Trends, by definition, are constantly changing, and in marketing specifically it’s vital to keep up, since what’s effective today could fall flat tomorrow. In this article we set out the current social media platform and strategy trends in experiential and event marketing to keep you up to date on how brands on the cutting edge are operating.
Keeping up with social media is like being back at school: each week some new craze would sweep the playground, be it Beyblades, Japanese trading cards or fidget spinners – only to be replaced the following week by the next big thing, resulting in yet another crazy rush to be the “coolest kid in school” (with the most stressed parents).
Social media is the same, just with more tears and fewer adults supervising things. There are always trends and strategies emerging, as specialists optimise existing technologies and on-board new ones, and it’s easy to get left behind.
Luckily for you, we’ve collated the current trends and strategies for using social media with events and experiential marketing into one, easy to read, article. So, break time’s over, let’s get to work…
Why Social Media Is Important For Events
I could ramble ad nauseam on why social media is a vital tool for successful events and experiential marketing. However, I feel it’s better to let the specialists and the research do the talking, since that’s what they’re paid for – these three points illustrate perfectly why social media is essential not just for events, but for marketing in general:
- People want to share their excitement in the build-up to an event, social media gives them a forum of like-minded people to do this – that’s why, according to buffer, nearly as many people are talking about an event before the event as they are during.
- Social media is where the attention is: 2.789bn social media users worldwide (37% of the world’s population), spend, on average, 1 hour 56 minutes across the big 5 social media channels: YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter.
- Events are a plentiful source of user-generated content: 98% of consumers create digital or social content at events and experiences, and all of these consumers share the content (EventTrack 2016). Social media allows this to happen.
It’s plain to see, refusing take advantage of the wealth of opportunities provided by social media is a fundamental error – one which you can be sure your competitors are not making.
Events & Experiential Marketing Trends In Social Media
Before we look at social media platforms individually, it’s first important to discuss the trends in strategy for social media in experiential marketing, since many of these run across apply across multiple platforms.
Prior To The Event
- 72% of employees with socially-encouraging employers are significantly more likely to help boost sales than the 42% of employees whose employers aren’t socially encouraging according to WebberShandwick.
- …or fear of missing out is a real phenomenon, particularly in the “always-on” world of social media – brands are now leveraging this for events through exclusive content, timed offers and adverts implying scarcity.
Forum For Discussion
- The crude strategy of using a social media channel purely for event promotion has long since gone extinct, there are other ways to gain access to the consumer. Brands are now using social media to bring like-minded fans together for discussion, allowing them to mine sentiment, curate pain points and recognise opportunities in an environment which they control – all the while building a buzz for the event in the community.
An Inside Look
- The idea that all social media content has to be perfect and polished is gone, banished by the rise of vlogging – the fact is, if there is a market for the content, and the content is engaging, people will watch it.
- For events and experiential, this has led to a trend of “behind-the-scenes” content in the lead up to events, teasing line-ups, posting pictures and videos of set construction, people simply want to feel like a part of something.
During The Event
Curation & Co-creation
- Advances in technology allow for event content to be published as soon as it’s created, allowing brands to report highlights as the day progresses. This tactic is used in a variety of ways: photobooths at experiential activations, for example, can now by synced to post directly to a visitor’s social media page; whilst conferences use live-tweeting share stand-out quotes from their talks throughout the day.
- These tactics help disseminate content amongst those not at the event, aided by social engagement from those that are/were.
- As previously mentioned, brands are starting to show customers behind the curtain – this extends to the event itself, backstage content shows a human side to the brand, allowing them to build a deeper connection.
- Location-based technology allows brands to reward those who share their presence at the event with their channels. This is a quick and easy way to secure event exposure at the low cost of: a small discount, a free meal, or simply a t-shirt.
- With the advent of Periscope, Facebook Live, YouTube Live and now Instagram live stories, brands can live-stream the action direct from their activations and events. The benefit of this is the authenticity that the live format provides, the raw unedited nature appeals to people – which is part of the reason Red Bull Stratos received over 8 million live views.
After The Event
- The pre-event community can, and is, also used post-event – it gives brands the chance to gather feedback from an engaged audience, which can be used to feed back into the production process to ensure mistakes aren’t repeated and successes are doubled.
Distribution Of Content
- Social media and experiential marketing are now valuable cogs in the content marketing machine, experiential as the source and social as the distribution network
In comparison to the previous, time-restricted, tactics, the follows methods can be executed at various stages throughout the event planning and execution process:
- A common tactic in social media strategy, pinning your flag to an exploding news story through funny or engaging content is a great way to ride that story’s exposure. Just remember, there’s a fine line between humour and insensitivity!
Leveraging Sponsors’ Networks
- Many brands are recognising the value of partnerships for leveraging credibility and audiences at their events, this advantage also extends to social media. Encouraging sponsors to share your event content through their networks compounds the exposure your posts generate.
- The hot topic of 2017, influencer marketing has opening up a wealth of opportunity for brands. In particular, brands are starting to recognise the power of micro-influencers – these people have smaller followings than celebrity influencers, but benefit from much higher engagement rates amongst niche audiences, allowing brands to select the perfect match for their event.
Now we’ve explored the general strategic trends of social media for experiential and event marketing, it’s time to look at the specific platforms and the unique ways in which brands are using them to augment their events.
Choosing A Platform:
Picking the right platform is essential if you want to get the most out of your social media activities – there are a number of factors affecting this decision, however, conforming to these three will keep you activities pointed in the right direction:
- Select the platform where your target audience’s attention is: Instagram is the perfect vehicle for a fitness brand with a young following; however Twitter or LinkedIn would be a more suitable venue for a B2B conference to live-post highlights.
- Just as a B2B conference would benefit from live-tweeting, an experiential activation would benefit from a social photo booth– however, vice versa, the effects would be diminished, as the platforms would not align with the nature of the event.
- Your social media objective should align with that of your event – for example, branded Snapchat filters are perfect for generating exposure and awareness, but do nothing to encourage product trial or lead generation and thus, would be a waste of money in such a situation.
The “Big 6” Channels
These are the biggest and most commonly used social media platforms by experiential marketers today – each has its pros and cons to be discussed, but for today, we’re going to focus on exactly how marketers are using these channels to help promote their events and experiential marketing.
Star of “The Social Network”, Facebook is a social media juggernaut, with over 2 billion monthly users. In this context, 550 million people use Facebook events each month, making it a valuable resource for event marketers.
Popular Facebook tactics for events include:
- Live Streaming – Mentioned earlier, Facebook’s integrated “live” feature allows brands to broadcast footage that can be shared and reacted on live, allowing for live-engagement activities to be held with an audience that isn’t present.
- Event Ads – Facebook’s paid advertising incorporates dedicated event ads that: show information about the event; include an RSVP CTA; and can be targeted by geography, demographic or both.
- Event Pages – event pages are the standout feature for Facebook from an event marketer’s point of view. Aside from the aforementioned event ads, there’s also:
- Event Tags
- These can be added to an event to improve the likelihood of it cropping up in a search.
- Generates Discussion
- As we’ve already discussed, people want to discuss an event, before and after – event pages are a venue populated with a like-minded audience.
- Brands can stay fresh in their audience’s mind with reminder notifications, particularly since this feature can send mobile push notifications..
- In the same vein as leveraging sponsors’ audiences through posts, co-hosting an event page with them does the same, increasing exposure and awareness.
- Targeted Messages
- One of the coolest features by far, organisers can send messages based on a person’s intent to attend, allowing for highly-targeted delivery of content.
- Responding to all social media questions, complaints and requests can be difficult, particularly for small brands or large events. Chatbots counter this by providing advice to customers with common issues, greatly reducing the workload of social media managers.
- Event Tags
Commonly known as a social news network, twitter’s limited characters and well-publicised trending content make it a niche for the transfer of information. In the words of Eventbrite: if your event draws a younger, tech-savvy crowd, Twitter should be a vital part of your promotion strategy.
Current twitter trends for event marketing include:
- Live tweets – Given the character limit, live-tweets are perfect for sharing key pieces of information from a conference or activation talk.
- Trending Hashtags – Encouraging the use of an event hashtag amongst your attendees is a great way to trend on twitter. Once your hashtag is trending, it will be shown on users’ dashboards. This can be achieved through paid promotion, and results in great exposure.
- Tweet Walls – Depending on settings, tweet walls display tweets both from and about your events on a larger scale – they’re great for Q&A’s, feedback and creating a community spirit amongst your attendees.
- Sharing Video & Photo Content – Although primarily used for information, Twitter is also heavily visual (given the character restriction). And, since posts with images are a third more likely to get retweeted than posts without them, according to Twitter, many brands use it to share video and photo content from events and activations.
- Collecting Q&A Questions And Feedback – Twitter makes it very simple to search for mentions and hashtags, making it easy to use as a forum for feedback and Q&A.
Traditionally used for recruitment and content distribution, LinkedIn can still be a power tool for promoting industry-specific and B2B events – current trends include:
- InMail – Marketers can send highly-targeted InMail to their prospective audience, allowing them to target specific segments with specific messaging.
- Highly-Targeted Ads – Similarly, LinkedIn ads can be tailored with a wealth of options to reach specific audiences. For B2B & industry conferences, this is great news as it cuts down massively on wasted spend.
- LinkedIn Groups – Groups provide pre-segmented audiences – it is almost always safe to assume someone is a member of the group because they align with its subject matter. This enables targeted promotion, free of charge.
- Leveraging Speakers & Experts – LinkedIn is a professional platform for networking and sharing knowledge, brands leverage an event’s speakers and experts by having them promote the event to their following. Doing so gives access to a highly engaged audience who already have a vested interest in your event.
A popular platform amongst brands with a younger audience, Instagram is the weapon of choice for targeting millennials. Often praised for its ability to create fast exposure, Instagram is perfect for businesses, engagement rates among organic posts from company Instagram accounts is about three times better than posts on other platforms.
The key to staying relevant is to be compelling with your posts, with current trends including:
- Sharing Narratives – As mentioned, the key to Instagram is to be compelling, showcasing event production, event content and backstage content through vivid, attractive visuals demonstrates the “story” of your event, rather than a series of images with no connection other than their location.
- Ads – As with Facebook and LinkedIn, ads can be targeted based on location which is excellent for experiential activations, roadshows or one-off events. Alongside this, brands can link directly to landing pages from adverts, essentially making them into hi-tech flyers with quality CTAs.
- Leveraging Influencers – Aside from YouTube, Instagram is the home of the influencers, there are thousands on the platform, many with highly-engaged, niche audiences, perfect for driving the right kind of traffic to your event.
- Stories & Instagram Live – Live-streaming has been mentioned a few times, but with Instagram’s promoted & relevant stories feature, it’s quick and easy for brands to put their live-content in front of those outside of their network.
- Event Hashtags – Just like with Twitter, event hashtags are common as they allow brands to track and repost content live.
Whilst not necessarily rife with event marketing features, YouTube is the 2nd largest social network and so deserves it’s own attention. Typically the platform for long-form, valuable video content, YouTube is perfect for show reels or key information from the event. Current trends include:
- Live-Streaming – Another choice for live video, YouTube live is typically best for brands that already have large, engaged audiences, from consistent content production; due to high levels of competition.
- Sharing Video Content – YouTube is the video platform, all video content from your event should be uploaded through YouTube, if only to access the extreme number of people using the network every day.
A relative newcomer and perfect for events, Snapchat’s 1-1 communications, engaged user-base and handy features make it a staple amongst marketers – current experiential and event marketing trends include
- Live Stories – As with Instagram, this feature allows content from your event to be published to those outside your network instantly – brands often use this to give behind-the-scenes glimpses into the event process.
- Branded Geofilters – Snapchat’s branded geofilters become available once a user captures content within the “fenced” area. This gives brands a cheap, simple option to brand any user-generated content from their event that is shared on Snapchat.
- 1-1 Communication – Many brands are using the personal 1-1 nature of Snpachat’s communication to send thanks, recaps, targeted promotion and content. The communication is given a seen as more authentic and personal because of the privacy involved.
- Coupons – Snapchat is the perfect way to send time-sensitive coupons to prospective attendees. This not only inspires FOMO amongst those thinking of not attending, it demonstrates the brand’s commitment to providing value – Yogurt company 16 Handles executed this to perfection with their promotion, where users were randomly assigned a coupon that ranged from 16% to 100%.