The Fringe is about to roll into town which means thousands of people descend on Edinburgh with the aim of seeing one of the 4,235 performances listed this year. It’s safe to say that it’s a pretty crowded market but, there is a significant amount of demand.
Last year, I noticed a number of Fringe shows take advantage of Facebook & Instagram advertising and I expect to see even more do so this year. Having worked with a few Fringe theatre companies in the run up to this year’s festival, I thought I’d put together a wee guide on running social ads for your show.
Before You Start
The following guide will run you through running ads on Instagram and Facebook. You’ll need to use Facebook’s Ads Manager to get your ads up and running, it can be found here:
August is a crazy time of year in Edinburgh and there are thousands of shows vying for attention. I believe quite strongly that paid social media advertising should be seen as something to do on top of flyering, posters and talking to people about your show.
Facebook’s Ads Manager breaks your ads into three layers; Campaign Level, Ad Set and Ads.
Campaign level refers to the overall macro objective of your ad campaign. This way Facebook can select users who are likely to ‘do’ what your campaign wants them to do (click a link, purchase something, like your page etc) and prioritise showing it to them.
Optimise for Reach or Brand Awareness
Fringe Tickets are predominantly sold through The Fringe Box Office as well as on the door at venues and via the major Fringe companies; Assembly, Plesance and Underbelly. Because of this, tracking actual sales is pretty tricky as the organisation that owns the platform where sales are made keep the data and will likely not allow you to access it. For that reason, I’d recommend selecting ‘Reach’ or ‘Brand Awareness’ for your campaign objective.
Use Campaign Budget Optimisation
The Fringe is an all action month and the aim here is to get your ad seen by as many people as possible to increase awareness of your show. It’s almost like virtual flyering. When you flyer for your show you use a different approach when talking to different demographics, right? Well campaign budget optimisation allows you to show different ads to different types of people and Facebook will prioritise spending your budget to reach the people who are reacting best.
Spend what your willing to lose
Fringe shows are run on tight budgets. As we’ve already covered, it’s probably best to look at this as a sort of ‘virtual flyering’ due to the lack of sales data integration available. Your campaign will be funded using a daily budget (you can increase and decrease this at any time). You’re probably spending a fair amount on flyers that will be chucked in the bin so, start with what you’re willing to lose and go from there.
Ad Sets are where you choose who you want to target and who you want to see your ads. This section will be key in ensuring your ads are seen by people who may actually want to book tickets and see your show.
Select Web Traffic
I know that I've just said that we’re looking for brand awareness and reach, but the IDEAL is that people see your ad then buy a ticket. So, we’re going to want to push web traffic. We’ll come back to this later!
You want your ad to be seen by people LIVING IN & VISITING Edinburgh
Edinburgh’s population swells during August. Visitors and locals alike are looking to see shows around town and may be interested in catching your performance. Now, the Fringe is a big draw for Scottish locals and tourists visiting Scotland in August will likely schedule in a Fringe visit. So, you may see it as an idea to target the whole of Scotland with your ad. However this will likely lead to a load of uninterested views, wasting your ad budget.
Map your audience interests
The key part of Facebook ad targeting is, in this case, your audience's interests. Think about your show and all the different types of people it may interest. It's likely that your Fringe performance will be multi-faceted with a load of different story lines and niche subjects covered. If you're promoting 'Trump: The Musical' for example, make sure to target a range of current affairs interests (politics, political science, current affairs, The Republican Party) as well as a range of musical interests (musical theatre, Wicked the Musical, Broadway) and almost definitely a few comedy interests int there too.
Pay attention to Language
Is your Fringe show ‘language-less’ and is it likely to appeal to a global audience? If so the languages spoken by people you target is likely less important. If your Fringe show is filled with colloquial language and context that only certain nationalities will understand, target appropriately.
Prioritise the platforms people use
You’ll notice the ‘Placements’ tab. This is where you can specify where your ads will be show (Facebook News Feed, Messenger, Insta, Insta Stories etc etc). This is set to ‘Auto Placements’ by default. The automatic placements are fine (they basically include everything) but if you’re targeting a demographic that generally a strong preference of a specific platform (eg. Millennials using Instagram more than Facebook) you may wish to deselect some placements to avoid budget being spent where its impact will be lower.
Ok, pretty self explanatory but this is where we upload the ads along with the text people will see. This will probably define whether your campaign is impactful or simply blends into the festival noise.
High impact video
It’s likely that you’ve had a wee bit of video made for your show. Now, this was probably used as a direct post to your Facebook or Instagram page. With ads it’s different. People are set to ignore ads by default. To grab their attention we want to make an impact. When designing ads for our clients we aim to have a video frame change within the first second, we want to make them think and can't give people a second to skip the ad. Hook people in with a dynamic start (think milliseconds, not seconds) and get to the point.
Use your damn formats
The ads you see on Instagram stories are different from those you see on Facebook’s news feed. They’re a different shape and there are different time constraints. Make sure your ads are formatted for each different placement. Spend time doing this in when editing your video or photos and use the ‘select a placement to customise’ option to upload each different ad.
Copy is going to be key for Facebook
When you’re deciding what text to show alongside your picture or video be concise and to the point. Make reference to the things that your demographic has in common with the show. If it’s a show about football, you’ve likely targeted people interested in football. Your image and text should reflect that. Reference reviews to demonstrate that your show isn't another hour of crap. Use emojis to stand out within the feed.
Link to tickets, stupid!
Include a DIRECT link to your listing on the Fringe website. Don’t send the good people to your theatre company’s website where they have to search for the ticket link. Send them to the Fringe site. They know it and it’s probably where they will ultimately buy tickets.
HIT CONFIRM - you’ll be taken back to the Ads Manager home page.
Create multiple ads