Living in Ireland, I know a lot about festivals! I’ve also helped organise a few. But in this blog post I’m going to share my top 20 tips to promote your festival across social media and the web.
During a #DigitalClare Tweet-up we had festival marketing as its theme, so in managing the hour-long Twitter party I gave my top 20 festival marketing tips – each in 140 characters or less.
In this blog post I develop my top festival marketing tips further.
Ireland is famous for our festival scene and on any weekend in any corner of the country you will find a festival which is probably run by a group of committed volunteers working on shoe-string budgets.
If you run a festival – please add your top tips in the comments section below this blog post.BLOG: 20 Tips for Successful Festival Marketing #FestivalMarketing101 Click To Tweet
Festival Marketing 101
Tip 1: Pre-plan for less stress. Plan at least six months in advance.
If your festival happens annually you will have a good roadmap that you return to each year. But it’s never too early to start planning. Each year you should be building on the previous year and improving, iterating and bringing more inspiring ideas to the table. Festivals just don’t happen, they are organised and planned to ensure every detail is thought-out to the end. Here’s what early planning will cover.
- Budget / Sponsorship
- Working Committees
- Marketing (traditional marketing, PR and digital marketing)
- Activities / Attractions
- Policies and procedures e.g. health and safety, volunteers, traffic management
- Governance e.g. insurance, emergency action plan, permits, licence, financial report
- Partners e.g. suppliers, sponsors, guests, VIPs, influencers, bloggers
- Reporting (against KPIs, goals and objectives)
Tip 2: Define your target market and find out where they are online
When considering what digital marketing strategy to employ you first need to segment your customer market and develop persona profiles for each segment. E.g. Families, teens, men aged 40+, women aged 25+
From this you then decide which social media channels you are going to use and which online websites you are going to target for online PR purposes.
Tip 3: What’s your theme? You got to excite and engage, give your festival a theme to hang your hat on.
Each festival needs a theme – it needs a hook. Even if you are a well-established festival, which happens on the same weekend every year, your attraction will be based on your theme, so get creative!
Tip 4: What’s your hashtag? A hashtag will help you build an audience and a targeted following.
By now we understand that a hashtag has the power to put our event or us on the Twitter map. So think no differently for your festival. Get a hashtag going and be sure to add in the year to your hashtag if your festival is an annual one. E.g.
Tip 5: Build your list of influencers, supporters, and contacts on Twitter.
Use Twitter lists to good effect. Create lists for the following:
- Local organisations
- Strategic partners
Tip 6: Design – a sharp concept requires a super creative design suite. Logo, social media avatars, publicity material.
Branding your festival is paramount. First impressions count and your marketing collateral, offline and online, must project your festival professionally and should show-off your personality. Good design is a great investment, so please do not do it on the cheap or create your posters in word! #cardinalsin
Tip 7: Work on your list. Permission-based data and an audience that want to hear from you.
All of your online and offline communications should be geared towards building a list of supporters, festival-goers, sponsors and influencers.
Collect your data by running contests, giving FREE tickets and advertising campaigns. Social media allows you target potential festival-goers so be sure any investment generates a strong database. Ireland has some of the most stringent data protection laws in Ireland so collect data truthfully and maintain integrity and offering an ‘unsubscribe’ option at all times. You must also ask subscribers if you can contact them in the future and give them an option to opt-in and / or opt-out. Use JotForm and connect it to your email marketing software such as ConstantContact or MailChimp or ActiveCampaign.
Tip 8: Online PR – tell your story to online media – festival listings, lifestyle, business media.
Getting the word out about your festival has never been easier with the advent of the social web.
- There are websites where you can register your event for free
- You can tweet traditional media outlets and ask them to cover your festival if you have a hook to interest them
- You can showcase your festival highlights on social media and build an online community of champions who will promote your festival for you.
Even if you have a niche festival, it’s easy to target like-minded individuals by doing some online research and of course there is most definitely a blogger out there who will write about your festival if you connect with them and send them a good brief.
Tip 9: The people behind the event. We’re interested! Staff, volunteers, sponsors, acts, participants.
Tell the story and showcase the people behind your festival. Once a week, profile one of your key staff, volunteers, sponsors or partners. It humanizes the festival and will remind audiences of all the work that goes into creating a festival. People will appreciate this strategy and will be more likely to promote your festival on their platforms.Tell the story and showcase the people behind your festival - FestivalMarketing101 Click To Tweet
Tip 10: Video – Use it to promote & capture your event. This is invaluable content for your social networking platforms.
The social web loves video so take advantage! You don’t necessarily need to hire a film crew in the lead up to the festival but here are my top tips.
- Ask team members to take a short video on their smartphone once a week, to help document the pre-planning stage.
- Use video to give exclusive news e.g. new act announced! Again you can use your smartphone or a tablet device. Keep these videos short, less than one-minute.
- Live stream from a committee meeting and of course go live from the event itself
- Capture social video from the festival. Identify who will be responsible for this task and give them a solid brief. This will be a good investment as this footage will help promote the event next year. The festival highlights package should be 3-4 minutes with shorter videos of 40 seconds also shared. So your videographer will be editing:
- 1 x main highlights package
- multiple short videos with organisers, acts, festival-goers, atmospheric
Tip 11: Content Marketing – prepare social media posts, blog posts, interviews, features, e-zines, posters, flyers, PR.
As you will be aware your content is a magnet for web traffic and engagement on social media. So the Marketing team should start off working on their content plan for the pre and post festival period.
- Videos – (see Tip 10)
- Infographics – the history of our festival, how we spend our money, where our festival-goers come from
- E-zine – reaching out to your customer database with news, views and updates.
- Posters, flyers, event programme – which are distributed locally, at other events and also online as downloads on your website and images on social media.
Tip 12: Website – It is vital that you have a website and a booking engine.
Don’t rely on social media to promote your festival. Where are you driving your social media community? Yes, you got it, to your website. So be sure to invest in a website as it will help you harness your community and convert them from interested to sold! Your website should have the following functionality:
- CMS (content management system) – which will also staff and/or volunteers to keep it updated and current.
- Booking engine – people now expect to be able to book tickets for events online. If you cannot afford a customized booking engine, consider using eventbrite, which, can be embedded, on your site along with PayPal.
- Blog – a website without a blog is like a human without a heart. I will say no more!
- Dynamic content – video, blog, image galleries, social media integration, and a reviews section, customer service updates.
Tip 13: Official launch event. Don’t miss a golden PR opportunity to launch your festival 6 weeks in advance.
In order to get valuable public relations coverage, hold a launch event about six weeks out from your festival. The media will attend and also don’t forget to invite bloggers. They will the promote the event in their media outlets and will likely attend or report on the event when it happens.
Tip 14: Your stars – use them in your digital marketing & PR activities. Interview them, get their pics.
Who are the headline acts, guest speakers or participants in your festival? Ask them to start talking about their attendance on their own website and social networking sites. They will have their own following and you should piggyback on that. Be sure that you profile your acts on your own website, social media channels and publicity material. They may the only reason why somebody might attend your festival.
Tip 15: ROI – are you measuring the return on investment on all our festival marketing activities. Be strategic!
Every aspect of your event planning needs to be evaluated and you should be able to measure return on investment.
Tip 16: Automate – social media, email marketing, blog posts, your time will be limited as your event approaches.
Many festivals are organised on a shoestring budget and with the help of valuable volunteers. Therefore, it is important that you put systems in place to help you fast track and monitor tasks. What aspects of your marketing in particular can you automate – email marketing, social media, blog posts?
Tip 17: Live coverage – we expect live commentary of events on social media. Live tweet, post & share.
Live tweet from your festival, identify staff or volunteers to manage the Twitter account for set periods of time. Make sure there is somebody managing the Twitter account every minute the festival is live. You will also be using it as a customer service tool.Make sure there is somebody managing the Twitter account every minute the festival is live - FestivalMarketing101 Click To Tweet
Tip 18: Have a blogger event at your festival – give them backstage access and exclusives. It will pay off.
Bloggers are very influential and so you should consider having a dedicated blogger event.
Tip 19: Customer Service – deal with customer enquiries timely and professionally – online and offline.
Keep your customers happy – always! Don’t ignore customer queries, complaints or requests. Timely and courteous customer service is very important to maintain the reputation of your festival.
Tip 20: Evaluate the event’s success and your festival marketing success! Learn and make it better next year.
Learn from each year. There is also room to improve and areas, which can be developed. So have a post-event debrief with your team and put everything on the table for discussion. It’s not about criticism, it’s about critique – positive learnings.
For more expert advice on how to skyrocket your festival marketing efforts, contact us now for a consultation.