How to make your events buzzworthy

Unlocking the power of social media and mobile

In the world of technology, records are made to be broken.

As we race towards the future, tech landmarks keep toppling and new benchmarks keep being set. Last year, we hit a massive milestone when the number of smartphone and tablet users eclipsed the number of PC and desktop users for the first time in history.

(Main image: The Future Of Us exhibition: the capstone event for  Singapore’s SG50 year celebrations)

 This was not a blip or a temporary fad – the increasing power, ubiquity and accessibility of mobile devices means that we are now experiencing a new normal. Mobile marketing is distinct from more traditional and passive marketing, the main difference being that successful mobile marketers actively work to assist their target audiences, providing users with social connections and applications that deliver useful, informative or entertaining services. Mobile is gaining serious traction.

When done right, these mobile campaigns – produced by companies from all over the marketing map, from retail to travel and hospitality, to food and beverage and transportation – don't even seem like marketing to the end user.

The concept of active mobile marketing is the perfect fit for the event marketing world, but has so far been under-utilised. It’s time to harness the power of mobile-driven marketing to make events more personal, more engaging and more buzzworthy.

Harnessing the power of social media

Mobile marketing is taking off in two main areas: social media and applications, and the value of both to event marketing are almost limitless. When creating engaging events, marketers begin by asking themselves important questions like ‘How do we emotionally connect with our audience?’ or ‘How do we engage the wider community?’ Thanks to social media, these questions can now be answered faster and more accurately than ever before.

The social media cycle begins with the acquisition of a new contact, proceeds through audience engagement and matures into social listening – monitoring trending topics and discussions to keep on top of current trends and discover new ones. Each of these phases marks an important potential touchpoint for event marketers, but rarely are these opportunities fully realised. One reason is that many marketers feel Facebook is the ‘only social media platform that matters’.

This is no longer true – just look at the huge user bases of Instagram, Linkedin, Pinterest and WeChat. All of these platforms can be used in different ways to build and sustain event buzz.

So what does ‘good’ look like? One successful example comes from Singapore: the SG Heart Map project.

Devised as part of Singapore’s Golden Jubilee celebrations, the aim was to create a map of the Top 50 places with special meaning to ordinary Singaporeans. The organiser reached out to the community via social media, asking them to share little- known facts about Singapore via the #DidYouKnow hashtag, followed by a competition which encouraged people to share their favourite hangout spots and guess the location of places in various photos.

The campaign made a massive splash, with a total Facebook reach of 437,000 over six months, including 150 social influencers.

Crucially, this online buzz drove offline, real-world results. The SG Heart Map launch event attracted over 14,000 people, while the SG Heart Map Festival @ Float event had a total visitor count worth of 135,000.

The SG50 Heart Map project proved to a major succees following a promotion campaign driven through social media.

Apps are lagging behind

Social media marketing is sexy, relatively easy and often brings immediate results. Apps are different. They are no less valuable, but up until now they have been visibly absent from the event marketing scene. A recent survey found that only 59% of event marketers bothered to use a mobile event app (compared to 83% who said they used social media) – citing that it was ‘not relevant to their event’ or that they ‘couldn’t clearly identify the benefits’. Of those who did have an app, barely one-third could report that over half of event attendees had used it.

The benefits of event apps are immediately obvious: less paper, timely reminders, searchable databases, all the information at your fingertips… So where is the disconnect?

Right now, most event apps are missing three crucial value-added elements: flexibility, customisability and ‘tailorability’. Why these three? Think about it – the core driver of the events industry is to create unique stories and experiences. Giving users the ability to customise the functionality, look and feel of an app lets them express their creativity and feel unique.

Apps also need to be developed with, rather than for, their users – if developers create a customisable app, they gain valuable input from the people that matter most. And if an app can be tailored to an individual user that lets them shape their own experience – today’s apps have the power to provide notifications triggered by location or content, why not take advantage of that?

Apps can also provide customisable visitor interactions, event promotions and numerous baseline capabilities like event registration, tracking, feedback and others. An app with all of these elements is powerful but potentially confusing – not everyone needs all of these features, so why not let people choose the elements they want?

Social listening creates a genuine connection

 Mobile marketing is also incredibly useful at events themselves. The beauty of mobile is that it never has to stop – pretty much everyone at an event these days has an immensely powerful supercomputer in their pocket, which they frequently consult. Using mobile, event marketers can continue to shape and refine their audience’s experience – as it is happening.

But how do we do it so we’re creating and sustaining the right buzz? On social media, brands have to speak the language of the customer. Getting the tone right is vital – if you use the wrong words or give off the wrong vibe, you’ll be dropped instantly. The good news is that now we have a way to measure whether we’re getting it right or wrong in real time. Facebook’s new ‘Reactions’ feature is a huge boost to social media marketers – finally we have a way to measure a brand’s emotional resonance with its customers!

For events, this tool provides instant onsite emotional feedback, while analysis of this data helps event marketers get a consolidated view of attendees by tracking their comments, reactions and behaviour. Live reporting and streaming video also keep geographically distant contacts in the loop, giving them a sense of what’s happening on the ground.

Social listening helps us gauge the effectiveness of an event throughout its duration. If an event is truly buzzing, people will be talking about it. If your event is, say, a new product launch – are you seeing more people talking about that product as the event rolls out? This will tell you whether your content and strategies are working.

As we’ve said, event apps have a lot of room to grow. But this is just a matter of time. Reports show that apps which have been developed with healthy budgets, the proper resources and which have clear objectives and measurement tools have a greater usage rate than those lacking these founding elements.

Rather than develop an app for your next event ‘because we should have one’, develop one to serve a specific purpose – you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

We are living in the golden age of technology. Our smartphones and tablets have more power than we know what to do with, and that power is growing every year. By using proven mobile and social media marketing strategies in combination with well thought-out and properly budgeted event apps, you can tap into this power, get in touch with your audience and create the right buzz with the people that really matter.

Images: Pico Pixel


Selene Chin

Selene Chin is the managing director of Pico Pixel. A member of the Pico Group, Pico Pixel is a digital studio that brings together people, experiences and data to enable meaningful brand interactions.