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How To Use Social Media To Market Major Events: 3 Case Studies

I am speaking at the International College Of Management next week, to some ambitious up and coming event producers and executives.Social Media Marketing Major events

The topic is “How Social Media Plays A Major Role For Marketing And Publicity Of Large Events”

So I decided that looking at a few case studies of how social media has been used to market and promote events would be in order. Though I am familiar with social media and it’s benefits, my experience with major events has been more on the level of attending rather than organizing, despite the fact that our Christmas street party event, that I helped organize was a major hit in 2009.

Major events and trade shows have taken a major hit in attendance in the last two years due to the worldwide “Great Financial Shrinkage” that is closely aligned to the the “GFC”. Apparently in 2008 there was a shrinkage of minus 5% in trade show events, in 2009 it was a little worse with a drop of minus 22%.  That being the case, the need to be creative and use efficient marketing methods and strategies has become paramount. The use of social media marketing that doesn’t cost much except a lot of time and commitment can be a very effective channel to promote an event. The great advantage of social media is encased in a phrase that I rather like…..”Social Media allows content to be set free”.   If you have interesting content and you allow it to be free on the channels, and in the communities that are appropriate and relevant, then it can be surprising how far that message will travel in the low friction, highly leveraged universe of social media. So here are 3 diverse case studies.

Case Study One: How A Facebook Group Drove 15,000 People To An Event

Social Media Marketing For Promoting Events

The 1st Annual Singapore Tattoo Show was held January 9-11, 2009, and included Show Ambassador Chris Garver of Miami Ink. The goal was to get 5,000 visitors to the show where over 120 artists from around the globe representing all the various modern tattoo styles ticked away with their machines.

Normally the marketing of an event is much the same

  • Telemarketing
  • Buy Email lists
  • Email marketing campaign
  • Buy a postal mailing list
  • Send out snail mail to the bought list
  • Build a Good Website
  • Optimize The Website for Search Engines (SEO)
  • Posters
  • Niche Magazine Print Advertising

Andrew Peters the brains behind the social media promotions leading up to the Singapore Tattoo Show decided to do something a bit different. He created the Facebook group called Tattoo Artistry that was started three months prior to the event. This is important for all show organizers to study.

Andrew used Facebook as a way for people to connect well before the physical event and the Tattoo Artistry Facebook Group quickly gained 3,000 members, securing a place as the center of this artwork for the region. In a sense, the physical show started with a virtual group. This is “new marketing” for conferences and events.

The passion of the members of the Tattoo Artistry Facebook group for “their event” meant promoting to their friends. The online community included people eager to attend the live event. Instead of relying on buying expensive advertising, Andrew built a community of passionate fans who built anticipation and buzz for the event.

With more than 15,000 people attending, the event brought three times the expected number of attendees!

Note:This will work if your target market were users of Facebook such as Generation I (Those who have always had the Internet as part of their daily lives ) 20-somethings. If you were marketing say an investment show geared towards boomers, a Facebook promo might not be nearly so effective.

Case Study Two: A Presidential Event

Social Media Marketing For Promoting Events

Arguably the most effective online social media web campaign event in history to date, Senator Barack Obama’s Presidential Campaign:

The Social Media Campaign Numbers:

  • Over 3 million individual donors were mobilised through social media
  • Motivated over 2 million social networking participants
  • Created and promoted more than 200,000 offline events across the country
  • Total of 6.5 million donations online
  • $500 million in donations online
  • More than 13 million people provided their email addresses to the campaign website over the course of the campaign, aides sent more than 7,000 types of  messages
  • In total, more than 2 billion e-mails landed in inboxes
  • The campaign website helped create over 2 million user profiles
  • There were over 400,000 blog entries
  • People spent more than 14 million hours watching over 1,000 Obama campaign-related videos on YouTube
  • There were more than 50 million views of Obama Campaign YouTube Videos
  • 1.2 billion minutes of YouTube view time.

Note: The numbers are almost numbing in their scale but it gives you an idea of how effective a well organised social media focussed campaign can be.

Case Study Three: The  2009 Senior PGA Championship – Cleveland, USA

Social Media Marketing For Promoting Events

This case study is from the public relations company  “PR 20/20” who in 2008 were selected to manage the local media relations for the 2009 Senior PGA Championship in Cleveland. This is their story.

To support our event marketing plan, we recommended launching a social media campaign to help generate awareness and build excitement by giving fans a behind-the-scenes look at a major golf championship., it was announced that the May 18-24.

We got approval in mid January and launched the campaign on February 2, three months and 16 days before the event. We included the following social media tools:

This opportunity afforded us the chance to test some industry best practices for successfully launching and building a social media campaign centered on an event. Based off this experience, we recommend keeping the following in mind when launching your own event-based social media campaign.

1. Take the Integrated Approach

The old saying a rising tide lifts all boats is an apt one, especially for social media activities. At every opportunity we tried to integrate our Twitter account with the blog and vice versa. Blog articles served as source material for tweets and in turn, Twitter was the second highest driver of traffic to the blog, behind only the event Website.

2. Link from the Event Website

Ideally, we would have hosted the blog on the event Website’s domain, but do to circumstances out of our control, we had to resort to hosting it on WordPress.com.

If you have to use WordPress or Typepad, we can’t over stress the importance of including a link from the event Website to the blog, as well as all other social media activities. It was not until the event site linked to the blog in early May that we really started to see traffic jump, from both the event site as well as search engines. The link gave the blog credibility in the eyes of search engines, and consequently it started to rank much higher for a number of keywords.

3. Take a Natural/Organic Approach to Building Followers

The most efficient way to build followers is to monitor others’ Tweets and participate in the conversation. With every retweet, it was like we were being featured in front of that person’s fan base.

However, since our timeframe was small, we needed to actively reach out to other Twitter users to gain a good following. We set a goal of 500 followers by the start of Championship week.

We used several online tools, including TwitterGrader.com’s search function and search.twitter.com. One thing we kept in mind is that users are more inclined to follow you if there is not a huge discrepancy between those you are following and those following you. We spread out our pushes to gain followers, and made sure we were within at least 200 the entire time.

Over the three months leading up to the tournament, we (in order of occurrence):

  • Researched and followed Clevelanders who listed golf in their profiles (Twitter Grader) — Least Successful
  • Researched and followed Ohioans who listed golf in their profiles (Twitter Grader)
  • Researched and followed Ohio and Cleveland sport fans (Twitter Grader)
  • Researched and followed golf Twitterers with the best Twitter Grades (Twitter Grader)
  • Started following all professional golf tournaments
  • Monitored and followed all Twitterers discussing “golf,” “PGA,” “Senior PGA,” and various player names. (search.twitter.com) — Most Successful
  • Reviewed the followers of other professional golf tournaments and started following them

We were able to attract 908 followers in a three month window.

4. Show and Tell

In order to gauge what our Twitter followers wanted to see from our event coverage, we posted a tweet asking them. The overwhelming answer was pictures — images they can’t see on TV or in the newspapers. This was consistent with the answers another Champions Tour event (@RegionsCharity) got when they asked their followers the same question.

Leading up to the event, we posted pictures of clubhouse and course construction, media day, practice rounds and player arrivals. During the event, we showed pictures of players, the course, media interviews, putting green, driving range and fans getting autographs. Each picture we posted to Twitter would get between 20 to 30 views, with player photos generating the most traffic.

On Flickr, the most popular photo album was from media day, which involved a press conference, golf, a chipping contest on Progressive Field and the returning champion throwing out the first pitch.

5. There’s no “I” in Blog

During the early months, you may only need one person managing the social media campaign, since there is only so much to discuss. However, as the event nears, the more responsibilities you’ll have, thus the less time to monitor, participate and publish. Unfortunately, this coincides with the time people really take an active interest in the event.

Our recommendation is to team up and assign specific topics to each member. Someone can be responsible for interview quotes (also a big draw), another for event recaps and another for interesting facts and figures. By teaming up, everyone knows their responsibility and can focus on one area instead of spreading one person too thin.

6. Start Early

Launch your campaign as early as possible. We launched ours three months and 16 days from the start of Championship week. This is a very small window to develop strategies, generate followers and build relationships.

As with anything, there is a learning curve — time needed to figure out and form relationships with the influentials, determine what topics resonate best with audiences and define posting and updating strategies and processes.

7. Get Creative and Bookmark It

One of our most successful blog posts was also the most fun to write. The 2009 Senior PGA Championship was hosted at Canterbury Golf Club, which shares its name with Geoffrey Chaucer’s epic poem — The Canterbury Tales.

His work begins with a prologue introducing all the characters and explaining why they are headed to Canterbury. We decided to write our own prologue, and the resulting monstrosity (The Canterbury Tale: Senior PGA Prologue) stretched the term “poetry” to its absolute limits. However, it was Stumbled and ended up generating the highest one-day blog traffic total up to that point.

So what are your experiences using social media to promote and market an event?

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