form and encourage your community to fill it out. Simple!
5. Run a hashtag competition on Instagram or Pinterest.
One of the best examples of this I’ve seen was the I Won’t Give Up song promotion by Jason Mraz. I’ve talked about this on the blog before but it’s worth mentioning again because it lifted his profile and created a massive movement on Instagram. Even celebrities were getting in on the act! Another terrific example was the Olympus contest at Problogger 2014. Olympus handed out tiny plastic cameras and asked everyone to create an image including the camera and their hashtag #olympuslovesbloggers. The result was hundreds of pictures of tiny plastic cameras in a variety of poses and a huge social media win for Olympus.
6. Host a roundtable event where participants get to share and connect.
Some of my clients and colleagues have started doing this and it is working well. Gathering people together to discuss issues and problem solve is a great community builder and everyone feels equal and empowered around the table.
7. Create social media visuals including images of your followers (be sure to ask permission first)
If you’re at an event with your fans and followers, tag them into the photos they appear in. Be sure to seek permission to use their image on your Facebook Page, Instagram profile etc.
8. Invite your community to post their images on your Facebook Page.
Give people permission and a hashtag and see what they come up with. If you are running an event of some kind, this is social media gold.
9. Create a collaborative board on Pinterest and invite followers and fans to contribute.
10. Encourage followers to use your unique hashtag when they post something related to your niche.
If you have a unique hashtag this is a real plus when it comes to creating community and engagement. If people like what you post, they will look out for your hashtag and start using it over time.
11. Show gratitude!
Acknowledge people’s questions, comments and feedback publicly by thanking people on your podcast, your blog or email newsletter. Go the extra mile and even mention where others can find them.
12. Run a kids colouring in competition… for grownup kids.
Never underestimate the power of crayons and textas. Why should kids have all the fun?
13. Create content around community questions.
Create blog topics and podcast shows around questions that come up for your community and acknowledge them for coming up with the ideas.
14. Ask for help solving a riddle, a problem or a dispute.
The white/blue/black/gold dress is a classic eg of how viral a post like that can be.
15. Highlight your community’s achievements on your email newsletter.
Who’s having wins! Ask them to share their success story!
16. Improvise: Create a spontaneous quiz show at an event and ask for volunteers from the audience to compete in it.
17. Ask for volunteers to review a a breakout session/topic/presentation/show at your next conference.
Get them up on stage to share it with conference attendees.
18. Send your book to a fan to review, and ask them to share their review on your podcast or blog post.
19. Ask for volunteers to collaborate on a video project that highlights a cause you believe in.
20. Create a theme day and ask everyone to share their images, tweets etc on the theme that day.
A great example of this is the Work in the Nude Day run by Flying Solo.
And just what every epic post needs… an infographic. Ta da!
To use the infographic, simply cut and paste the code below onto your blog.
These are just some ideas. What are yours? I’d love for you to share them here or on Twitter using the hashtag #brilliantcontent
Can’t wait to see your ideas! And who knows? I might just get you onto my new podcast show to share one of them!
ps: Here’s part 2 of the infographic!