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5 Ways to Use Social Media to Promote a Festival

Ron Schott
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Social media offers the perfect way to promote a large festival, whether it’s a music, art, corporate, or other event. Many people attend festivals with friends, and social media can turn the entire experience – before, during, and after – into a shareable one. Social media is about bringing people together. Why not use it to bring people together at your event?

For large festivals – upwards of 100,000 attendees – social media has become a critical component for promoting the event and inviting festival-goers to participate before, during, and after the festival. But you can even use social media to promote a smaller, more intimate affair. The trick is to use social content to bring people together before, during, and after the event.

Here are five tips anyone can use to promote an event – large or small – using social media.

Focus on the Stars

When using social media to promote a large event, it’s incredibly important to know which acts, names, performances, and shows will draw the most interest.

The first step before creating a Facebook page, launching a Twitter stream, designing a social contest, or any other social media tactic is to figure out what your event’s biggest draw is. Is it a big-name band? A star CEO? A celebrity appearance? A landmark piece of art?

Once you’ve determined what the draw is, focus your social media outreach on that main directive. Your entire social program should focus on driving awareness among large groups of devoted fans – and encouraging these fans to spread the word among their own networks.

Don’t forget that sometimes a less well-known act will gain the most praise during and after events; you can do followup outreach after the event is done based on these surprise hits.

Keep the Conversation Going

Your social media outreach program will probably include a mix of Facebook, Twitter, social contests, viral video, mobile check-in services, and other tactics to increase buzz about your event before it happens.

Normally, your main goal is to influence as many ticket sales or RSVPs as possible. But even after tickets are sold and RSVP lists are filled up, don’t just sit back and hit cruise control. Make sure to continue your social media programs right up the big day – and then keep them going during and after the event.

People don’t want to participate in conversations about a big event then just have the social sites go dark after it’s done. Use social media to keep the excitement alive during and after the event, too.

For example, during the festival, host a virtual info booth on the festival’s Facebook and Twitter pages – giving festival-goers with smartphones access to all the info they needed while they were at the show. Need to know which entry gates have the shortest lines? Which comedy shows were sold out? Where there’s space for a picnic blanket? The virtual info booth delivers practical info in real time.

Make Experiences Shareable

Part of the power of social media is sharing – creating the type of content people want to pass to their friends. When promoting an event with social media, make sure the content you create is highly shareable – music, videos, contests, games, giveaways, fun information about the headline stars. Then, make it easy to share via “share this” buttons. Encourage people to share content in return for rewards; if a fan shares the festival page with 30 friends, give them a discount on their tickets, for example.

In addition, remember to make experiences shareable by mobile, so festival-goers can continue sharing during the event itself. (Hopefully, people won’t be glued to their mobile device during an exciting, entertaining arts and music festival, but many event-goers will have their smartphones and will want to use them to share the experience of the event with friends who couldn’t join in the fun.)

One way to create shareable experiences at a festival is to host a social tent at the event. Inside the tent, festival-goers could take photos with friends and instantly upload them to Facebook. Encourage everyone to tag each other in photos.

Why not also produce some viral or engaging videos about the festival? One idea would be to unique video series that gets to the heart of why people come to the festival year after year, or why they decided to attend for the first time – then screen the video in the tent on big screens. You can also post the videos on Facebook and YouTube to give festivalgoers a chance to share with their friends before and after the event.

Location, Location, Location

Don’t forget to add a mobile component to any social media promotion for a big event. Mobile check-in apps like Foursquare can be used before and during the event to drive buzz and encourage sharing.

Make sure to work with organizers to create multiple pre-event and during-the-event check-in spots, and make all venues with a special tag. For weeks before the event, you can encourage people to check-in at these sites in return for potential badges or prizes. A large number of check-ins creates the “I want to be there, too” reaction in friends.

One way to use mobile to promote your festival is to create mobile check-in badges. Long before the festival, you can go grassroots and create dozens of official venues around won where people can check-in with Foursquare. This may take a lot of planning, especially in a big city, but it’s worth the effort to drum up registrations to your festival. Make sure to distinguish your festival’s venues from others with a special # tag, and award prizes to festival-goers who check in the most.

Don’t Forget QR Codes

While QR codes haven’t yet reached the “must-do” in social media promotion, their use is skyrocketing, especially among young people. During the month of June 2011, according to one study, 14 million mobile users scanned a QR code.

You can use QR codes on posters advertising your event, allowing mobile users to quickly scan the codes to get more information on tickets, venue, headliners, and more. These codes can also lead people to your social sites, so they can join in on the conversation. Once at the event, QR codes posted around the venue can offer attendees a chance to keep the conversation going through promotions, offers, and social links.

At your festival, make sure to post QR codes around the event urging festival-goers to “like” the event on Facebook and follow it on Twitter. You can also embed information into these codes about how to keep up to date on the latest festival news after the event ended.

Social media is a powerful force to bring people together. Anyone planning a large festival should use it widely and use it well.


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