Employing approximately 4 000 people from over 40 countries and generating an estimated annual revenue exceeding US$810-million, the Canadian company is best known for its dramatic productions like the water-themed “O” and the Beatles-inspired “Love” which perform every night at some of Las Vegas’ grandest hotels.
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Jessica Berlin is currently the social media manager for Cirque du Soleil, and is based in Las Vegas. As social media manager she is responsible for planning social media marketing campaigns, developing and distributing content as well as coordinating blogger outreach.
Jessica took the time to share some tips and insights on how Cirque Du Soleil use social media.
Memeburn: What is the most successful social media campaign that CDS has been involved in?
JB: I think we’ve had several successful initiatives but blogger outreach remains the primary focus of our social media activities. Just because a particular blog may not have the same number of views or readers as a magazine or newspaper, that doesn’t make them any less valuable. In fact, the smaller audience may actually be a more targeted/relevant audience for Cirque and potential ticket sales.
While seeing our shows is entertaining, it can also be an emotional experience and no one tells that story better than a blogger. So many bloggers like to express their feelings and not just report on the “facts”, which is great for describing a Cirque du Soleil performance.
MB: Should companies roll out all social media at once, or bit by bit? How did CDS do it?
JB: We definitely started things out bit by bit and I would always recommend that strategy. It takes a while to become familiar with each social media channel and what and how those followers like receiving information about your brand. Also, the proper amount of time and resources need to be invested in developing great content and building relationships with your followers. It’s much better to choose one channel to focus on than starting with five.
MB: What do you see as the strengths and weaknesses of Twitter?
JB: For us, Twitter is a great way to spread information quickly, it’s probably the best channel we have to distribute last-minute information and ticket discounts. Of course, this also refers to the weakness of Twitter. Information is moving so quickly that even though you have a large number of followers, in reality you are only reaching a small percentage of them with each tweet.
That’s why it’s critical to produce relevant content and participate in your followers conversations, so that they in turn trust you enough to re-tweet your posts.
JB: We love how easy Facebook makes it to share all types of content. For us, the targeting and tracking available is key. Since our shows tour and we put on special events in particular cities, we regularly target our updates based on where people live. The best part – it’s free!
One of the current weaknesses with Facebook is the constant changes to pages. It’s hard for businesses to continually adopt and adjust their creative, particularly for anything they have had specially designed for a Facebook page.
JB: There are so many great benefits of blogging, particularly SEO, brand building and the low cost. Most importantly, blogging is a wonderful way for us to tell a story in a longer-form. The best part of blogging for a brand is that you can empower other employees as “guest bloggers” to help tell the company’s story from a different perspective.
When you remain authentic, I don’t think there is any weakness to blogging.
MB: What other social media tools do you use for campaigns?
For online contests we use Wildfire, which is a great application to integrate a branded campaign with the viral features of Facebook.
We just launched our new “Seven Worlds” campaign which utilises Facebook Connect to integrate a user’s information with a Cirque du Soleil experience.
MB: How do you respond when the chatter around a show of yours starts to get negative? Can you give us an example?
I am so lucky to work for a brand that people not only like but have an emotional connection to. When we do get negative comments about a show, fans or followers will actually respond to it before we even do and defend the show or recommend another show to that person. Other comments aren’t specific to a show and are more customer service based. No matter what the comment is, we always respond.
MB: Is it important to monitor the statistics of what is being spoken about and how much? How do you do it?
JB: Yes! For measurement we use Radian6 which is a great platform to listen, measure conversations and engage with our customers across the social web. Everyday I’m looking at how much online conversation each show has and the overall sentiment. If there is a special event or appearance happening, it’s important to track the online impact of that as well.
MB: Is social media important to use in conjunction with other media forms, or can it work on its own?
JB: While social media can be effective on its own, it can be even more powerful when used in conjunction with other marketing and PR efforts. Traditional media is still an important part of our overall marketing strategy but we now incorporate our social into print ads, etc. to try to drive people to our Facebook pages or Twitter so they can learn more about the shows.
That’s the beauty of social media for us, you get a sense of each show’s personality by visiting the Facebook page, and sometimes this is a better perspective than the company website because you’re reading about other people’s experiences.
MB: What is it about social media that makes it such an effective tool of communication for CDS?
JB: Twenty-five years ago, Cirque du Soleil was built on grassroots efforts. In a way, social media is bringing us back to our roots. We want to be a part of the conversation that is already happening about our shows online, but also contribute by sending out news and show access that people don’t usually see, directly from us.
By participating in social media, we want customers to recognise that we’re an approachable brand, we also want to reach a new audience that may not be that familiar with our shows. And obviously, we hope by engaging online we can eventually translate that to ticket sales.