Find an inexpensive way to promote theatre with web video
Experiment with YouTube’s free video platform and tools
Short “behind the curtain” videos
Traditional commercials and long videos
Mastering YouTube’s analytics tools to pinpoint videos that promote most effectively
For theatres seeking an inexpensive way to add video to their website, complete with analytics, YouTube has an enticing offer: They’ll do it for free.
In a move designed to retain their status as the de facto platform for video on the web, the company has rolled out a series of free tools that essentially enable any theatre to edit, post, and analyze viewership of a promotional video at absolutely no cost.
“We’ve found that our videos, specifically our behind‑the-scenes elements, the interviews, the ‘insights’ into the creation of the show, have not only grown attendance but engagement and interest from those that do attend,” says Steve Cisneros, producing artistic director of California’s Phantom Projects Theatre Group.
Celeste Post, marketing associate of New Jersey’s South Orange Performing Arts Center, home of American Theater Group, says she’s seen similar success. “It can be a great ‘first introduction’ and ultimately spark a visit to our website.”
The content theatres create for YouTube need not directly promote their next production. Indeed, videos that are simply associated in some way with your theatre often result in more traffic to your website—and more sales at the box office down the line.
For example, consider creating a video showing theatregoers an insider’s look at rehearsals “behind the curtain,” or what a day of auditions is really like, rather than a traditional promotional piece.
“People don’t want to see commercials,” Cisneros says. “Our early videos were all essentially ads, and they didn’t work. Once we started doing interviews or highlighting fun elements, we saw engagement grow.”
Elspeth Misiaszek, owner of eMarketing Copywriter, agrees. “There is no better way for people to experience you and your unique marketing message than by creating an informational video.”
It’s also a good idea to keep whatever you do short and sweet. “It wasn’t until we started to create shorter videos—under five minutes—that we saw an uptick in views and viewer interaction,” says Madelyn Gardner, press and communications manager of Massachusetts’s Berkshire Theatre Group.
Probably the most attractive thing about promoting your theatre via YouTube is the cost: It’s absolutely free. YouTube allows any business or organization to post promotional video, free of charge, and also makes it easy for even the most novice users to put together a promotional video. For starters, there’s a YouTube Creators site, where you can learn the basics on how to set up an account and get inspiration on how to shoot your first video.
You’ll also find links to editing tools to help you polish your raw footage, as well as tips on how to optimize your video. There’s also a free users’ forum where you can get advice from seasoned YouTube veterans. If you’re looking to get more sophisticated with your video editing, there are stand-alone tools you can buy for the purpose, such as VideoStudio Pro Ultimate, Pinnacle Studio 16 Ultimate, or Adobe Premiere Pro.
Once your video is on YouTube, the free service also offers an embeddable video player you can add to your website. Embedding the player involves little more than dropping a snippet of code onto a web page. YouTube does the rest. What’s more, the player—also free—can be placed in other locations on the web, such as adjacent to your company’s blog, on your web site’s social network, or in virtually any other web-based environment.
When dropping in the player, you’ll have the option to post it to your site “as is,” with its familiar chrome border and YouTube logo, or you or your Web designer can customize the player with its own “skin.” That customized look can feature your theatre’s logo, as well as a look and feel that’s distinctive to your theatre’s website. (With either option a faint YouTube watermark appears in the right-hand corner of your video.)
The player creation tool also enables you to optimize your video for the search engines by allowing you to include titles, descriptions, ratings, and viewer comments associated with your video.
The real beauty of the player is that the technology enables you to offer a window to the videos you make on your own site, while shifting the hosting and transmission costs associated with the viewing of the videos to YouTube, whose servers are the ones actually transmitting the video—and picking up the bandwidth transmission costs, rather than your theatre.
It’s a scenario that’s especially ideal for theatres interested in reaching out to web viewers with a number of offerings on little or no budget.
It’s also an excellent insurance policy for any theatre that happens to produce a video that goes viral. The onslaught of the kind of massive downloading that accompanies suddenly popular content generally results in crashed servers and countless missed sales and/or public relations opportunities. But for YouTube, it’s nearly an everyday event that this web Goliath has learned to easily accommodate.
Once you’ve uploaded your videos to YouTube, you’ll also be able to continually analyze how your videos are performing with another free tool, YouTube Analytics.
Essentially, Analytics offers you a “heat map” of where your views are coming from. It will also show you how people are discovering your videos by revealing the search terms they used to find your videos. You’ll also be able to discern the age and gender of your audience, observe how many times viewers rate or comment on your videos, and more.
You can get the most out of those analytics by optimizing your videos for the Google search engine. “Google favors sites with relevant, timely content,” says Cyndie Shaffstall, founder of Spider Trainers, an online marketing firm. (For tips on how to optimize, simply Google “search engine optimization YouTube videos.”)
The bottom line: Whether you’re looking to experiment with web video for the first time or you’re an experienced user looking to cut costs while increasing the sophistication of your Web video promotions, YouTube is a free solution that is tough to beat.
Of course, if you’re looking to survey other free video sharing sites, you’ll want to check out sites like Vimeo, which some users prefer to post archival-quality video, Metacafe, Vevo, Dailymotion, and Flickr. For relevance and cost, though, there’s no denying YouTube’s dominance.
“We wish that we had known the true depth of the world of YouTube, and what it offers in terms of marketing sooner rather than later,” says South Orange Performing Arts Center’s Post. “YouTube is much more personal because it is where people go after they unplug from email, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.”
Joe Dysart is an internet speaker and business consultant based in Manhattan.