How Broadway Shows Ramp Up Social Media for the Tony Awards

Since the Tony Award nominations were announced back on April 30, honored plays and musicals have been in full campaign mode in efforts to both influence Tony voters and draw larger crowds into their theaters. What goes into a Tony-nominated musical or play’s social media campaign, however, and how is the brand’s budget allocated accordingly? Christopher Ketner, a social media marketer and Broadway co-producer, spoke to Downstage Media about how Tony season impacts a show’s online presence.

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Ramping Up Social Media for the Tonys

Ketner is co-producing two shows this season: the musical The Prom and play The Ferryman. The shows are nominated for Best Musical and Best Play, respectively, and have received quite a bit of buzz since opening. As a co-producer, a large part of Ketner’s job is helping to get tickets sold and seats filled. And with the Tony Awards only a few days away, he and his team are in full campaign swing.

“Since we got the nomination, our social media presence has been ramped up in order to reach Tony voters,” Ketner told Downstage Media. “Our show specifically is really just making sure our brand is out there, our name is out there, we’re engaging with fans. We started reposting a lot more content that fans are tagging and that's just drawing eyes and attention towards our brand and the the room in hopes that that campaign will reach people and hopefully influence Tony voters.”

He adds, “For Broadway specifically, social media has really taken off and been incredible to help support shows and reach an audience beyond the traditional ticket buyer, and bringing a brand new audience to Broadway shows.”

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Social Media For Plays Versus Musicals

Social media marketing for a play differs greatly than for a musical. Most plays, for instance, have a much more mature audience demographic than musicals. Especially with the musicals currently on Broadway, many are written specifically about teens and social media, from Be More Chill to Dear Evan Hansen. And so because of this, Ketner explains, marketing for a play is often done through more traditional routes like print and digital ads. He notes that more success has been found doing this as these ads go directly to their target audience.

For musicals, however, especially one like The Prom, social media is integral to their campaign.

“As a social media viewer, you can definitely tell that The Prom has a different campaign, has a different strategy towards social media. There are a lot of musicals to see that are targeted to, based on or written about high school kids and young adults. And so through that, those shows very obviously…[are different]. For The Ferryman, we spent more money on traditional marketing: print ads and things like that. There’s a different allocation of funds for The Prom for social media so that it reaches our target audience.”

A question arises, however: Could spending more money on social media marketing for plays broaden a show’s audience and draw in a younger demographic? At the end of the day, even if plays lean more heavily into social media, the content of their show can’t change and might not appeal to younger audiences. But with plays having a much shorter run time than musicals and often having a harder time selling tickets and getting press, is it worth a shot?

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All Will Be Determined on June 9th

Hypotheticals aside, it’s clear that leading up to the Tony Awards, shows are doing all they can to sell seats and influence Tony Awards. How will they efforts pan out? We’ll all see how on June 9th when The Tony Awards air live on CBS.

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