Talkbacks and Feedbacks get more social

The theatre tribe in my neck of the woods uses Facebook … a lot. They’re gradually coming round to Twitter. Blogs are not as popular … no surprises there.

Social networking is being used, as you might expect, as a community support mechanism providing news, keeping in touch, promoting shows, providing links to items of niche interest, and of course, for online reviews. When it comes to providing feedback to artists or companies, comments in reviews don’t tend to be of much use, although they are read. You take the good with the bad, of course. Some of the worst feedback comments on reviews are the ones which sidetrack discussion into axe-grinding. The original point gets lost and a lot of heat is generated at the expense of light.

Now, producers and artists do gravitate towards the light; they want feedback … they crave it. Not only can it be good for the ego, it is, more importantly, critical to assessing the success or otherwise of a particular production, including its exposure factor and other ways in which it has been presented to the public. Of course, there’s always opportunity to provide feedback to a company via email, and many audience members do take advantage of this most ubiquitous of digital tools. Good companies always respond whether feedback’s been a bouquet or a big fat brick; that’s about maintaining healthy relationships with your customers. The company I’m most associated with has always operated this way, and I can vouch for the high success rate in converting hostile to friendly when the Artistic Director or Marketing Manager take the time to respond genuinely, politely and directly to an email or via phone. Me, I think it’s just good manners. But, back to other ways of getting feedback … and along came Talkbackr.

Talkbackr is a new online, interactive tool which allows producers and companies to be proactive in seeking constructive feedback from their audiences. Talkbackr, created by Brian Seitel (follow him @briandseitel on Twitter) was made widely available today in beta version. Brian tweeted me that he’d created Talkbackr for a theatre audience but that it could work for anything you liked. Word spread quickly on the 2amt twitter stream – and I understood Brian created it as a result of the chat there – so I took it for a spin with a dummy event. I can vouch for its simplicity and usefulness.

How Talkbackr Works
So, you go to Talkbackr’s home page and you’re asked to create an event; this is where you put the name of your show. You add your contact email and click the Set up Event button. That’s it.

Now you get another page with a uniquely generated URL. This address will take you to the place where visitors create their feedback on the particular production or event. Talkbackr suggests that you give this URL to as many of your audience as possible: put it in the programme, on your website, the foyer walls, Twitter, Facebook – wherever.

Visitors get clear instructions to help them fill out the few boxes they’re asked to complete – they’re not swamped by what can be a multiplicity of survey questions – you know the kind: tick the boxes in order; on a scale of 1-7 indicate how much you liked etc. etc.  There are also helpful hints – Be Honest, Be Tactful, Be Helpful – and just a few boxes to complete; this is the genius of the app.

What Went Right? What Went Wrong? What Could We Do Differently Next Time to Be Better? and Do You Have Any Other Thoughts? That’s what a producer needs to know.

There are also two buttons: I Liked It and I Didn’t Like It. Respondents can insert their name if they wish, but this is entirely optional. They hit the send button, and the feedback is sent.

When the producer accesses their page, they – and only they – get stats on Likes and Submissions as well as a list of what are called ‘reviews.’ When I saw this it occurred to me that Talkbackr could, in fact, become a de facto review application. Now everyone really can be a critic!

Oh, and there’s a widget with automatically generated code which you can put on your website so you’re really up front about wanting to connect.

Nice job Brian D Seitel!

Author: Kate Wilson

Actor, director, teacher, dabbler with paint, serial traveller.

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