When I first got started in comedy, the most popular social media network by far was MySpace. In my opinion, Myspace wasn’t built for promoting your services and events, but people made it work. Some of the best examples of this are Dane Cook and Kevin Hart. They became huge names in comedy using social media and now everyone thinks this can happen to them. The problem with that however is what I will coin the “ground floor effect” That is when a new service or platform comes out, the ones on the ground floor have an easier time making a name for themselves on the platform and when it gets flooded with people trying to duplicate what made the first few successful, it doesn’t work as well. So when Cook and Hart got huge from promoting on MySpace everyone thought they could do it. This has lead to a lot of promotion solely on social media and a lot of assumptions made because of a lot of our misunderstandings of how people operate. I will go through some of those in this article.
Let’s talk about the good first. Social media has made it so any comedian can get the word out about an event in seconds. You can also target groups of people. Want all of your followers in Indiana to know you are coming through? Done! Don’t want your ex to know you will be in town Thursday? Done! You can potentially save money on flyers by not having to print them out. You can have your flyer guy make it up and you can throw it up on your favorite social media site and all those people (minus your ex) can see the event. It can be a better solution then taping flyers to poles and hoping people will see them. There is also an extra layer of engagement when you can talk to people interested in your show. You can also do more as far as promoting because you can add video and chats and all this stuff to drum up excitement about your event.
Ok. Now that I have talked about what makes social media a good thing for comedians, I want to now discuss why it is bad…well, not bad, but has changed the way we promote and get the word out about shows. I think because it is easier than ever to tell many people about our shows, we have a tendency to lay off on the duty of promoting. Here is an example: We put on a monthly show that involves at least 12 comedians. Every month nothing happens in way of promotion until the last couple of days before the show (if that). There are a couple of things at work here. First, is the bystander effect. That is when there are so many people involved in something that they all assume that someone else will do the work. What usually happens instead is no one really gets the word out, and then everyone is saddened that no one is at their show. The other thing is that because someone is going to be promoting the show, the other comedians just assume that is enough. It usually isn’t.
Comedians also make weird assumptions about the people they are promoting to on social media. They create an event and then count the number of people that said they were coming as a sold ticket. NO! You can’t do that. Until that person has bought a ticket, or sat their ass in a chair, they should not be counted. People will say they are coming and then anything can happen. They don’t have a babysitter, they are broke, they have violent diarrhea, or they could just be lying to make you feel better. I have talked to many comedians putting on their own shows and they will say the same thing when it is ten minutes to show time and only seven people in the audience: “70 people said they were coming to the show!” Well, you know about 70 liars. If you post your flyer on a social media platform and it gets 100 likes or hearts or whatever the hell they are doing, that doesn’t mean those are anything other than likes or whatnot. Those are not people coming to the show! Even if your post about your event reaches 10,000 people it doesn’t mean a single soul is coming to the show. It means that maybe 10,000 people saw your thing about that thing.
Comedians also tend to assume that people are just waiting to go to comedy shows. Maybe, but you have to assume that your comedy show is on the bottom of their list of entertainment choices. This is not the 1980s or 1990s. There are a myriad of other things people can do. They can watch TV, listen to podcast, play video games, and if they are going out, there are many movies, concerts, and other events that you are now competing with, so it is silly to assume that they will choose you over all that if the first time they found out about your thing is the day before. You have to give people a chance to choose your event over all the other things they can be doing instead. That is why a flyer is important, but also why making sure as many people as possible know about it by putting it out there as much as possible (without being annoying of course).
I am not a promotion guru. I experiment with how to get the word out about a show as much as anyone at my level. You have to understand the market in which you are working. If you are in Seattle, it may be a tough sell to put on a show at the same time the Seahawks are playing. You may have a hard time selling a show that happens at 8pm on July 4th. You have to do more than just make a flyer and put it up at the place of business and post it on your social media platform of choice. People get flooded with ads constantly from all angles. Legit companies, bands, movie studios, and also local services. You have to be persistent in this day and age to get your event seen. It is tough, but if done correctly, you can maybe end up like Dane Cook or Kevin Hart…or at the least have enough money to get an Lyft home.