How Social Media Can Boost Experiential Marketing Campaigns

Author: Mike Gracia
Social Media And Experiential Marketing

Experiential Marketing is, as the name suggests, all about the experience.

It’s about giving consumers an experience that triggers an emotional response, which then becomes associated with your product or brand. Examples of where experiential marketing rocks are raising awareness around a new product launch/NPD, shifting consumer perception around an existing product, or reinforcing that perception.

The most successful experiential marketing campaigns tend to be designed to be exciting, eye-catching, and to engage as many senses as possible, for maximum post-event recall.

The Limits Of Experiential Marketing Alone

Although hugely engaging for those at the activation, purely ‘real-world’ experiential marketing campaigns tends to only impact on those who actually witness or take part in the experience first-hand. A ‘spark’ is needed to ignite a digital fire under an experiential campaign.

Enter 'Social Media Amplification'

When it comes to amplifying experiential campaigns onto the web, social media is that spark.

It’s important to consider why people share on social media in the first place. For most, when we share, we want people to respond to our shares. We want people to notice it. Not many people share a photo to social media, thinking “I really hope none of my friends see this, definitely hope they don’t interact with my post!”.

No. We share to be seen, and to interact. We want to spread our story. This is true whether you’re just casually sharing show friends what you’re up to, or you’re carefully sculpting the virtual image of yourself. This makes social media perfect for spreading the reach of an exciting real-world experiential activation.

Those taking part in an engaging activation are likely to actually want to share their experience on social media. This means with a little planning & forethought, those taking part in, or witnessing experiential campaigns can do the hard work for you. They amplify your activation onto social channels organically and, as the post came from a friend, those shares will like trigger an interaction or re-share, leading to a potential reach in the millions.

In the rest of this article, we’re going to share with you a number of tips and tricks for using social media to maximise the impact of your experiential marketing campaign.

Amplifying Experiential Marketing With Social Media

Planning is Key When Using Social Media For Experiential Campaigns

Before we jump into the tips, there are a couple of points you need to consider that apply to all campaigns that use social media:

  1. Define Your Social Media Goals

You can only truly measure the success your social media campaign if you know from the start what you expect success to look like.

We’re not talking about throwing a few random stats into the end of a report in the hopes it’s enough to impress a client either! With proper planning, it’s possible to understand what specific metrics you should be monitoring.

Without goals there can be no KPIs, without KPIs, you’ll really struggle to measure (or report on) success.

If you’re in an agency role, this is really important. Being able to prove how successful the social media element of an experiential activation was can have a huge effect on client satisfaction. (Shameless plug. Our social media wall software tracks a plethora of social media stats and includes export options to make creating board or client reports easy… Just sayin’)

So, start with your goals for social media, which could be:

  • Pre-promote experiential campaign to create anticipation & buzz
  • Amplify experiential campaign reach during activity
  • Lengthen the campaign after the fact, aiming for viral spread on social media

Once you know your goals, you can figure out the KPIs to measure success against. Always start at defining your goals.

  1. Plan Early

Although as mentioned, experiential campaigns tend to have the right amount of ‘Wow!’ factor needed to trigger a social media share, it’s important not to leave it to chance.

Plan your social media alongside your overall experiential activation, don’t stick a social media plan on ‘as an afterthought’, as this will likely lead to sub-par results and panic about what social media metrics to report on after the activation.

  1. Don’t Bite Off More than You Can Chew

There are so many social media channels out there, that you need to avoid spreading yourself too thinly.

Make sure you choose a number of social media channels you and your team can manage. Trust us: your amplification will be more effective if you are able to promote on a few channels well, rather than loads of channels poorly.

That said, although you may only be actively be promoting on a limited number of channels, do set-up social listening tools to monitor a broader spread of social media networks, especially keeping an eye out for any questions, negative issues, or opportunities for engaging with those asking about the activation.

OK, with the housekeeping notices dealt with, let’s move onto the techniques for using social media to boost the effectiveness of your EM campaigns.

Tactics for Amplifying Your Experiential Marketing Campaign with Social Media

We’re going to go over three areas where you can boost your experiential campaign success with social media:

  1. Make your Campaign Findable
  2. Target the Right Audience
  3. Upweight and Amplify your Message
  4. Analysing, Reporting & Improving

We’ll dive into each of them below.

Social Media Tips For Experiential Campaigns

Make Your Campaign Findable

With all the different social media channels available to us today, it’s likely your audience hang out on at least one of them.

When developing social media strategies for clients or our agency partners, we’re often asked questions like “What platforms should I target.”.

The answer to this is that you should focus on the platforms where the consumers you’re aiming to reach live. Think of it as being the interesting guest at their party, rather than dragging them to yours.

With the above advice said, there are a few common trends:

  • Facebook is, of course, pretty ubiquitous and there’s pretty much a group for everyone (there are 30 just for travel bloggers!). Despite recent controversy regarding their stats, Facebook video & video ads can be a great way to create a buzz, and livestreaming on Facebook is another great option for an experiential marketing campaign.
  • Periscope is another option for a live-stream, if your audience hang out on there.
  • Twitter can be great for live events too, particularly if your hashtag reaches Twitter’s trending lists.
  • If your campaign is B2B, then perhaps LinkedIn would be a relevant place to publish a case study after the event. 
  • If your experiential campaign has a lot of visual appeal, then check if your audience is active on Pinterest or Instragram.

You need to do a little research to understand which social sites cater to which audience demographics.

Follow your influencers’ lead and you won’t go far wrong. Where do the big players in your industry hang out socially? You know, the ones with the massive audience who are always being quoted in your trade press.

Socialise your experiential campaign where they are and you’ll almost certainly be in the best place for your customers too.

Make sure your campaign has a hashtag. We shouldn’t even need to say this (but we do). You want an experiential campaign to go viral on social? Then you need people to be sharing it with a hashtag that’s yours.

It’s important to check for existing use with hashtags to ensure it doesn’t already have a popular, alternate use, and to also ensure there are no ‘oops’ moments from possibly misunderstandings (cue #susanalbumparty!).

Find The Right Audience On Social Media

Use Social Media Demographics for Precise Targeting of your campaign.

Use social data to make your reach more effective. The main social media players all have great demographic information, perhaps none more so than Facebook. Use this to your advantage and target the people you want to be new (or more loyal) customers directly.

Twitter also has a wealth of social media analytics, then there’s 3rd party tools, like Fan Page Karma that help you to ‘spy’ on competitor’s social media accounts and get demographic data.

Get your targeting right and your campaign should spread well and cost less.

Good targeting increases the chances of people picking up the baton of your campaign and running with it, handing it off to friend after friend. Be in the best place for your campaign to go viral and you could turn the experience of a few people into one for a million.

Upweighting and Amplifying Your Message

The great thing about ever-present social media is that almost everyone has a channel they use. This is perfect for upweighting your experiential campaign with the power of co-branding.

This one is a bit beyond the remit of social media planning and likely is more relevant to planning an experiential campaign as a whole, but it has implications for social media, so we’re including it.

Who else in your space has linked objective to your own, an audience that you could benefit from and who you could bring some real value to? The thing about co-branded marketing campaigns is they should be win-win-win, i.e. you, your partner brand and both sets of customers should receive a positive outcome from this link-up. An great example of this in experiential, is Red Bull & Go Pro’s “Stratos” activation

Another way to upweight your campaign is tapping into the fanbase of influencers.

Partnering with influencers for social media reach

If you have working relationships with the influencers of your industry, like this folks like all of these working ‘for’ GAP, or even contacts at industry magazines, consider getting them involved with the social media side of your campaign.

This may of course include paid coverage.

Be really smart and use one channel to unlock an experience in another. Post a picture to snapchat and get a clue to a quiz on Facebook. Tactics like this offer a great way to use your most popular social media channels to boost platforms you’re not quite so strong on.

The complete experience should include using social media to follow up. You can one-time say ‘thanks for taking part’ of course, but you could get more value by using your new followers to keep the dialogue going. 

Amplification By Paying The Social Networks

Compared to the cost of hosting a physical experiential campaign, paid social media amplification of your event can be very cost effective.

You can reach a huge audience for a very low cost. Just remember two important rules:

  • Social media works on sharing, so make your experience very sharable and you could reach a truly remarkable audience.
  • Use the right level of demographic targeting in your social media ads. If your targeting is too open, you’ll spend money promoting to irrelevant audiences, too targeted and you won’t get the reach you need.

Analytics, Reporting & Improving

Once your campaign has come to a close, you should use social media analytics to understand how effective your experiential marketing campaign was, measured against the metrics you defined during the planning stages (in fact, it’s often good to do this periodically throughout your activation, especially with multi-day campaigns).

Did you reach who and how many you thought you would? What worked well and what didn’t?

There are lots of things you could measure, like what has the campaign achieved for the perception of your brand...and has it delivered a positive ROI?

Conclusion

When pulling together your next experiential campaign, remember that social media is your friend.

We’ve discovered in this article that sharing is the key to success, so make sure the emotional narrative you weave into your experiential story, is shared by your event’s your audience and spreads onto social media.

Interested In How Social Media Can Help Your Campaign?

If you plan or deliver experiential marketing campaigns and would like to know more about how a social media wall & contest system can boost the results of your event, let's have a chat!.

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