Don’t switch off your mobile:Go live create a buzz

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Social Media: Merging emotions to marketing…. 


Audiences are being encouraged to keep their phones on at performances – so they can tweet about what they’re watching or like them on FB.

Generally speaking, watching the faces of your audience light up as you talk should be a flattering experience. Except when the source of the illumination turns out to be the mobile phone they are surreptitiously texting on. The cellphone, then, is a nuisance, in the performance space.

But that’s changing.

“Please switch off your mobile phones” used to be the usual refrain before a play, book reading, movie screening or music performance. Now, organisers sometimes says, “Please pull out your phones, keep them on during the event, take pictures, tweet and facebook the event live.”

In short, please keep the vast and remote Facebook and Twitter audience in the loop.

Last year, when Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner was preparing for his world record jump, event organiser Red Bull created a special hashtag so that television viewers could join in and create a flutter on Twitter. At Pune’s music festival NH7 Weekender, each stage had its own Twitter handle and hashtag and the social media team made it a point to reply to or retweet nearly every post.

“In India, a trending topic is a status symbol and leads to easy brand recall,” says Rajiv Dingra, CEO of WATConsult, a social media agency. He explains the lure of real-time tweeting by citing the excitement of the cricket fan who wants to share his opinion and crack a few one-liners while watching an IPL match on TV or live. “It is a kind of parallel entertainment to read the hashtag stream and adds value to the viewing experience,” he says.

Apart from live tweeting and posting pictures, Parmesh Shahani of the Godrej India Culture Lab (GICL), an experimental space in Mumbai which conducts workshops and talks, even encourages live webcasting. Recently, GICL’s Pop Up INK Conference, a two-hour session of talks and performances, saw 120 people in the auditorium and 400 viewers from around the world. “The key premise here is spreadability,” says Shahani. Asked if a tweeting-facebooking audience didn’t make for a distracted, fragmented one, he says, “I think it makes for a rich, multilayered audience that connects to ideas across time and space in very interesting ways.”
Also, once the event is over, a live Twitter stream translates into a digital scrapbook of what happened, says Rahul Avasthy, who heads digital strategy and social media at Zapak Digital Entertainment. “You can then search through these updates and collate them into a collection of conference highlights, which you can share with your online community.”

But the trend is yet to find favour with live entertainers. Indeed, apart from a flat and unresponsive silence, a mobile-thumbing audience is what standup comics like Sorabh Pant dread most. The laughs, he says, come at the pace of voices in a dubbed Chinese movie – always slightly delayed.


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