Case Study: Even When Engaged Late, Social Media can Effectively Market Events
I recently teamed up with Sagefrog Marketing Group to help them promote a special event “Cultivating a Creative Workforce” featuring special guest, actor/director and businessman Robert Redford. The event was organized by the Arts & Business Council of Greater Philadelphia (ABC), an affiliate of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce (GPCC), and was intended to be a discussion about how creativity in both arts and business can strengthen communities and improve economic development.
Our task was to use social media to promote the event. Although both ABC and GPCC are beginning to integrate social media into their communications channels, relying on social media to promote such a major event was considered an experiment by the client. Consequently, we were engaged late in the planning stages (hardly an ideal scenario as social media should be an integral part of any marketing endeavor) and an email campaign had already commenced.
Aside from starting late, we were working with a limited budget and time frame (about three weeks to plan and execute), so we immediately conducted a quick Risk Analysis to help us manage the client’s expectations. Among our findings were the following:
- Mr. Redford is considered a major movie star and commands tremendous respect for his artistic and business accomplishments.
- Mr. Redford holds strong appeal for the 40+ demographic.
- The 40+ demographic is quickly becoming very active on Facebook.
- The 40+ demographic is more likely to pay the $70-$80 ticket price.
- This event is a strong draw for those interested in the topic.
- The venue is relatively small (approximately 350 seats)
- Approximately 50 tickets have already been sold.
- Limited budget and time frame to plan and execute.
- Marketing had commenced without social media integrated into the overall strategy.
- Mr. Redford’s primary appeal was expected to be to those 40 and over; a demographic quickly becoming much more active in social media, but not uniformly active on a broad range of social media channels.
- The topic may not hold broad appeal to those interested in seeing Mr. Redford.
- The event took place in Philadelphia which limited our expectations to be able to attract attendees who were not local.
- In the current economy, some may consider the $70-$80 ticket price too expensive.
STRATEGY – Goals
In marketing, goals dictate, or at least significantly influence, strategy. The goals for this engagement were simple and allowed us to move forward quickly.
- Sellout tickets
- Increase visibility of both the ABC and GPCC
STRATEGY – Targeting
Targeting was one of our biggest concerns. While the ABC and GPCC sent emails to their members, we didn’t have the resources to build an extensive target list. As a stopgap measure, both Sagefrog and I agreed to reach out to our own social networks. However, this presented another issue as large segments of those networks didn’t necessarily meet the target criteria.
- Must use any of the various social media channels which would be utilized.
- Fans of Mr. Redford’s film work and philanthropic work.
- Belong to the 40+ demographic (especially those over 50).
- Employees of ABC and GPCC member companies.
- Those interested in cinema including members of local theater and film groups.
- Those interested in the topic.
- Those located in or those who would be willing to travel to Philadelphia.
TACTICS – Channels
Having an “A-List” star such as Robert Redford is certainly an advantage, but it is still necessary to find people online who will be receptive to your message. Due to resource constraints, we focused on the following social media venues/channels:
- Facebook and Facebook Fan Pages.
- LinkedIn and LinkedIn Group.
- Greater Philadelphia Film Office website.
- ABC and GPCC social media channels (these websites already had notices).
TACTICS – Landing Pages
By the time we were engaged, ABC had already launched a page on Eventbrite.com to handle ticket sales and had linked to it from both their website and from the email. As a result, this page became the de facto landing page for the event. Unfortunately, Eventbrite pages cannot be branded or customized and do not make the most compelling of landing pages.
Fortunately, ABC uses listrak.com as their email vendor. Listrak subscribes to standard email conventions which dictate that emails include links to an HTML version of that email. We felt that this page, essentially a duplicate of the email, made a better landing page than the Eventbrite page, so we adopted it as the target for all of our links. Additionally, the Listrak page also had a link to the ABC’s Facebook Fan page.
TACTICS – Outposts
For the simple reason that not everyone uses every social media service, it was necessary to establish Outposts on the most popular social media platforms. Outposts act as the primary destination for your activities on those platforms and allow you to have a diverse presence. While both the ABC and GPCC have Facebook fan pages, we set up a Facebook Fan page specifically for the event and began posting content to get the conversation going. Additionally, we set up a Twitter page and posted notifications and updates on other sites. In all, we established a presence or utilized an existing presence in the following locations.
- Facebook Fan Page: Redford in Philly
- Facebook Fan Page: Arts and Business Council of Greater Philadelphia
- Facebook Fan Page: Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce
- Twitter: Redford in Philly
- Twitter: Arts and Business Council of Greater Philadelphia
- Twitter: Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce
- Arts and Business phila.org/emailers/100519-abc-creativity.html
- Eventbrite.com: Event Registration
- Arts & Business Council of Greater Philadelphia Website
- Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce Website
Additionally, we utilized the following services to archive images and videos of the event for anyone with an interest. Posting event related assets (video, pictures, etc) also provided additional content that could be mentioned in order to raise awareness about the ABC and GPCC for future events.
- A story about the event posted on the GPCC website (includes video).
- YouTube.com: Home of the event video.
- Flickr.com: Arts and Business Council of Greater Philadelphia.
- Flickr.com: Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.
- Stories were also carried on various news media sites.
TACTICS – Tweets & Updates
Our primary method of communication was Tweets on Twitter (using the Hash Tag #RedfordinPhilly) and Status Updates on both Facebook and LinkedIn. Other tactics such as writing blog posts and producing simple promotional videos were quickly eliminated as not practical based on existing constraints.
Upon launching the Redford in Philly Facebook Fan Page, we used Facebook’s “Suggest to Friends” tool which sent messages to all of our Facebook Friends. This tactic resulted in several spikes in page traffic (see Results, below). Additional tactics included posting details about the event on approximately 30 LinkedIn groups (which appeared in their subsequent emails), MySpace and posting links to Digg, Delicious and Stumble Upon.
We did receive approval to give away free tickets in order to help generate buzz, but this did not occur until about a week before the event and its impact was marginal. We had hoped to give away tickets every week, but did not receive approval for this activity. We had also hoped to have winners get their pictures taken with Mr. Redford; unfortunately this was not approved by Mr. Redford’s management.
While other tools may have been used by other team members, I managed my assigned tasks using the following:
- Tweetdeck: Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn posting.
- Facebook Insights: For analytics.
- Tweetie: For posting to Twitter from my iPhone.
- Bit.ly: Tracking clicks on links from posts and tweets.
- What the Hash Tag: For tracking tweets with the #RedfordinPhilly Hash Tag.
Aside from what is provided below, we didn’t have access to data from the email campaign, the Eventbrite page or from the client’s respective Facebook Fan Pages. Access to such data could have allowed us to alter tactics and improve targeting, but we made use of what was available to use and delivered acceptable results.
- Fans: 67 (36% Male, 63% Female). While slightly below expectations, it’s interesting to note that 74% of all activity came from people aged 18-34. However, this is likely due to the fact that most of the Fans came from Sagefrog employee social networks and thus skewed younger.
- Page Views: While generally very low overall (which met expectations), we did experience several days with notable spikes in Page Views.
- 332 Page Views upon launch of the Facebook Fan Page using Facebook’s “Suggest to Friends” tool.
- 457 and 137 Page Views during the final week prior to the event when mentions, tweets and posts from the team were peaking.
- @RedfordinPhilly: 261 Followers
- #RedfordinPhilly Hash Tag: 128 Tweets
- Clicks (on Arts Email Landing Page Link): 268
- Clicks (on Eventbrite Registration Page Link): 88 (clicks ended when we switched Landing Pages).
- Views: 287 (post event)
- Twitter excelled in its ability to rapidly spread word about the event and for its reach (I received several comments from Followers who said they would have attended the event if they were in Philadelphia; travel being prohibitive as most are outside the United States).
- Facebook (via their “Suggest to Friends” tool) clearly drove significant traffic to the Fan Page and for general interaction.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK
- Not including social media in the initial marketing strategy and budgetary constraints severely limited social media’s impact. While the campaign was ultimately successful, we could have sold tickets at a faster rate had we been able to more effectively coordinate our strategies and utilize a greater variety of tactics.
- Because ABC and GPCC are both still establishing their social media presence, the strength of the relationships with their members through those channels has not reached its full potential.
- We did not have direct access to either ABC’s or GPCC’s social media outposts and could not contribute to the overall volume of activity on those channels. This limited our ability to reach members who are active on those channels.
- We had very little access to analytic data about the email campaign, traffic to the eventbrite page or traffic to the client’s respective Facebook Fan Pages. Access to this data could have allowed us to alter tactics and improve targeting.
Despite limitation, we helped the client fill over 300 seats, a 500% increase from when we were first engaged. As a result, both we and the client were very satisfied with social media’s performance promoting this event.