Avoiding the pitfalls of social media

For this blog I have decided to focus on what may be fast becoming the two most important words in event marketing… Social Media. The likes of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have become such important tools to the events industry that research into social media is a new study area in its own right.

As this is a relatively new platform, (Facebook, YouTube and Twitter launched in 2004, 2005 and 2006 respectively) we are still learning how to utilise these tools to their full potential. There are a number of research papers that highlight the benefits of using social media in all areas of the events industry, especially those with the aims of increasing exposure of a brand’s message through experiential marketing and brand activations (see Walsh et al 2013, Hudson and Hudson 2013 and Rothschild 2011). As the new generation of event managers begin their careers, the use of social media as part of a customer relationship marketing strategy will become second nature.

I personally, think that I’m quite computer savvy and would have no problems utilising social media in my future career as an event manager but considering the CFO of Twitter still mixes up public tweets with direct messages, it is understandable that mistakes may still be made! Here are a few more examples of social media fails and successes that will hopefully be remembered when implementing an online marketing strategy.

Event hashtags are a great tool for promoters to encourage engagement with and between attendees. They can assist with collating all relevant posts and information about an event just by simply adding a predetermined word with a ‘#’ in front of it to the post. Many of the most well-known events worldwide, successfully use hashtags to get potential attendees engaged with the event. This encourages communication before, during and after the event has taken place, for example Glastonbury (#Glastonbury2015), the BRIT Awards (#BRITs2015) and the Super Bowl (#SB49).

As can be seen from the previous hashtags, the event organisers decided on direct, to the point words as they will be easy to remember, but it isn’t always as straightforward as this. When creating a hashtag for the National Events Month, Britain for Events also decided to keep it simple. The chosen tag was an acronym, thus #NEMO was used. Unfortunately, the organiser didn’t seem to consider that they would be fighting for coverage with a clownfish!

Sometimes being direct does not always get the intended point across. It is vital to get other people’s opinions on your chosen hashtag before going live as they might notice something you had not. No one learnt this lesson better than Susan Boyle’s PR team who in 2012 created what they thought was an innocent hashtag for an album launch party but didn’t quite get the press attention they had hoped for!

An unusual social media success story came courtesy of Kit Kat in 2012, who created a ‘Free No WiFi Zone’ in Amsterdam. This brand activation involved using a technological device to block network signal in a radius around the activation, encouraging people to disconnect from the online world. Ironically, this became an internet sensation which got consumers talking about the brand through different social media channels.

This idea of encouraging event attendees to unplug themselves and become more involved with their surroundings has started to be utilised by WP_20150122_022some experiential event companies. Gingerline an immersive dining experience and Secret Cinema an experiential cinema experience, are both hugely successful events which actively discourage attendees from sharing their experiences online. The enforced secrecy has the effect of making the events widely talked about online but with no real information divulged, the mystery ensures that each series of events is consistently sold out. One of global brand experience agency, Jack Morton’s trends to look out for in 2015 is a ‘digital detox’ and research has shown that there is an increasing demand for experiences rather than material goods. This is something that I would love to get involved with in my future career as creating an immersive experience that can get guests off their phones as they are so wrapped up in the event is a great achievement, especially if part of a brand activation.

There are a number of key guides available to event organisers to assist with implementing a social media strategy from Mexia Communications, Amiando  and Event Manager Blog. Using social networks right is vital but the event industry will need to continue to grow and come up with more creative ways to use social media to immerse guests in the event experience than just simply sharing a picture, as the value will be much greater.


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