If we’d been tasked with putting this list together a few weeks ago, it would have almost certainly included HARD. The SoCal parking lot rave has been the subject of tremendous scrutiny in recent years, but their social media has always had a unique, humorous voice and trashy, ravey aesthetic that chimes extremely well with their audience. That was until they dropped a controversial video which attempted to satirize the very real problem of gender imbalance in electronic music. (We didn’t include the video here, but you can find it with a quick Google search.)
But even that video was onbrand for HARD. They made humor—not boring slow-mo shots of young people in flower crowns dancing—an integral part of their social brand, and that has helped them stand out from the pack.
Nowadays there are too many festivals taking the easy way out by using simple framed event shots with a ticket link. The real masters look deep into what their assets are and get creative with how to roll them out.
We’ve scoured the internet for some of our favorite festival social channels and thought about what makes an event’s social strategy truly effective. It’s not just about shifting the tickets—though that should always be the priority. It’s about building a unique identity and personalizing the voice so that you stand out on congested a timeline, and establish that crucial offsite rapport with your fans.
The Icelandic festival has done an outstanding job of making the tiny Norse nation it’s key selling point. The country’s majestic landscape is front-and-center at all times, and across all channels, reminding the audience that this festival is about so much more than the lineup. A quick scroll through their Facebook page will seduce you with glaciers and geysers, Mordor-esque peaks and quadruple rainbows over waterfalls. It’s almost unfair that the organizers have so much source material to work with.
Secret Solstice also builds relationships with travel blogs by sharing out their content if it furthers the “brand” of Iceland, thus keeping a steady flow of engaging material coming through their channel. After all, if it makes people stop scrolling, marvel at the beauty, and engage with the brand, then that’s a huge success.
While it’s a very small, independent operation largely propelled by its community (even though the event itself has zero cell phone service), Desert Hearts has developed a couple of potent social techniques that have galvanized the community online.
The infamous memes that the group creates based on their lineup flyer have become a much-loved inside joke between the festival’s die hard fans, and allow people to feel like they are truly integral to the the festival’s unique vibe.
The Desert Hearts crew—made up of four DJs from San Diego—are also a very visible part of the event’s social presence, sharing behind the scenes photos and videos to their Instagram and Facebook pages. This, among many other things, has contributed to them being so beloved by the scene they’ve built.
The Thai arts and music festival Wonderfruit truly arrived on the global circuit this year, and their diverse programming and intricate attention to detail was matched by their presentation on social media. Straddling the line between a destination festival and a getaway for locals, there was a uniform aesthetic to all of their photo and video materials, with a washed-out filter and languid lethargy to all assets.
The diversity of the programming (music, dance, panel discussions, art, food etc.) means that their presentation is always fresh, the content always on brand, and they artfully engage in the confident soft sell (i.e. none of that “ONE DAY LEFT FOR SUPER EARLY BIRD!?! PLEASE BUY NOW PLEASE!!!”).
Last year, Bonnaroo partnered with GoPro to run a user generated content campaign around the festival. Using the hashtag #GoProMusic, fans could upload their GoPro shot experiences to Instagram and have them featured on the company’s page.
User-generated content, or UGC, is the holy grail for marketers at the moment, as it’s free, self-generating and invokes a sense of brand trust. Fans share their experiences with their own network, which in turn extends your brand’s scope of influence, whilst playing artfully into the millennial generation’s desire for authenticity.
Props to Bonnaroo for both tapping into UGC and fueling it with a brand partnership. Savvy.
It would be ridiculous to talk about what constitutes great festival social media without mentioning the event that pioneered the notion of online brand building, and rinsed out festival #FOMO.
While Coachella’s aesthetic and means of communicating is hardly revolutionary or unique, they have utilized influencers and celebrities to build their exclusive and iconic brand, spearheading the use of Instagram for festival marketing.
This year, their exceptional free livestream in partnership with T-Mobile was a significant cut above the competition, and even incorporated the emerging 360/VR video trend with a dedicated channel.
While there aren’t a lot of tips and tricks to be shared from Coachella’s monumental digital infrastructure, they continue to be the very best in the business when it comes to influence.
Special mention: Electric Forest
We haven’t mentioned Snapchat much as it’s a little difficult to utilize it to its full effect when the event itself only lasts for a few days, but Electric Forest looked to its lineup and enlisted the acts to takeover the event’s Snapchat and build buzz on the platform. We don’t have their SnapChat video, but take a look at this:
— Electric Forest (@Electric_Forest) April 18, 2017