Maximize The Event Experience: Engage Socially In The Moment
How do you push your brand's reach during an event? Columnist Maggie Malek outlines steps you can take to fully engage with consumers via social media during events.
Our job as marketers is to identify (or create) moments that matter to consumers for the brands we represent — and to generate conversations around those moments.
In our multi-screen world, leveraging live events in real time on social media can be a powerful way to kick-start conversations and engage consumers online.
That said, how can you maximize your brand’s marketing punch and keep attendees tuned in socially? You can encourage meaningful social engagement during event launches based on thorough research into existing conversations. That’s a robust strategy that takes the dialogue to the next level.
When we develop social media plans for our clients’ event activations as title sponsors, or when we leverage an existing event (think Monday Night Football or an annual awards show), we use the following framework.
Step 1: Listen And Evaluate
Capturing consumer focus and cultivating conversations in real time, during events, requires knowing a lot about who those consumers are, what they care about and what they’re thinking and saying about your brand already.
If your brand is the event’s title sponsor, listen to online conversations far in advance of event day to identify key conversation topics and opportunities. This ears-to-the-ground approach can facilitate conversations with ambassadors who will build excitement for your brand (more on that below).
Even if your brand isn’t the title sponsor of an event, there are ways to create the conversation. Start by assessing the event’s audience, and decide if there is a relative tie-in to your brand. Ask yourself (and answer honestly):
• Will the audience care if our brand joins a conversation online, or will we alienate people?
• Is our brand in any way relevant to the audience/demographic or the event? There is nothing worse than watching a brand fail with an untimely or off-target tweet or a post on a platform where the audience isn’t playing.
• How do we truly engage with consumers during events without coming off sales-y or disingenuous?
Once you confirm a relevant tie-in between your brand, the event and the audience, start planning for every opportunity to engage.
Step 2: Write Your Engagement Plan
Event time is hectic, so it’s essential to have a plan in place before and during your event.
• Identify your content opportunities, and consider any potential threats, such as chatter from competing brands that may try to steal your thunder.
• Decide ahead of time what type of content will be appropriate and who will need to approve it. Then, start writing!
Content doesn’t have to be stale just because it’s crafted a week or more in advance. If your brand will be tweeting during an awards show, plan a clever tweet for every outcome so you are prepared. And find ways to engage your audience before and after the event, as well.
For example, we have managed Shell Oil Company’s Shell Houston Open for several years. We plan our social content during tournament week by following golf news year-round and paying attention to what our consumers are talking about during other tournaments.
We also plan for year-round “conversing” to ensure the Shell Houston Open is top of mind to people when they are most receptive, even before tournament tickets go on sale. The content we create and cultivate is also helpful in our event-week strategy.
• If you are the event sponsor and will feature an on-site brand activation, determine and source any technical resources needed to foster positive interaction. For example, might an experiential element, such as a photo booth, help perpetuate the message long after the event is over?
• Plan your initiatives not for sufficiency but for unbridled success. Could you hire an influencer with a huge following to live-tweet the event for you?
Build contingency funds into your budget in case something you post goes viral and you want to spread the message even further via paid social advertising.
Step 3: Hit The Ground Running
You have your plan; now it’s time to activate. A lot will be happening, so make sure all your social media team members are ready to mobilize.
• Your community manager can push the pre-created content live while another manager monitors real-time conversations on various platforms and feeds ideas to the team.
• Your creative team can generate images on the fly and craft on-target captions for them.
• If you work in an agency setting, your brand’s client contact should be available to approve things at a moment’s notice — ideally, he or she will be in the room with you and part of all the action.
Step 4: Review And Refresh
Post-event, assess the effectiveness of your initiatives, and review how you might enhance your brand’s reach and resonance the next time around.
When driven by ongoing research, planning, collaboration and creativity, leveraging event sponsorships through live social media engagement can pay off handsomely, helping to shape and share the moments that become most memorable to consumers.