Cirque du Soleil is as nimble in the social universe as its contortionists who squeeze into boxes not meant for mortal humans.

The gravity-defying circus and entertainment company has built a dedicated following on Facebook and Twitter by adhering to one of the Golden Rules of social: engage with fans. The company’s overarching strategy is to get its fans talking about is 10 permanent and 11 touring shows, but it also uses social media to measure (e.g., run a survey on Facebook and take the results back to executives to inform business decisions).

“We develop business analytics behind the data and can establish baselines,” said Andy Levey, Cirque’s senior manager of new media and analytics. “The data helps us to drive revenue through social.”

Levey says that the company has run campaigns on Facebook that have seen 12 to 42 times return on investment, something it doesn’t always see in traditional advertising.

“The great thing about what we do is everything is measurable as opposed to traditional marketing,” Levey said. “Placing traditional ads is necessary and relevant, but the analytics aren’t as great as on a banner ad or a Facebook post.”

Besides Levey, there are two other members of the social media team who run the corporate Twitter, Facebook and Instagram feeds, as well as all of the individual shows’ channels. They work with PR and marketing to funnel brand messages through the social sphere and then report the business analytics behind their efforts.

“I love that everything we do is measurable with all sorts of KPIs and action items, and establish business analytics behind stuff,” Levey said. “Our job is to further the relationship with the brand. We care about our fans, and it’s important to recognize them, not only listen but engage and let them know their voice is being heard. We want them to feel like they’re being listened to.”

While there’s that overarching engagement theme, Cirque approaches each platform differently. It focuses on fan acquisition on Facebook (it has almost 1 million likes), but its messages align with each show’s brand. The idea is that what appeals to the LOVE audience may not be relevant to the Ka audience. From a content standpoint, Cirque wants to bring fans closer to the shows.

“Posts get fans excited about the show they’re about to see or brings back a memory from a show they saw,” Levey said. “We want them to voice their feelings. We want the page for them to communicate what they like.”

Cirque approaches Twitter, where it has 416,000 followers, as a steady torrent of information and fan service to reach high engagement. Where the social team views Facebook as being informative to fans, as well as a community, Twitter is more like a wire-service. Instead of having separate Twitter accounts for all its shows, like it does on Facebook, the company takes an interesting approach: a hashtag catalog on its main Twitter feed to let fans hashtag a particular show. This allows for fans to connect around a show and eases the stress of the company in managing multiple Twitter accounts. This also helps Cirque track how many people are talking about a particular show, which is more scalable and a more manageable system for Cirque.

Levey says Twitter is the best tool for the company to reach and engage fans before, during and after a visit to a show.

“We do our best in reaching out to and engaging our fans. Since Twitter is more real time, we’ve seen it from a great customer-engagement and retention point of view,” Levey said. “It’s more fan engagement than customer. It’s amazing that someone can say, ‘We’re excited to see “O” tonight,’ and we can reach out to them while they’re not even in the theater yet. That’s where we believe we make the most impact; we want to jump in on the conversation.”

Through social media, Cirque is learning what fans want and how they want to engage with the brand. Levey says what Cirque has now is a good model to build off of, but the important thing is knowing that some things work, some things don’t and that it’s always important to keep experimenting.

“Some things will have a blanket approach and then things we’ve seen huge ROI because it’s been targeted and geo-targeted,” said Levey.

That segmentation is important as Cirque wants to understand the relevancy of who its fans are, what they’re looking for and to send messages to have them engage, click-through and encourage that purchase process.

“Facebook and Twitter aren’t the end-all and be-all in terms of driving awareness, but bridging awareness about a specific show,” Levey said. “They’re good ways to bridge the gap in making social one of those tenets, but [they] are still just prongs of a marketing approach.”

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