Selling the wrapper


The other week, James Whatley tweeted this (with thanks to Ben Edwards for pointing me towards the right tweet):

#insightfb Interesting stat-based conundrum – Channel 4 on Facebook: 20k fans. E4 on Facebook: 80k fans. Inbetweeners on Facebook: 4m fans

Here are those stats today, with links for you to see for yourself:

For The Inbetweeners you could quite easily substitute, Skins (3.4m), Misfits (1.4m), Peep Show (480k) or several others. The point being that the individual shows tend to get a great deal more traction than the channel that hosts them (although you have to wonder which FB Pages get the most on-air promotion/marketing budget).

That makes sense though, doesn’t it? You’re more likely to be a fan of a show (generally and/or on Facebook), than you are to be the fan of an entire channel with a varied output. The channel is just a wrapper, and who cares about that? The show is the tasty treat inside.

I think the C4/E4/Inbetweeners situation matches that of performing arts and concert venues. I’ll only go to a theatre, gig venue, comedy club or symphony hall if I want to see a particular show (lovely as the venues may be in their own right).

Whereas museums and galleries (and country houses, nature centres, gardens and so on) are more akin to the 24 hour news, music or sport channels – you can turn on/up at most times of day and be reasonably confident of what to expect.

The play’s the thing

Where performing arts are concerned, people are more likely to anticipate, book tickets for and tell their friends about an individual play, musical or performance.

Of course, none of this is news. It’s surely the reason why theatres put out posters and flyers for individual shows, rather than advertising the theatre as a whole. They’ll build up mailing lists and segment them so they can send out more relevant messages to people.

Segmentation in social media: a different approach

So, bearing this in mind, why do theatres concentrate on building up fans to venue-specific Facebook accounts? They have their uses (after all, marketing isn’t everything) but it occurs that it may be going against the grain of what Facebook users would prefer. To use my earlier analogy, it’s a case of selling the wrapper rather than the sweet inside.

I suppose in one sense it’s like building up other forms of marketing lists (email, SMS, direct mail, etc) – the difference being that post-signup segmentation of messages isn’t yet possible with Facebook Pages (save for specifying location and language). As such, they’re limited to sending the same message to a group of people who want to hear everything they’ve got to say.

It’s not that segmentation of audiences isn’t possible with social media, it just needs to be approached very differently.

(Image credit: yum! by ginnerobot)

Published by Chris Unitt

I work at One Further, doing digital projects with cultural organisations. Follow @ChrisUnitt or find me on LinkedIn.

5 replies on “Selling the wrapper”

  1. I think the E4 figures are a really interesting point here, when compared to Channel 4. It shows that having a facebook page for a channel works better when it is more niche and has more of an identity of its own, even if it has less TV viewers overall.

    I think Channel 4 is too amorphous a blob to really say that you want to hear about everything they do, but is it worth liking their page on the off-chance of finding out about something new?

    After all, I guess you can’t like the page of something you haven’t heard about (not that social media is the only way you would hear about it, of course).

    The same can be obviously be said for venues – there are some I trust to put on interesting stuff and am happy to hear about what they’ve got coming up no matter what it is.

  2. I absolutely agree. I think the problem with these channels is that, as an audience member, you have to decide whether you want all or nothing – if the ratio of signal to noise isn’t to your liking you’ll just give it a miss.

    For venues (especially with tight resources) it can be hard enough building an engaged audience on one Facebook page, let alone splintering everything into pages for individual genres/audience profiles/etc.

    I think there’s a simple(ish) solution to that but I might write that up in another blog post.

  3. Hi Chris,

    Good observation. It’s a tricky area, I’m currently working with Village Underground (artist community, club night, gallery space, gig hole, theatre, edgy corporate shindig setting) and it’s a problem for us – because VU means something unique and different to each and every artist, gig goer, poet etc.

    I’ve only just started looking at how their FB and Twitter pages work but I get the feeling the audience changes on a weekly basis.

    The Facebook segmentation thing is interesting and I think it’s part of the reason why you have these stupid pages set up and left to flounder well after events have taken place. I’ve now started thinking about splitting along dilineations – clubber, gig goer etc but do they want to hear about all club nights etc? And is there enough audience to keep them going?

    I also find myself considering isn’t it quite insulting to consider the audience along just one area? And more to the point, would I expect them to join more than one page?

    Your post has certainly got me thinking….thanks.


  4. @dandavies23 The thing that occurs is people start with a list of people who are interested in their venue and then try to break that down into various segments (ie your clubbers, gig goers and so on). I think you’re right when you say about spreading the audience too thinly.

    Maybe that starting point is too limited and it would make more sense turn things on their head – finding ways to build lists based on those segments in the first place, perhaps collaboratively with other companies and organisations. Of course, it could be totally unworkable… 🙂

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