Event planners become “social butterflies”

As technology has changed the face of the entire business model, we as planners have to incorporate the new tools into our repertoire of promotion. Look at the audiences we are trying to reach and then demographically decide how to market our event to them in the most effective way possible. I’m not advocating against printed materials (brochures, fliers, posters, direct mailers), or commercials (television or radio), or even word-of-mouth. I’m asking you to expand your tools of the trade even farther: the internet. I will be using three well-known festivals as examples. In each instance the event planners decided the best way to reach the demographic and geographic most likely to attend each event. I think that each has strengths and weakness’ and could be enhanced by using social media (such as Facebook, Twitter, Email, LinkedIn, and others) to enhance promotion and reach a broader spectrum of interested individuals.

1. New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival



New Orleans, Louisiana

Annual Attendance: 400,000

Length and Month: Seven days at the end of April

Demographic to reach: Music lovers (jazz, gospel, rock, rhythm and blues, latin, and african)

Marketing tool(s): “The festival’s Web site is the most aggressive Internet-based marketing tool,” notes Louis Edwards, associate producer of promotions, but he feels that it mostly “gives information” but isn’t as direct as the heavily promoted print and radio advertising they do locally and in larger metropolitan areas (more than 50% of attendees come from out of the state and other countries). Edwards notes that next year they would like to add more tactics, in the form of Twitter and Facebook. He is open to helping globalize his event in updated ways, and thinks that they would see a larger growth in attendees.

2. Charleston Wine + Food Festival

Charleston, South Carolina

Annual Attendance: 15,000

Length and Month: A weekend in March

Demographic to reach: Foodies. Middle-aged and affluent(target audience).

Marketing tool(s): I give Ericka McMillan, the media/marketing manager major props for using all kinds of social media. As the event organizer she casts a wide net. Public Relations, the internet, grass-roots campaigns, email, guerilla marketing, and social media! (talk about covering all your bases!) McMillian believes in using social media to the fullest extent possible and uses Facebook and Twitter to send people to the website. She also tweets updated information to increase website views. McMillian said “Social media allows me as a media professional to have direct access to media if they are following me, and lessens the chance of a press release getting lost in an overloaded inbox.”

Wow! I want to give kudos to E.McMillian for utilizing the tools available-fyi–email, social media, and twitter are FREE and GLOBAL!

3.Extravaganza for the Senses

Los Angeles, California

Annual Attendance: 1,500

Length and Month: A weekend in July

Demographic to reach: Foodies with a heart (the event is a benefit for The Saban Free Clinic)

Marketing tool(s): Event coordinator Lenna Vanerian says “the event crew finds word of mouth most valuable people are more likely to try something that they have heard good things about firsthand.” She also relies heavily on promoting the event on Facebook, Twitter, and a website. She sends out messages via twitter and Facebook letting attendees know when new restaurants sign on or new raffle prizes are donated. They also use some printed materials, but find the options listed above to be most effective. Her organization utilizes a tool to minimize cost called Constant Contact to create e-blasts and online surveys. Because it sends blasts and can track who opens the emails, and forwards them this is a preferred event planning tool.

So-I’ve shown you three different events ranging from four years to forty in duration, and while the biggest number of attendees comes from the oldest event, that event uses the least amount of social marketing tools, but they are starting to expand into the newer business model and they expect to see massive returns once they are more globally approachable. The enthusiasm presented by the other two events about the benefits of social media usage is terrific! It makes me excited to think about the possibilities of using social media to expand any event. How can you argue with keeping past and current interested attendees updated immediately, while gaining traffic to your site, and doing it all for FREE? Sounds like a pretty great deal to me.

As always I welcome your questions or comments, and look forward to any websites or articles you would like to share.

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