But just offering tweet seats and letting people broadcast their instant reactions to a performance is a small part of the potential, says VanReece. As anyone who has read a lot of tweets knows, the quality and insights shared vary dramatically. So part of the promise is in finding people who actually have interesting things to say. “We live in Nashville so we have the luxury of having lots of people who really know ?music,” ?VanReece says. But another way to augment the chances that those seated in tweet seats will provide intriguing commentary — and to enhance the experience of tweeters themselves — is by making sure they’re well educated about what they’re seeing. “There’s one constant in social media: People share things that are cool, funny or surprising,” she says. To make sure tweeters are well armed, the Nashville Symphony will provide them with production notes and inside information designed to add richness to tweets.
From the very start, the palm beach ?Opera’s Dadisman knew there were some challenges involved with inviting strangers to come and sit in the tweet seats they made available. Before extending a single invitation, she wanted to make sure that those who would attend didn’t have a history of posting profanity or anything potentially offensive. Dadisman made sure the people she invited were regular users of Twitter who produced mostly original content rather than reposting things others had said. “Some people just wanted free tickets and created Twitter accounts that morning,” she recalls about some of the responses she got after advertising the tweet seats. Once she eliminated those who were clearly not a good fit for the seats, Dadisman looked to see how many followers each had, though she said that was not a determining factor in who was invited.? “That is not as important to me, because there can be effective users of Twitter who don’t have thousands of followers,” she says.
By offering tweet seats for the final dress rehearsal, the Palm Beach Opera avoided what some consider to be the biggest danger in allowing people to pull out their smartphones and tap away during a performance: annoying everyone around them. This was a conscious decision, and other venues — such as the Nashville Symphony — have designated? seating for tweeters, away from the rest of the audience. Nicole Ames, a ?social-media consultant with Twist IMC in Boston, says the annoyance factor of people bathed in the light of their phones is a legitimate? concern. “Some people follow performances to be immersed and to escape the connected world, if only for a while,” she says. “Can you be sure that a little bit of ?publicity is worth alienating your core fans?” Ames, who recognizes the benefits of tweet seats and can see how they can be effective marketing tools, also warns that there are no guarantees that those invited will write positive things. “If there are mistakes or multiple negative reviews, this could be bad news for future ticket sales,” she says.
Gabe Aldridge, a founding member of the Atlanta-based The SuperGroup, an inter?active and digital-marketing agency, takes a different view of the potential tweet seats have to annoy other audience members. “These kinds of detractors will just have to be politely ignored,” he says.
“Rather than being perceived as an affront to the arts, this kind of social behavior should be seen as a new way to validly enjoy a live performance. Let’s face it: A lot of people like to talk about what they are experiencing, and tweet seats allow them to do so without making a sound,” he says.