Edinburgh Festival Fringe Gets Off to a Social Media Flier

by Scott Douglas

Wednesday, August 14th, 2013

A version of this post first appeared in the Edinburgh Now supplement of the Daily Record.

Festival phone twitterYup, it can be overwhelming trying to navigate the riot of acts, venues, fliers, billboards and reviews that make up Festival time in Edinburgh.

Just as well help is at hand in the form of social media: that sprawling and diverse hodge-podge of Tweets, posts, updates, photos, videos and podcasts … all clamouring for your attention.

August’s art extravaganza in the capital gets more ‘social’ every year. Both Facebook and Twitter are now mainstream. Anybody with a phone can share thoughts as soon as they enter their heads or upload photos of what’s in front of them in real time.

Promoters, performers and venues have turned to social media to sell, sell, sell, while comedians in particular have taken to Twitter with a vengeance.

Those not fortunate enough to catch David Baddiel’s return to the Fringe after 16 years, could still follow his regular Twitter musings and show tips. Close followers were first to know extra tickets were held back for sale on the door at his August 9 show.

Another comedian with busy thumbs on Twitter during the Festival is Ed Byrne who regularly exchanges messages with fans and show-goers, including this wee gem bringing out the funny side of Rebus author, Ian Rankin:

Ed Byrne: “Not that I care about reviews or anything.*
*I do though.”

Ian Rankin: “An enjoyable-enough Tweet. Three stars.”

As well as tracking performers, Twitter is great for following the main venues, like The Assembly (@AssemblyFest), the Gilded Balloon (@Gildedballoon), The Pleasance (@ThePleasance) and the Underbelly (@FollowTheCow).

Typically they share reviews, announce one-off shows, let followers know when tickets are being released or announce additional dates for popular acts – vital info for culture-vultures.

Liking the Facebook pages of venues, promoters and acts, brings similar updates in to your news feed.  Among acts using Facebook cleverly, I was tickled by magician Paul Nathan and his I hate Children Children’s Show at The Pleasance. Eager youngsters taking part are caught on camera, with pics later uploaded to the show’s Facebook page.

It’s a smart way to get mums and dads interacting when the show is over, when they visit Facebook to see pics of their little darlings. Many seemed encouraged to leave glowing reviews.

Punters are using social media in droves to post reviews, ask questions, share tips or comment on everything from the quality of wi-fi to the cleanliness of toilets at venues.

The sheer weight and volume of Festival information on social media is mindboggling, which means that when it is filtered, no two people have the same experience.

A simple tip to begin effective filtering is to follow the hashtag #edfringe on both Twitter and Facebook, which offers a degree of curation to make sense of the firehose of information.

Another resource worth checking is the growing numbers of podcasts. Listening via headphones is an timesaving way to get reviews, interviews and previews while doing something else, like exercising, commuting or washing dishes

As well as the Daily Record Festival Fringe Podcast, also worth a listen is The Edinburgh Fringe Show podcast (http://edinburghfringe.thepodcastcorner.com/) by Ewan Spence, one of Scotland’s digital pioneers.

There is a standout experience in social media terms during the August arts extravaganza – one that any business in almost any sphere could look at and learn from – and it comes from the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, www.edfringe.com.

Both its Twitter and Facebook feeds are packed with useful posts and Retweets, while the new Facebook ticketing app allows users to browse the programme, book tickets and see what shows Facebook ‘friends’ have enjoyed.

Meanwhile a free 2013 app for Android and Apple lets mobile users see nearby shows in real time, find venues, check ticket availability, book seats and see latest offers at the Half Price Hut on The Mound.

The website includes links to all of its social media channels, including a useful Pinterest page, which offers a visual and eminently browseable alternative to the traditional programme.

The Soundcloud page offers a host of audio samples from musical shows. A new Tumblr blog promises much, setting out to capture and collate photos, blogs, short videos and any content from members of the public which is tagged #thisisedfringe. An official YouTube channel is the only disappointment – but all three platforms will only get better.

The relentless rise of Twitter, YouTube and Facebook and newer services like Pinterest, Instagram and Vine means more and more businesses have to pay attention. Being social now makes sound business sense.

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