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Business and social media lessons we can all learn from street performers

We can all learn so much from “street performers”.


Quick context:

I recently took on a “gig” as a musician playing at markets – so I could carefully observe and learn from business  lessons  – at a very basic level.

I usually work as a communication consultant and trainer in writing for social media.


TB Social Media KLT

I was inspired by Robert Cialdini who went to study  and sometimes worked for persuasive businesses to learn real-life, street-level influence and persuasion techniques – like how tweaking words can make a big difference!

And the power of SOCIAL PROOF – other people “saying” or suggesting that  something is O.K.

Robert-Cialdini Influence

While playing at the markets,  during my breaks I’d carefully watch “street performers” who were hired to entertain the market crowds.

When I was  a young uni student, I would often  travel with other young and impoverished (BROKE) “theatre types” to student theatre festivals around Australia.

We would occasionally have to “perform” in the streets to make some money for food.

Oh the badge of honour of being a “hungry artist”!

Anyway – that explains my personal respect for and interest in street performers.

I encourage my son to put some money in street performers’ hats or guitar cases and to show some respect.

inmates CU

At the markets, I watched how these performers (The Inmates) entertained and engaged with the crowd.

I could see links between building an audience their performance and building a community with social media.

Here’s what I observed:

1. They worked hard to attract an audience right from the start of their performance – actually BEFORE they started their performance!

As people saw there was a small group gathered to watch the show, more people joined the “crowd”.

It’s vital to have that small group (or the appearance of a group of fans or followers) right at the start.

If passers-by see no-one else is watching – they will probably just keep on walking past too.

Cialdini cites many research experiments about the power of SOCIAL PROOF.

Nightclubs will often slow down entry to a club so lines look longer so the club looks more popular!

As US “Social Media Freak” Stephanie Clegg says (and I’m paraphrasing):

People are less likely to go to an empty restaurant. They see other people in a restaurant and they are more likely to want to go there too.

By making sure there is a small group of watchers at the start of a performance – the crowd is more likely to build.

Also buskers usually already have some money in their hat or guitar case – to show other people have been showing their appreciation!

2. They weren’t afraid to “Get a little help from their friends”.

It’s an age-old performers trick. Get some friendly people (even “plants”) to get the positive reaction going – applause, cheers.

Then, other audience members are likely to join in and the applause – and buzz multiplies.

If you blog and you’d like more reaction and comments – why not get a friend or two to “start the ball rolling” with some likes and comments?

3. They encourged people to move in closer and get involved.

Many people like to watch from a safe distance. Similarly, many people like to read social media or observe without getting involved an commenting.

The Inmates worked hard to draw people closer – rather than just watching from a distance.

They would express in in terms of the benefit for the audience.

“To see this properly … you’ll need to move in close”


“The kids who move in close first – will get the balloons” 

The Inmates careflly selected their performance space – their “pitch” where two streams of pedestrian traffic converged – yet  they did not obstruct movement.

They shared with me how they liked “the edginess” of street performing (even though they also had conventional stage  experience).

You have to be “on” every performance and you get the feedback straight away – the volume of the applause and the size of the “takings” – in street performer slang – getting “a good hat”.

I guess the feedback is similar to social media metrics 🙂

and some money in the hat is a conversion!

inmates good hat

Here’s a link to more social media posts by Stephanie Clegg (Frasco)



retro van

TB headline technique

If you enjoyed this post – Let’s connect:

If you found this post interesting you can follow me and connect with me.


I blog about fun pop culture stuff as well as more serious  business communication tips.



tony biancotti


Linked In – under Tony Biancotti



One comment on “Business and social media lessons we can all learn from street performers

  1. efangelist
    December 19, 2014

    Reblogged this on efangelist.

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