There was a time when events existed a few weeks before and nary a day after the events actually happened. The focus was narrow, but effective. We wanted to reach our audience and drive attendance, noise, and participation about the event itself. Now, with the rise of social media as a powerhouse communications tool, we as event planners have opportunity to quantify data and grow audience relationships beyond the event. To help shed some perspective on event marketing, we've reached out to Joey Wagner of J Wagner Group.
How has Event Marketing changed since the rise of Social Media?
Social media has changed everything in event marketing. I can remember 10 years ago when flyers were so important to my events that I was out on the streets every night flyer-ing cars. Now, I don't even print flyers. We get flyers digitally designed and post them on our social media outlets, and tag friends & promoters in them so they get direct notification and can share it. Text messaging wasn't big back then either, but over the years I started sending everyone in my phone a text. It took hours! Now, with social media & other text programs I don't have to do that.
Social media is so effective because of Facebook notifications and/or Twitter mentions. People live on their phone, or have their phone next to them at all times so that form of communication is unequivocally effective. Smart Phones & Apps have also changed the game with event marketing making it direct to the consumer's hand. Also, with Facebook Fan Pages and Twitter, now the marketing is direct because people want to see it. Social media is just so easy to use and it’s free!
Most notably, we have access to quantifiable data that was not available before. We can track engagement, gauge consumer experience, and react in real-time to positive and negative feedback. This access to our audiences helps us as brand advocates to create a better event experience each time we organize an event between brands and consumers.
And, we can start engaging brands and consumers in a dialogue way before, and even way after, the actual event. Whereas before our time was limited, and often dependent on a third party (news media). Calendar listings, flyers, ads, are no longer key to the communication strategy. We can now save money, and be more focused on outreach efforts when we reach consumers where they are open to event communications.
Are there a specific set of guidelines event marketers can follow when implementing Social Media into their communications strategy?
1.) I have always believed in working with an AMAZING Graphic Designer. You want the marketing you put out there for your event to grab someone's eye and attention. I am very hyper-aware of how my marketing looks to the public. You don't have to post or tweet 100 times a day, just be consistent.
2.) I like to post our events in the morning or around Noon when people check their Facebook or Twitter accounts (before they go to work or during a lunch break). I feel more people will see it. Obviously sending a Tweet to a certain person, or tagging a person in a post or flyer on Facebook that knows a lot of people, always help get the word out. We have a pretty good team of promoters that like to help promote our events via social media, and having them promote via social media gains you more consumers.
3.) Always put your Facebook and Twitter Links on your advertising or marketing. This just lets people know they can follow you or find you via two HUGE platforms on social media. Make sure your followers or fans have a direct connect to you as the event planner through social media. This makes the consumer feel more comfortable with your event. And, it builds a relationship with them when they know they can get answers directly from the person putting on the event.
First and foremost, know your goals and develop a strategy. Social Media is a very powerful tactic in the communications wheel. It has to be utilized correctly though. So, always start at the beginning. Ask yourself “So What?” and “Who Cares?” then start flushing out the details to your strategy and tactical executions.
Second, know why you are using the social media outlets you’ve decided to engage. Each one reaches a different audience and offers alternate ways to communicate your audience (potentially). Once you’ve identified that, choose what the voice of each outlet will be, and then stay consistent. The most effective way to communicate a message through any channel is to be consistent with voice, look and feel.
Third, you are marketing an event – so have fun with it. Communicate with your audience with lots of visual stimulation. Photos, flyers, posters are all a great way to communicate your message in a way that is unique, fun and above all, engaging.
What Events have you managed or witnessed that have done a great job leveraging their Social media platforms?
Our PINK PROM event this October was a HUGE Success because of social media! We SOLD over 500 tickets in our 1st year and raised $11,500 for Susan G Komen of Louisville. We spent NOTHING on Advertising because all communication was through social media!! Through social media platforms we teased the name of the event about a year before the event just to create a Buzz (ex: PINK PROM Coming Soon!!!) Then about 6 months before the event we put out our Official PINK PROM Logo so people could actually see the event was real and it was happening. We started our Facebook Fan Page & Twitter @PinkProm502 & then just started a Guerilla Marketing Campaign with some of our amazing committee members! Everyone was talking about Pink Prom through social media. Three months out, we put tickets on-sale through a website I like using EventBrite.com and the thing just snowballed! 500 tickets later I owe a lot to Social Media for the success of this event! I have never seen a BUZZ with an event like PINK PROM, and I have been doing events in this city for 13 years.
We’d definitely cite Pink Prom as a successful event when it came to leveraging their social media platforms. We also were very impressed with the recent social media engagement at this summer’s Lollapolloza. We were so impressed in fact, that we wrote an entire blog about the experience and highlights on their engagement.
Why should brands still put on events? Doesn't social media accomplish the same engagement at a fraction of the cost?
Putting on an event and promoting an event are two very different things. It’s not the same engagement for the consumer. When we are putting together an event for a brand you have to create an experience for the consumer. For example if Grey Goose puts out on their social media that they have a new flavor coming out called Cherry Noir, that is NOT going to make the consumer go out and buy it. But, if we create a Grey Goose branded event where the consumer actually comes to the event, has an amazing time, and gets to the taste a product they like, they have a better chance of getting the consumer to move to purchase. I am all about creating an amazing experience at our events. It’s very important for the brands because I want consumers to walk in and be WOW-ed, and then when they walk out they can't wait to come to the next one. They remember Big Activations by brands when they have a good time. If they don't have fun you can guarantee it doesn't help the brand. Another example is car dealerships. If Toyota is promoting a new car on Facebook it makes me see the car online visually. But, if Toyota sponsors a BIG event or puts on an event where actual Toyota Cars/Trucks are on-premise, the consumer gets to see the car, look inside the car, or even test drive the car. Most of the time events allow more personal interaction between consumers and brands, so they still have to do them.
Interaction is key, and while social media allows a constant source for communication, it does not supersede interaction. When a consumer can get an experience that enriches their lives or enriches their experience through sight, sound, touch and feel – it can only help deepen their relationship and loyalty to a brand.