Five quick ways to use social media for festivals and events

Cinco de Mayo festival dancer (courtesy fotogail at Flickr CC)Are you responsible in some way for a festival or special event, and would like to get jump-started using social media to promote it?

I always advise including social media as an integral part of your overall marketing plan, not sticking it on as an afterthought, but sometimes you do need to push the train forward a bit even if all the track isn’t laid to the end.

Hey, it worked for the US Transcontinental Railroad….

If your festival or special event is coming up quickly, here are some things you can do to enhance your online presence, and then you’ll have a platform to build on more thoughtfully for next year:

1)  Get a Facebook Page.  Not a Group – a Page. Give more than one person administrative access to it. Your event logo is fine as an avatar. Put it in the Organization-NonProfit category; that’s probably the one that applies best to festivals.  Fill out the Info section thoroughly, with event dates, location and times, simple directions from the main access points, links to your website and any other social media sites you have, and a contact email and phone number.

Put up a few Wall posts, especially some photos and short videos from last year’s event if you have them, and get the word out to your networks that some “Likes” of your Page would be appreciated. Once you get to 25, um, “Likers,” you can switch the Facebook URL to a more personalized one with your name.

Connect with your local CVB, DMO, state tourism office, town government, Chamber of Commerce and the businesses that sponsor your event, at a minimum.

Here is why special events expert Penny Reeh likes Facebook (direct link to the video on YouTube if you can’t see it below)

2)  Get a Twitter account. Make sure it’s something that approximates your event name, but is not too long (that uses up valuable characters and you only get 140 per tweet.)  Make sure that more than one person can tweet from the account, and that you’re set up to tweet from mobile devices.  Don’t worry about amassing a ton of followers right away; many won’t be the right folks anyway (unless you want to lose weight with acai berries.)  You want people who care about and want to connect with your event.

See the Texas Book Festival – @texasbookfest – as an example.

Connect with your local CVB, DMO, state tourism office, town government, Chamber of Commerce and the businesses that sponsor your event, at a minimum.

3)  Create a hashtag for your event.  You don’t have to ask anyone’s permission to do so. A hashtag is a unique identifier for tweets related to your event, plus it can go in the descriptions of Flickr photos, YouTube videos, etc. Pick something short.

Take a look at #TBEX (a travel blogger’s conference) tweets as an example of a very engaged bunch following a hashtag.

Make sure your followers know to use it; if you can get folks to use it, it will be easier to monitor your event as it occurs (I use hashtags all the time to follow conferences from a distance.)

4)  Start thinking visually about coverage.  Not a photo or video expert? Don’t let that stop you. Simply think hard about what sort of compelling visual opportunities may be coming up in your event….backstage excitement? Anything you can catch up close in rehearsal? Fun moments at the cotton candy concession?  Get that digital point-and-shoot camera in your pocket and remember to use it liberally, including the video function that most of them now have.

Photos and videos are popular and evoke emotion and interest. They really amp up your Facebook Page and can also go up to Twitter via services like TwitPic and TwitVid.

If you have a smartphone, learn ahead of time how to shoot a photo and upload it from the phone to Facebook and Twitter. You can’t beat the ease and convenience of such coverage.

5)  Tell your fans and supporters where to find you online.  Put it up on posters, at the event entry and exit points, print it out on flyers and the festival map, announce it on the PA – let visitors know that you’d like to hear from them (before, during and after the fun) on Facebook and Twitter, and that they can post their best photos and video to your Wall.

Did that about cover it for quick-launch?

In addition, Lesson Five from our Tourism Currents online course is all about special events promotion.

I’ll be speaking at the 2010 TFEA (Texas Festivals and Events Association) annual conference this week about social media for special events;  say hello if you see me there, or please leave a comment below if I missed a good tip.

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4 Responses to Five quick ways to use social media for festivals and events

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Five quick ways to use social media for festivals and events | Sheila's Guide To The Good Stuff --

  2. Janet Engel says:

    great post and thank you! I like the reminder on hastags…I just returned from the Holland America Line inaugural of the Nieuw Amsterdam and we tweeted using a hashtag #halcruises. Was very easy to access all tweets on that topic!

    I also want to invite you to join our Facebook page dedicated to Social Media for Travel Professionals that I started..All are welcome! I just posted your article there.

    Janet Engel´s last [post] ..Gadget Girl is off to Italy-

  3. Pingback: Social media marketing with a small festival or event budget | Sheila's Guide To The Good Stuff

  4. Michael says:

    If there are any emerging standards for a set of hashtags for cities and/or dates I’d like to know about them – not only for future twitter integration but also for any services where people might want share information about events.

    Events need extra machine readable information not usually found in tweets or posts on most sites/services not specifically designed for events
    The date of the event and location information to generate listings for a city or place.

    I think we need some sort of tagging vocabulary to emerge so that people could specify dates and cities directly in tweets to make them easier to find for people looking for events in their city

    So far the best approach I can think of right now is to have the event promoter first post their event to an events site that provides machine readable data in the page about the event using microformats and then tweet the url for the event with the dates and a short description and hashtags to specify that it is a public event and what city it is in to make it easier to find.
    (I wish more people would get into the habit of using yyyy-mm-dd for dates to avoid ambiguity!)

    Some event sites such as, or use microformats to mark up event dates, cities and in some cases even geo coordinates – so these are good choices for event pages if you want people building calendar applications or mashups to be able to use the data. (there are also existing tools for using data from microformats such as the Operator plugin for Firefox and the X2V “convert to iCal” service)

    The use of microformats seems to me a far better approach than some of those services I’ve seen attempting to bring event/calendar functionality to Twitter (which only provide data via a custom api if at all) because an application could be created to use data from lots of services rather than just one!


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