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How one Las Vegas Elvis impersonator is using social media to get raving fans all shook up, and grow his business.

“Ladies and gentlemen. The management would like to remind you that the use of videos, flash photography and recording equipment is strictly prohibited at tonight’s show. We appreciate your understanding.” 

That’s a typical announcement at theaters, musical acts and stage entertainment these days. Sometimes, no flash makes sense (think, acrobats). In most cases, this admonition is a holdover from the past, when friends made bootleg recordings to share with friends who couldn’t attend. That’s lost money, thought the stage manager, so let’s block it. Then along came the internet, smartphones with cameras, wireless data plans, YouTube and Facebook. The technology miniaturized and internet globalized, leaving audiences at odds with the recording prohibition.

I was thinking about this recently after seeing one of the best shows in Las Vegas. All Shook Up, a tribute to Elvis Presley starring Travis Allen and an amazing live band is a must-see. For starters, it’s Vegas and it’s Elvis. It’s also a fantastic performance, featuring Allen who won the Best Impersonator of Las Vegas 2015 award.

And like the King, All Shook Up breaks the rules, by encouraging the audience to record and share everything.

Having been warned by ushers before, I rather furtively snuck a few shots of the stage before the band entered. Once the act began, I put my phone away, only to be surprised to see people openly snapping photos and recording video. They knew something I didn’t: At All Shook Up, you can snap all the photos, record all the videos and share as much of it as you can online – during the show.

In fact, Elvis stops the show and encourages you to do it!

It was a delightful surprise, and I found myself enjoying the show even more, sometimes just watching, other times snapping shots of the stage and outfits that make the show a delight. Clearly, the King knows what sells. It’s not what you can’t see without a ticket, but what you can. Every Yelp review, every photo on Facebook, is marketing of the most valuable kind:

Word of mouth. Still the most powerful marketing in the world.

By embracing audiences’ social sharing tendencies, Elvis shows he’s no square. He’s a marketing genius, who turns audience smartphones into his broadcast towers for two shows a night. When he jumps onto a lucky lady’s lap in the front row, he stops singing long enough to snap a selfie with her. On stage he looks shamelessly into every lens, singing to the audience beyond the audience. He knows he can’t purchase this kind of advertising. Every move of his performance is being transited to the the friends of friends who may become ticket-holders some day.

When Elvis leaves the building, it’s to be with his sphere of influence everywhere.

It’s a completely different strategy to shows that prohibit recording during the show. Even shows who involve the audience by pulling them embarrassingly on stage misunderstand the message that will be re-told later: Don’t sit in the front row. It’s the exact opposite of what Elvis wants people on Yelp to think about when they book the premium seats.

What Travis/Elvis is saying is: People want to say, I was there, see! What better way to harness social media than to be yourself, doing yourself, and simply give others a way to sing along.

Later walking through the casino, I considered the huge advertising budgets spent trying to capture consumers attention with bigger, louder, glitz. I watched people walk past it all, self-saturated consumers engrossed in their own mobile worlds. I thought, Elvis had turned the tables on the selfie-phenomenon. His costumes, the progression of songs, were a journey through his story, which became our story, for a while. A story we gladly retold it in pictures and video for the rest of the world to see.

Even without a ticket.

It validated something I’ve always thought. If you’re using social media to build a platform for professional growth, you can try to advertise to success. But ads are like poor impersonations of the real thing. Why not just do what you do, online, too? Do you give advice? Give it. Do you sing? Sing it. Personal and professional, as varied as the songs which made up the compelling personality we call Elvis. That’s the stuff we’re more likely to like. And to buy. And to eventually share with others, too. Much more than the advertising impression of you.

To paraphrase the King: The performance is what gets us all shook up. Give us a chance to be part of it. We’ll take it from there, and keep you always on our mind.

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