Well, it finally happened.
Facebook announced that it will be cleaning up its news feed in order to make way for more posts from friends and family.
2017 was a tough year for Facebook. Persistent scrutiny from the US government for failing to flag a slew of Russian political ads during the 2016 election cycle, and questions raised about the platform’s effect on users mental health by several high profile former employees (and the company itself!), have sent the social media monolith into retreat.
The move to reduce the amount of business, brand and media content on people’s news feeds is likely prompted by these controversies, though there are a lot of question marks over what this means for the roughly 65 million businesses on Facebook.
What does this Facebook change mean for my event marketing strategy?
In the long run, this is likely a positive development for businesses. Since Facebook introduced native video to the platform, it has heavily dictated the marketing strategies of businesses big and small. Through a process of opening up audience access and then restricting it, the company has wielded an unreasonable amount of power over your access to your audience.
The move will force the industry to diversify event marketing strategies, and find more sustainable ways to bring reach audiences.
But the audiences aren’t likely to disengage en masse from Facebook any time soon, and event marketers shouldn’t turn their back on it. Despite diminishing returns event marketers are going to be forced to find novel ways around the algorithm to continue to meet the fans where they are.
So while social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter are still areas which demand a robust strategy and attention, we’re going to look at some of the…less sexy areas of digital marketing that you ought to be focusing on in 2018.
Festivals and live events should be focusing much more on email marketing. While it remains restrictive in terms of the kind of content it can deliver and suffers somewhat from being distinctly less sexy than Instagram or Snapchat, email really works.
“Facebook’s dramatic change to the News Feed means that festival organizers will have to look beyond organic posts and consider alternatives,” said Aidan Augustin, co-founder of Feathr, a digital marketing and audience analytics firm specializing in live events and festivals.
“Email marketing—though venerable—is still the bread and butter of most digital marketing organizations and can produce at a high level if lists are well-segmented and messages tailored appropriately.”
Email Marketing Tip: Use tools like merge tags to personalize subject lines, and always always always A/B test to get the best read on your audience.
Research from our State of Live report found that almost half of all event producers feel that email marketing is either not effective or only somewhat effective. But fans reported that email is the third most common way that they find out about events, behind only social media and word of mouth.
This tells us that email marketing itself is not the problem, but rather the strategies and techniques used. This is clearest when looking at which event organizers reported email marketing to be effective and ineffective. Of the event organizers that don’t use an email marketing tools, only 10% reported that email marketing was either fairly effective or extremely effective, but that number jumps to 64% for those that harness tools like Mailchimp.
Search Engine Optimization
“With increasing budgets and growing competition prevalent in the live event space, being a savvy marketer is critical for bottom line gains,” explains Kyle Standaert, Intellitix‘ digital marketing lead. Kyle specializes in SEO and email marketing and believes that an area easily overlooked when creating an event marketing strategy is the development of original editorial content, and optimizing it for SEO.
“This is a way for you to write concise, keyword focused blogs that speak directly to your target demographic,” he adds. “Provide content that will answer your fans questions the second they Google it. Empowering your consumers with knowledge will turn them into evangelists of your event. These evangelists are your best “free” marketing as they spread information by word-of-mouth. All of this can be done with a solid SEO strategy leading up to your next event.”
SEO Tip: If your website is built on WordPress, get the plugin Yoast to help guide your article optimization. This extremely useful tool is basically a checklist for SEO and does wonders for getting your house in order.
But just installing Yoast isnt’ going to fix your SEO efforts. It’s crucial to have someone in your team that understands the basic role and function of blog content.
If your blog content is positioned to bring in organic search traffic and is optimized for conversion, it can be hugely effective as part of an event marketing strategy.
Out of the gate, it’s really important to think about banner ads like billboards: they are there (mostly) to raise awareness. While the average CTR (click-through-rate) is around 0.05%, the process of retargeting ads can be extremely effective, boosting response rates by as much as 400%.
As Feathr says, “it’s all about giving the right person the right ad at the right time”
“I’d bet on personalized digital advertising methods like retargeting ads to recent visitors to a festival website based on which artists pages they visited, or by geography via IP address,” Augustin adds.
“The technology to execute these campaigns well has become very accessible. The festivals and other event organizers are leaving money on the table by not following some simple best practices that have become very common in industries like e-commerce.”
Retargeting Tip: When it comes to ad retargeting, you should be trying to segment your audience as best you can and serve them the ad that will resonate with them most. Remember, it’s about giving “the right person the right ad at the right time”.
But it’s the retargeting element that is key here.
Only 2% of fans convert on first viewing. Ad retargeting brings back 26% of lost fans to convert, so it’s extremely valuable to execute this effectively.
While the s**tshow that was Fyre Festival temporarily tarnished the reputation of influencer marketing in the live event space, the practice continues to be a hugely powerful opportunity for growth.
85% off event marketers planned to use it in 2017, and our State of Live report also found that 100% of event producers surveyed that have seen their budgets decline reported influencer marketing as their biggest area of opportunity for 2018.
Influencer Tip: Try to look beyond just the followers and get a sense of who the audience is. Micro-influencers have become increasingly popular as brands or businesses look to engage smaller but more aligned audiences.
You should really do your research here. Services like SocialRank and Scrunch will point you in the direction of influencers that are in line with your event, but make sure you approach influencer marketing with well defined objectives.
What demographic are you trying to reach, and can this influencer deliver that? Where are they coming from? Are you trying to drive ticket sales for this year, or build buzz for the coming year? These are the kinds of questions you should be asking yourself.
But for us, word-of-mouth marketing is the most important area to focus on.
Our research found that 70% of fans surveyed found out about new events via word-of-mouth, making it the second most powerful means of marketing behind social media.
If your friends are buzzing about the new Electric Zoo lineup and sharing it around, it seems that you’ll be able to subvert the new restrictions on Facebook’s News Feed.
But it’s not just its potential loop-hole status or the organic distribution that makes word-of-mouth marketing so lucrative. It’s the authority that it commands.
UK p2p ticketing company Verve (formerly StreetTeam) specializes in harnessing the excitement and brand advocacy of super fans and incentivizes them to sell tickets to their friends. It should be no surprise that this strategy works extremely well, and the company counts Live Nation, AEG, Tough Mudder, and X Games among its clients.
Word-of-Mouth Tip: Incentivize your fans to do the legwork for you. If you can offer them a referral fee in the form of a free ticket or a VIP upgrade if they get, say, five of their friends to buy tickets, that’s excellent ROI.
Verve’s research found that customers are 72% more likely to re-attend a festival if they buy tickets from an advocate, while customers are 90% more likely to buy from a brand recommended by a friend.
And what of Facebook?
No one is saying you should turn your back on the platform. It should continue to be a key part of your marketing strategy.
But know that any of the remaining organic reach that you were getting is likely going to dry up.
- Encourage fans and followers to add their pages to Facebook’s see first feature.
- Use Facebook Live more often: Facebook said Live videos are totaling six times the interactions of non-Live videos.
- Use groups more often. Facebook is really building out groups. It’s almost building a new News Feed, a separate Facebook—[are] groups the next Facebook?
- Local small businesses should take steps to be included in the Facebook Local application.
Perhaps we will learn not to consolidate our efforts into a single platform and start to diversify our strategies a little more.
You might also like:
Why Brands Are Demanding Content Strategies For Your Activations
5 Things Everyone Hates About Festivals (And How You Can Avoid Them!)
These Social Tips Will Help You Execute the Perfect Branded Experience