Why the Hamilton PR Team Makes Me Want to Look Into Social Media Marking
I think not many people know that, but my very first ever internship right after 18 year-old me graduated from high school was in the PR department of Komische Oper Berlin. Before I continue here, give me a moment to wrap my mind around the 6 (SIX!) years having passed since then.
Anyways….back then I was more of an idealistic theatre girl all the way in for the arts and low-budget and I kind of percieved marketing as something commercial people would SO NEED, but ‘real art’ wouldn’t, because few people attending it would make it extra special and something. (Cut me some slack, I was 18!)
So these three months taught me another side of making theatre happen – the more “It didn’t happen as long as not enough people attend”-kind of side.
More recent, in the last season I looked more into social media as a marketing tool, a little bit of a trending topic in German (theatre) marketing, talked about e.g. at the 3rd annual Theater und Netz conference. There’s still SO MUCH talk about, especially since German theatres doesn’t seem to be very proficient in social media marketing, more often than not it’s nothing more than the occational tweet/post “Another performance of [opera/play/performance-title] tonight! Still tickets left!” – well, at least there’s some consciousness about the need to change.
So – as with so many things – we have to look over, across the pond to what seems my Mekka of musical theatre once again.
One tweet I’ve cited so many times in real life was saying something like “Welcome to America – where it’s easier to get a gun than a ticket to see Hamilton” (although I’m in love with this tweet I cannot for the life of me find it right now to link it properly! Sorry) and I think this is a good point to start talking social media marketing for Hamilton, which finally opened last week.
Even though I’d never think of saying the show wasn’t as good as everyone says it is (sadly, I cannot say myself…because I’m living FAR FAR FAR away), I’m sure it wouldn’t be buzzed about so much with that very intellegent (social media) marketing.
With Lin-Manuel Miranda, the show’s composer, writer and leading actor (!), being very active on twitter, they soon took social media by storm. You could say it all started with the celebrity selfies Miranda took backstage after the performances back at the Public Theatre and published on twitter; so night after night (or for me: morning after morning) we could look at all the celebs who had attended the show – with exception of Madonna, who earned the show some more publicity when she got called out for bad audience etiquette – and wonder if we would ever get the opportunity (to buy a ticket) to see this show.
What really caught my attention was the 21st century appropriate marking when it came to the Broadway transfer. One quality of the show – at least according to what people say – is it is a game changer when it comes to musical language, (“interracial”) casting and the way history can be handled on stages. To that, please add time appropriate online marketing. I’ve never seen so many hashtags evolve around just one show – with #HamiltonPublic from “back when” and #HamiltonBroadway being the most conventional ones.
I mean, the 10$ lottery and the pre-show show before the drawing of the winners has its own hashtag! #ham4ham (referring to Alexander Hamilton being on the 10$ note, so you pay an “Alexander Hamilton” to see Hamilton….) keeps you up to date with the masses of people attending the lottery every show plus the rap/sing/dance-acts the cast puts on to entertain the waiting masses (I’m not exaggerate here, people, there are literal masses!).
But the best – and classic! – hashtag by far is #YayHamlet, which I already expressed my obsession with in my July favourites. It originates from a story/tweet Miranda posted back when Hamilton was still #HamiltonPublic and everyone hoped for #HamiltonBroadway.
*Lady rolls down her car window at 181st street* “congrats on HAMLET!” Me: “I WISH I wrote Hamlet!” Lady: “Yay HAMLET!” *drives away* #myday
— Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel) 19. Februar 2015
That lady’s (what I suppose was a) enthusiastic linguistic mishap/mix-up soon became the signature hashtag when talking about Hamilton and when we are honest on that one: What could have been more appropriate for a show everyone was so enthusiastic about???? – Playbill.com just recently published an article about the #YayHamlet phenomenon, read it here: What’s the story behind the hashtag?
And while so many hashtags make it to t-shits these days (#yolo and #swag for some, #kale and #selfie for others…), Hamilton took advantage of its own hashtag with a cult status. Yes, they REALLY made a shirt with #YAYHAMLET printed on it – which, by the way I need in my life.
In a way Hamilton’s marketing team (and Lin-Manuel Miranda as one of Broadway’s twitter-gods!) accomplished something every theatre enthusiast from the 21st century was secretly hoping for. Theatre entered what could be considered a more pop-cultural sphere by using popular communication-tools. And by that also combine more conventional things like apparel as souvenir with the 21st century pop-cultural ‘tool’, the hashtag.
Aside from that they rock the more conventional marketing tools as well. Full page ads in the NYtimes and they have pretty much all of this newspaper all over them, I mean – how beautiful is this article: Why ‘Hamilton’ Has Heat.
What I mean to say with this somewhat rambly post is: Hamilton isn’t only a theatrical game changer, but we should also acknowledge its game changer-potential when it comes of theatre marketing online.
Yes, the production was lucky to be buzzed about and that it “just” had to jump onto the already moving train, but the marketing people did – and by doing so they gave me (and I’m sure so many other people as well) a ton of fun on twitter.
And if we are honest – the random “Still tickets left”-tweet just wouldn’t be very….well….suitable for Hamilton on Broadway. Because there aren’t.