Real Tactics to Incorporate Social Media at Your Boating Events
Hosting events that get your customers out on the water and using their boats isn’t a new marketing tool, but incorporating social media into these events might be for a lot of marine dealers. We all know by now that social media isn’t a fad and in fact can be an extremely useful channel to introduce your dealership to new customers. It is essential to have a Facebook page, and it would behoove you to start your Twitter following if you haven’t already. If you’re really on the ball, you might also be on YouTube and Pinterest and hopefully the mayor of your store on Foursquare is someone other than an employee. Incorporating these social channels into your boating events can be a great way to show customers and prospects who have never participated before what the boating lifestyle is all about. If you do it right, your customers will promote your event and your brand for you on Facebook, Twitter, and elsewhere, which is ultimately your goal. Nothing is more persuasive in the buying process than recommendations from friends and family, and since a lot of that daily interaction now happens online, you have a lot to gain from embracing this strategy.
Creating a social media plan for your event requires some thought beforehand. Anne Keeve from Pay On Performance PR has a useful acronym to remind you how to plan your strategy called P.R.E.I. — Purposeful, Relevant, Engaging and Impactful.
Purposeful: Be purposeful and specific in your goals. List what you stand to gain from incorporating social media into your strategy and how you will measure your goals.
Relevant: Know your audience’s motivation and reason for coming to your event. Understanding this can help guide your interaction with your customers.
Engaging: Social media is a communication channel for you and your customers to send and receive information. Too many posts or tweets may turn your audience off, so it’s important to be short, relevant and purposeful.
Impactful: People talk about good parties well after they are over. If your event was a good one, keep the conversations going online. This will help in drawing attention to future events.
Once you have written down specific goals for your social media campaign, you have three opportunities to promote your event – before, during and after. Promotion during all three of these event phases is essential and each phase should be considered equally important.
Social Marketing Before Your Event:
- Develop a key landing page on your website. This is where all of your external marketing will lead back to, so the landing page is crucial for success. Remember to include social sharing buttons in a very obvious spot on the page and encourage visitors to share. The more compelling you can make your event landing page (e.g. pictures, videos, etc.) the more likely it will go viral.
- Establish a hashtag on Twitter. Your hashtag should be short, relevant and easy to remember. Include the hashtag on all external marketing including event invitations, the website, on Facebook, etc. For information on how to create a hashtag, you can visit the Twitter Help page. Once you’ve created the hashtag, use it. Tweet updates about the event, tickets, prizes, updates, the weather, parking or whatever else might be of interest to your attendees.
- Incorporate a Facebook Live Stream Box on your website. Facebook’s live stream box can be a powerful tool for broadening your event participation. The Facebook Live Stream Plug-In allows anyone visiting your website to share activity and comments in real time. While logged into Facebook, go to this webpage to set it up, http://developers.facebook.com/docs/reference/plugins/live-stream/
- Poll Your Facebook Fans. If possible, try letting your attendees shape the event. If you begin promoting your event early enough, allow the attendees to vote on what food will be served or maybe on specific games or events that will take place. The more involved your customers feel, the more likely they are to show up and have a memorable experience. You can access the Facebook poll app by going here, www.facebook.com/OpinionPolls
Social Marketing During Your Event:
- Remind your attendees to engage socially. There are creative ways to remind your guests to be active with social media while at the event. For example, entice customers to check in on Facebook and Foursquare and receive a free T-shirt. Signs with the Facebook and Foursquare logo and your custom hashtag can be made inexpensively.
- Run a photo contest at the event. A photo scavenger hunt is always fun for kids, and the pictures that capture the excitement can go a long way when shared in real time. While taking pictures of the event yourself and posting them to your Facebook page via a smartphone or tablet is a must, try and encourage your participants to do the same. You can even have your attendees vote on the best picture for a prize.
- Stream your event live on the Internet. Give your customers a chance to be a part of the action if they cannot make the event. All you need is a webcam, a computer with an Internet connection and a free account on UStream to broadcast your event to anyone on the Web. You can broadcast on UStream directly from your mobile device, but make sure you have a power source handy. Place a link to the live UStream page on your social channels and website.
Social Marketing After Your Event:
- Do the basics. Just getting the basics done on your social channels can bring good results. Publish all of the pictures in an album on Facebook along with any video you may have captured. When you send an email to all of your participants thanking them for coming, remember to include links to the album on Facebook, Flickr or whatever channel you’ve used to publish them. Remember to tag customers in photos if you can.
- Ask for their opinion. Be ready for the good as well as the bad, but asking your customers what they liked and didn’t like about the event in a public forum like Facebook will show everyone that you care about their experience and want to improve the next event. Reviewing your customers’ comments on Facebook as well as the interaction with your hashtag can provide valuable insight into what generated the most excitement.
- Measurement and evaluation. With the new Facebook timeline, it is very easy to find and navigate through Facebook Insights – the analytics of your Facebook page. This will provide you with information on how many people are reading and engaging with your posts. Look for common trends among the best performing posts and try to replicate that style.
If your event is compelling enough, many of your attendees will likely already be checking in on Facebook or tweeting about their experience, but promoting that behavior and organizing the collection of information that comes out of the event can yield incredible results for your social media strategy. What strategies have you used in the past to generate buzz about your event?