UPDATE 3:03pm: Fringe’s Social Media Manager, Rachel Stoll, made it really easy to get in on this action. Make Your Own Ben Hill Meme.
You can find a lot of news by following the #LAThtr hashtag on twitter (see it here even if you don’t tweet), and sometimes a gem crosses our collective paths.
Last night was the first of many Hollywood Fringe Town Halls, and the semi-official launch of #hff13 for this year’s Hollywood Fringe Festival (although it has definitely already been used by staff and past participants). If you don’t know Twitter, people can search a specific term and read what other people tweet about that specific topic. Fringe (via @HollywoodFringe) wisely uses the hashtag to tweet key notes and links for further reading on topics covered in the Town Hall, as well as answer questions. Often the hashtag becomes a back channel through which people network, jibe and generally socialize. During Fringe, I use it to craft my show-going schedule so I see more than just what my friends produce.
Thursday night, around 8pm, (time-stamps are vague), this happened:
In this case, Theatre Unleashed used a new hashtag as a punch line. Shortly:
It would hardly be of note if he was the only one to use the new hashtag, and Fierce Backbone, a theater that launched with seven productions during last year’s Fringe, quickly saw what T.U did and joined the fun:
(These are all actual quotes; above, Ben was speaking about cross-promoting.)
And so on until people not at the Town Hall at all (like me) found it & even his wife contributed:
Stacy Jones Hill @stacyjones
“I have to go to sleep. I have to go to sleep.”
#ShitBenHillSays #hff13 #afterthetownhall
Gregory Crafts of Theatre Unleashed requested a goofy photo online and at approximately 1 a.m. here is the result:
Gregory Crafts from Theatre Unleashed promised many more images based on real quotes from tonight, which I expect to begin Friday, at a time of day when more people are online.
Why should we care? Why is this news?
The fact that the Fringe Executive Director – possibly the epitome of the non-glamorous arts job – spawned such an enthusiastic running joke, created and fueled completely via his audience, six months before there is any show to see —
That builds good buzz.
And good buzz, Queens & Bees, makes the honey in which effective marketing thrives.
Enough with that metaphor. You get the point. The Fringe Team excites and entertains their immediate community so much that the core are already going out of their way to continue the experience and share it with their friends. With 300 million new images added to Facebook in 2012 (see more crazy numbers here), I look forward to watching how Ben’s goofy face and ridiculously useful quotes can spread.
Regardless, they have a lot going for Fringe this year. Energized base? Check. And it’s only January. Did I mention that already? That’s because when it comes to getting butts in seats, time is rarely on your side. Many more steps to come, for sure, and a great start.
Read this blast from the Bitter Lemons past where I describe how the very first Hollywood Fringe Festival hashtag inspired creating the #LAthtr stream. Sometimes you can even find conversation there instead of just press release headlines and exclamation point abuse.
So, Fringe on, everyone! I encourage all, even if you’re not producing this year, to follow the chatter, see what they’re doing and have fun. The entire arts community has a lot to steal – er, learn – from each other.
About the Author: CINDY MARIE JENKINS is a Storyteller based in Los Angeles. She hosts & broadcasts regular Arts Outreach Videos, experimenting with how technology unites independent artists with new audiences. Cindy co-hosts the weekly Web Series Watch, where she reviews web series and interview Creators and Innovators; her podcast Web Series Watchers just premiered on CSICON.net . Currently Outreach/Marketing Director for 24th STreet Theatre & Outreach/Social Media Consultant for The Help Group (named one of the Top Facebook Pages & Twitter Accounts to Follow for Special Education). Cindy has been on the Directors Lab West Steering Committee since 2011 and Resident Artist at The Indy Convergence since 2009. She has been a guest on LaLaLand Talk, In the Room, Angry Patrons, That Billy WIlson Show, Bitter Lemons Live & Digital Spill to discuss outreach, social marketing and audience development in live and web entertainment. She contributes to 24th ST Theatre's blog, Web Grandparent, Bitter Lemons, LAFPI, Theatre @ Boston Court, The Comics Observer, and previously contributed to ArtJob.org (Arts For LA), LA Stage Times, Atwater Village Now & The Inspired Classroom.