Mr Social says...

More than ever, events are part of the connected world, says Mr Social, aka Jon Davie, managing director of agency Zone.

Mr Social says...
Mr Social says...

Today I took my kids to a street party near our house. It was a low-key community affair - a bar outside the pub, a children's reading tent hosted by the library, and enough home baking to make Mary Berry look like a part-timer.

But this being north London, they have their own Twitter feed. There's a Facebook page. They even had a QR code, so you could sign up to the email newsletter from your mobile.

It's not hard to figure out the appeal of social media for this event - it's an incredibly cost-effective way to raise awareness and distribute information. They might only have 52 followers, but that seemed to be enough to deliver a healthy turnout.

Why? Because those 52 people are connected to lots more people. They include a couple of prominent bloggers, someone from the local rag and most of the small businesses in the community. And whether you're organising a village fete or an international event, the principle is the same - the power of social media lies in the potential to plug into a network.

An effective social media strategy isn't just about being on Facebook, Twitter etc. It's about understanding that your event is taking place in a social world. And if we understand that, we can exploit the network to create memorable brand experiences - which is what experiential marketing is supposed to be all about.

Smart brands are not just using social as a communication channel, but are starting to invite the audience to get involved in the actual events. Red Bull invited prominent Instagram artists to capture its spectacular cliff-diving events, creating a wealth of content it could exploit in other media channels. Topshop, meanwhile, chose to launch part of its 2015 spring collection exclusively on Facebook, in parallel with a physical catwalk event at London Fashion Week (see case study).

One of my favourite social media case studies comes from the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony. More than 60,000 people packed the Olympic Stadium for a dress rehearsal, just days before the official opening of the Games. The organisers wanted to keep the content secret, but knew it would be counter-productive to ban mobiles or to stop people from accessing social media.

So they did something simple. Director Danny Boyle addressed the crowd before the start, and encouraged people to take as many pictures and videos as they wished. Then he politely asked them not to spoil the surprise for everyone else. The hashtag #savethesurprise appeared on video screens throughout the rehearsal. It gave everyone present a way of sharing the experience, without giving away the content. And amazingly, it worked.

When Kate Bush scheduled her first live performances in 35 years, she asked fans not to share videos or pictures on social media, saying: "I very much want to have contact with you as an audience, not with iPhones, iPads or cameras."

The ban added to the hype about the performance, generating column inches and online buzz. In a world where social media is ubiquitous, even banning social sharing can be an effective social strategy.

Mr Social is Jon Davie, managing director of agency Zone.

More from Jon Davie on the future of social media and events



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