Shoot to Thrill: Social Media at Live-Events

By October 11, 2016Social Media

One thing people ask us a lot about is how to use social media to boost their presence and value of their events.

So let’s start at the beginning…

Social media allows people to share their life experiences with their friends and family, and in some cases their fan bases. They will share things that reflect on their interests, and things they find cool.

And to get real organic sharing, this is what you want. It will help you build awareness in your real market: because those people, if interested in your product/service, probably have like-minded connections on their social media.

Before we talk about using social media for your event, let us quickly talk about social media in general. What are the metrics in social media that are valuable?

The key social media services like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest, allow people to share “user generated content”, as well as “like” it, and “comment” on it, as well as be-“friend”, “follow” or somehow indicate their desire to be associated with that person.

So we have these key metrics available for social media users:

Friend/Follower Count — we call this the “reach“, this is how many people will receive any social-media posts they publish.

How Do I Use Social Media for my Event?

Social media is a great way to build anticipation and find the target audience for your event. One of the best ways is to offer an incentive, such as ticket-price discount to those people that share, or receive the share from a friend. Using custom-tailored discount-codes, you can effectively track where/who is generating the most share-value.

Lock’N’Load The Magic Bullet

The experiential event industry is dynamic and changing constantly due to new advances in technology combined with fresh ideas that engage and entertain consumers. In recent years there has been a monumental buzz from companies throughout the industry that a magic bullet has been discovered that solves almost all of our problems by easing the data collection process, providing automated measurement, and amplifying a single brand engagement into gazillions of organic impressions. Simply convince a consumer to “allow” the linkage of their social media account to a specialized mechanic (such as RFID, Bar-Code, finger prints, etc), and this technological wizardry will lead us to a marketer’s Shangri-La.

At one point, in the not too distant past, we were one of those technology companies proudly boasting that our technology will “amplify” the value of your experience and bring greater ROI than your brand has ever experienced before. We have learned much, and today I am certain that we technologists don’t deserve quite so much credit, and here’s why:

People will share cool stuff

Our customers (agencies and brands) are incredibly creative and build awesome brand experiences that people actually want to share. People at events are using their mobile devices to post photos to social media, tweet about their experiences, and claim bragging rights. As brand marketers, your job hasn’t changed – make the experience worthy of sharing and it will be shared.

Just because it hasn’t been measured, doesn’t mean it hasn’t been amplified

Using Social Media Platform APIs (Application Programming Interface), applications can track amplification by calculating the number of friends that have theoretically been exposed to the post. But having the ability to track doesn’t automatically equate to an increase in impressions – it merely is allowing us to begin to quantify the impact of the brand experience.

Measuring Impressions is an Imperfect Science

So you engage 1,000 people and create automatic check-ins as consumers enter your brand experience. The math says each guest has on average X number of friends and as such you clearly have a measurable gazillion impressions, right? First off, your technology partner should be taking the X number of friends and at least dividing it by two to account for the non-regular social media user, which accounts for roughly half of us. Secondly, ask to see the “Hide Rate”. We recently supported a brand, and at their request (against our advice) had multiple check-ins for a single experience – this led to a 84% hide rate. In this case one is led to beg the question are those impressions they worked so hard to generate doing more to help or hurt the brand?

Hit The Bullseye with the Magic Bullet

There is no doubt that social media API’s and embedded tokens have a pivotal role to play in the experiential marketing ecosystem. The key is to understand how to deploy this tactic to support specific brand objectives and not simply embrace the technology for technology sake, which leads to “brand spam” and skeptical consumers. So, here are a few things we’ve learned on effectively connecting your event to social media:

Less is more

We recently had two brand activations targeted toward the same age demographic and taking place in the same market space – one a spirit brand, and the other a mobile service provider. The spirit brand had an expansive deployment with automatic check-ins, like-posts, and photo posts. On average each guest posted a social media transaction 3.5 times on Facebook. This activation engaged 1,000 people and had an estimated amplification number of 800,000 people – not bad right?

The mobile service provider had a simpler activation that engaged roughly the same 1,000 people and posted a single picture to social media. This cool photo prompted high numbers of likes and comments, was shared fervently by their Facebook friends and captured almost 4 million impressions. Less is more (worth saying again).

Organic is better

One of my favourite quotes from David Ogilvy is “I don’t know the rules of grammar… If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language they use every day, the language in which they think. We try to write in the vernacular.

So what’s better; a post dictated by the brand, with their controlled branding, links and content, or a post uncontrolled by the brand where the consumer controls everything including the camera angle, vernacular, and of course no branding? We would argue a post unprompted by the brand is better – measurably better. Recently we performed an admittedly unscientific test where a couple of FISH employees were at a customer warehouse and took a picture with a gigantic brand prop and posted it to Facebook. One was posted unedited and it received 40 comments and Likes. The other was doctored to appear to be in a controlled environment and added the brand logo – this garnered a total of 4 responses.

Be tactical – support your strategy

So if less is more, and organic is better, why bother to leverage the social media API’s? There are a host of good reasons to get your consumers to share and receive content through your social media pipe including gaining additional insights about your consumers, augmenting amplification, speeding up the data collection process and engaging more consumers. Most importantly, and this is usually completely missed by most brands deploying this tactic, is linking all non-organic posts to a promotional campaign that drives consumers to the point of sale. Executed correctly, brands can measure where it really counts – at the cash register.

In summary – be skeptical

We have all heard by now the unbelievable claims of hundreds of millions of impressions from a single event. In one case one of the world’s most popular video games claimed their experiential launch event, and resulting social media impressions, drove 1 Billion dollars in sales in the first three days. These claims are overreaching and do not factor duplicate friends, inactive users, or the fact that experiential marketing is an important, but single touch-point in a brand’s integrated marketing mix, and true ROI is a complex calculation that should not be assigned to an isolated event (clearly the sales of this popular game were not going to be 0 if the event hadn’t taken place).

The bottom line is event marketers are really good at what they do – creating awesome brand experiences worth sharing. The world has not changed and technology companies like FISH need to continue to support brand marketers with technology that enhances the brand experience and makes events more engaging, fun and measurable. People share cool stuff, because it’s cool stuff. We certainly would be amiss to claim credit for your hard earned “amplification”.

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