i wrote this with a few friends in mind: friends who have debated the merits of using social media as an asset for their upcoming cultural events. it’s a bit on the dry side, forgive me, but it is useful.
notes on developing a communications strategy for upcoming events. for film festival organizers, concert organizers, and other cultural event planners.
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A FEAST OF OPTIONS
to someone who does not actively engage with social media, services such as twitter, facebook and foursquare might appear to be very similar, yet to active users, these three social media platforms are perceived to be very different from each other, just as the three platforms provide significantly different functions for both the event planner and their intended audiences.
event planners should understand that none of these services should be used for one-way communications. users will not tune in if the only thing they encounter is a sales pitch or a string of announcements. users will tune in if they feel that they are participating in a dialogue.
each of these three social media options help build a relationship of trust and credibility between the event planner and the community that they are trying to reach. once that trust has been established, active users will go a long way towards helping the event planners make their event a success.
HOW ARE THEY DIFFERENT?
if one were to compare the three services to a parallel service culture, then twitter and foursquare are both like fast foods, while facebook is slow food.
at different times, you want to make use of all three, but you certainly wouldn’t exchange one for the other.
furthermore, for an event for which one must develop a communication strategy that includes multiple distribution platforms, such as a website, a blog, a facebook page, and a twitter account, one could think of the main website as a clearly defined menu which remains fairly static, while, by comparison, the event’s blog is moderately active; in contrast, both the facebook and twitter streams offer a far more dynamic user experience, with each one serving a different purpose while also operating at different tempos.
A RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE MAIN WEBSITE, THE BLOG AND FACEBOOK
users turn to the event’s web page in order to get the basic facts, sometimes helping themselves to a few pieces of information about the people behind the event and the history of the event itself.
once the basic facts are known, users might turn to the blog to go deeper into the event’s back story.
at the same time, users turn to facebook in order to participate in a dialogue about the event (as well as a dialogue with the people behind the event).
in either case, users of both the blog and facebook usually expect the conversation to evolve slowly.
TWITTER AND FOURSQUARE
on the other hand, users turn to twitter for short pieces of information that typically are relevant for only a brief period of time. similarly, users employ foursquare to let their friends know about their current whereabouts. in each case, the information is only relevant (and easily accessible) for a few hours.
an event’s blog can be used as a journal and scrapbook, which documents the event’s ongoing development. it offers event planners an opportunity to share some insights about some of the practical choices at stake, which some users will appreciate and want to comment on. as scrapbooks, some of the information found on the blog can be repurposed on facebook.
EXPECTATIONS and EXECUTION
on a facebook page, users often expect to discover information that ranges from a skeletal regurgitation of the event’s basic facts to generous servings of ancillary information about the event – the kind of information that is not critical yet useful and can play a vital role in building up a groundswell of support.
for example, while a user might visit the main web site to discover the event’s roster of performers, that same user might turn to facebook in the hopes of discovering additional recently-divulged information about some of those performers – with the added advantage that in the facebook environment, the user can comment and ask questions about any of the postings.
with that in mind, users on facebook expect to have a dialogue with other users who are planning on attending the event (or merely evaluating its merits).
in contrast to facebook, an event planner might use a twitter stream to announce last minute changes and additions to the event. weather and transportation issues that might affect guest turnout are often addressed via twitter and not on facebook.
furthermore, short pieces of dialogue related to a variety of quickly resolved issues are often exchanged via twitter. a twitter user might ask if the event is suitable for young children or accessible by baby stroller, or if the thunderstorm that’s predicted to strike is going to impact the start time of the event. the event planners would use twitter to respond to those questions, which are viewable to other users who have the same concerns.
users have become accustomed to utilizing twitter in this manner – the twitter stream becomes a notice board and is often the most trusted source for last-minute information about the event.
it’s therefore very important that an event’s twitter stream is fully functional and actively managed in the days leading up to the event, as well as the event itself. as the day of the event approaches, users will consult the event’s twitter stream more frequently than it’s facebook page or website. while the twitter stream should be firmly established long before the event date, extra planning should be given to managing the twitter account in the final days leading up the event, and it’s normally a good idea to make sure that there are extra people on hand to answer questions via twitter on the event day itself.
compared to an exchange on twitter, facebook is far less dynamic yet facebook plays an important role in providing users with an opportunity to build a different kind of relationship of trust with the event planners. based on the quality, frequency and reliability of the exchanges on facebook, users might evaluate the event’s credibility, which helps them not only decide if they’ll attend, but also if they might tell others about the event.
therefore, a facebook page (as well as its corresponding facebook event page) needs to be fully operational far sooner than its twitter counterpart. just like the blog, it should be thought of as platform for a long-term relationship with people who are considering whether or not to turn out for the event.
as for foursquare, an event planner needs to make sure that their event is properly marked on foursquare’s list of locations, both in terms of event name and geographical location. a simple procedure, this should normally be entered a week or so before the event. doing this allows for users to announce their arrival at the event to their friends, which is useful in getting the word out that the event is happening and robustly attended.
TO WHAT END?
if event planners understand how to make use of their social media options, they will have an opportunity to participate in a rich dialogue with the very people who will attend their event. in many cases, those guests will participate in the success of the event and some of them, in the process, will transform themselves from passive consumers to active ambassadors for the event. that’s a remarkable transformation.
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LIST of INGREDIENTS
MAIN PAGE – basic information about the event and its participants, basic information about the event planners, basic information about the event’s history. schedules, roster of participants, directions to the event, transportation options, contact information. links to the events twitter stream and facebook page.
BLOG (such as a tumblr blog, wordpress-constructed blog or posterous blog) – a journal of the event’s planning stages and development. an opportunity for documenting behind the scenes developments. opportunity for outreach to potential attendees through following influential bloggers. an opportunity to cover the event’s aftermath and thank participants. links to the event’s main website, twitter stream and facebook.
FACEBOOK – in addition to a basic summary of the event, there should be extra information (like the extra features on a dvd). active dialogue between event planners and event attendees, covering a variety of subjects, including some behind the scenes stuff. opportunity for outreach to potential attendees through friending and following. an opportunity to cover the event’s aftermath and thank participants. links to the event’s main website and twitter stream.
TWITTER – short notices and updates about the event, which might include links to specific areas of the event’s facebook page or blog. short exchanges between event attendees and event organizers. information and announcements about critical last minute changes and additions. opportunity for outreach to potential attendees through following other twitter users and influential bloggers. links to the event’s main website and facebook page.
FOURSQUARE – having a presence on foursquare is more for the users’ benefit than the event planners – it allows users to share their participation and experience at the event with their friends. links to the event’s main website.