As of January 2016, there were 2.3 billion active social media users with an average of 5.54 social media accounts. With such an incredible pool of potential clients, it is no wonder that the vast majority of brands use at least one social media channel. Currently marketers spend about 14% of digital ad budgets on social media ads, and this number is said to continue to grow at a steady pace. It is worth mentioning that most online conversations are unbranded, and at the same time, the majority of users who discuss brands online, do not actually follow those brands’ profiles.
Social media have become one of the most influential sources of information – a go-to reference for the public, by the public. Social media are above all much less stable than standard media – the influence of trends is much more powerful. There is hardly any censorship and source checking on social media, so in this sense content is much less restricted and more flexible than other types of media which have editorial policy and fact-checking in place. In broad terms, this is the social media concept. But how do you make that work to your advantage in relation to events?
Consider a situation where the event and the client company don’t have strong social network presence, or the goal is to engage a new target audience. Here are a few tips on how to obtain real social media coverage when you don’t have much time to build a strong, loyal community of your own:
1. Heroes go around
Content marketing is all about creating that unique, relevant and valuable content and distributing it to the right audience. Experience shows that in order to reach the right audience, it is worth writing directly to social groups and editors if the topic is unique or urgent. Take the Ice Bucket Challenge for example – a peer-to-peer phenomenon which raised about $100 million in just a month.
It is important to choose the right channels: choose media which will repost your news on the right websites. You can also turn to native advertising and pay for some coverage and publications, still, you should make the material native in order to match the form and function of the platform where it appears.
In any case, you need to formulate an appropriate media strategy and select the media and social websites that would have the most impact on your audience: news media (best suited for social projects), professional HR communities (if the project is connected to client’s professional objectives), and public communities (for common or entertaining content). Don’t underestimate the power of social media: for some audiences it is the main source of information.
2. Info partnerships
If the objective allows, and the audience of your event coincides with the audience of social media or blogs, you can always agree on an information partnership. This way, you can gain access to new audiences and get more coverage through exclusive, targeted content.
A great example of a content partnership is NetFlix + The Wall Street Journal: Cocainenomics which resulted in an immersive article experience with an economic focus, essentially advertising the 2015 TV show “Narcos.”
The elaborate piece tells the story of Pablo Escobar and the Medellin cartel through almost 4000 words and interactive maps, video clips, images and graphics. The highlight of the partnership, the Escobar quiz has been played over 500,000 times!
3. Which content?
It’s better to create video content.
Study after study confirms the importance and impact of video content as compared to text and images. The majority of marketing professionals state that video is the type of content which leads to the most conversions as it is the preferred communication style for customers.
Don’t forget to make mood boards in order to make your plans and scenario clear. Personalities and characters rule on social networks. If it is possible, give priority to faces and emotions. Prepare content in the right format and the most suitable style for the social network you are using.
4. No branding!
Explicit branding can be problematic: more often than not, branding triggers the so-called “advertising blindness,” a phenomenon whereby users subconsciously ignore ads or anything that looks remotely like an ad.
Many social media users search for and use content from mass media. At the same time, they engage with pictures or videos where there is no obvious advertising. Therefore, it is better to use uncluttered visual materials for more coverage and engagement. Let the visual speak for itself, try uploading stunning images with no logos, no slogans and no brand name.
5. Celebrities & props
If you have the opportunity, make trends play for you. Have someone dressed as Superman for an event. Have a throne for people to have their photos taken on. People are attracted not just by bright images but also by unusual content which is in fact much more likely to be shared and re-shared online. Having famous people at an event is another opportunity for creating a buzz. If the audience has access to them, if they appear on your images, if they share your content with their followers, the size of your audience will grow tremendously.
6. Employee engagement
Events which involve your employees can help create a snowball effect and even reduce the cost of advertising on a social media network. Indeed, your employees can be an effective social media marketing resource for your company. If your employees sincerely believe in the event, they will spread the word to their social media audiences, effectively engaging not only potential clients, but also everyone else around them. In addition to leveraging your employees’ existing contacts, you can encourage them to expand their professional and personal networks.
7. Get ready for the negative
There’s no escaping negative ratings and reviews in today’s consumer world. Whether we’re picking a celebrity magazine or a sandwich, we’ve come to not only trust, but relish reviews. It’s no surprise then, that brands want to encourage positive reviews and ward off negative ones. Many go as far as engaging in black-hat tactics to fight negative feedback — from drowning out negative reviews with fake positive ones to blackmailing critical reviewers, to engaging in expensive lawsuits over purported libel and defamation.
What so many sellers are missing out on as a result, is the inherent value of a customer feedback. Companies, large and small, can use negative reviews to create positive results. Feedback, negative or positive, is a gift. A gift that too few brands acknowledge.
Social media is already one of the most powerful catalysts for promoting your events.
A specific aim and a clear marketing strategy will go a long way to build a strong brand in demand, with a chance of success. And don’t forget: quality will always beat quantity! It is better to have 1000 users reading your posts on a regular basis than a much larger amount of uninterested and inactive users. It is also important to interact directly with the audience, in real time, if possible. Engage with your audience, share information, answer their questions, thank them for positive and negative feedback, hear out their complaints and, when applicable, offer refunds.
By being on the same wavelength with you target audience you will show a positive brand personality, expand your network and also enhance your skills in social media – practice makes perfect!
What are your social media knacks when it comes to events? Do leave your ideas and comments below!
Nick Novoselov is the CEO of ArtNauka – a company dedicated to popularising science, based in Russia. He writes about the science of event marketing and the impact events have on businesses.