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Event Marketers are Focusing on Authenticity and Thought Leadership

By Melissa Sersland

To help a client promote a pet festival, the Austin-based events, marketing and public relations agency Bounce is tapping into the heart.

“We’re really trying to jive into what makes people love their pets, that pets make you feel you’re the most important person in the world,” says Shermayne Crawford, senior publicist at Bounce.

Crawford, who has worked on large-scale events such as the Keith Austin Music Festival, says Bounce plans to launch the social media campaign promoting the pet festival—which is scheduled for 2020—a year in advance while leveraging local pet Instagram influencers to encourage attendee participation.

Campaigns like Bounce’s represent a new normal for event marketing: long-term, datadriven digital marketing campaigns that strive to build authentic relationships with brands. With marketers fully shifting their marketing campaigns to digital tools, tapping into social media best practices can help planners most effectively build relationships with their audiences and encourage participation for their events. Creating an emotional connection with a brand is critical.

“You have to make sure you’re really posting something that’s going to drive engagement and an emotional connection,” Crawford says. “When we share content that pulls on the heartstrings and that people can say, ‘My dog does that!’ we’re making that connection, so people see themselves in the post.”

Leveraging Influencers

Creating an emotional connection is one key to an effective social media marketing campaign. Another is leveraging the followers of compatible social media influencers.

“People think they know the people that they are currently following [on social media],” she says. “Once influencers talk about a specific event or brand, you have that built-in trust.”

Bounce focuses on a mix of Instagram and Facebook to reach a broad demographic of consumers. Planners can find the influencers who are the best fit for their events by narrowing down individuals on these platforms by location, content focus and following. Marketers can tap into an influencer’s built-in audience by inviting them to attend the event, host a giveaway or post sponsored content. Using discount codes for registration fees and price increases also can be effective tools for encouraging registration.

Using Data

Knowing the details of your demographic is a third key to crafting a social media marketing strategy.

“You need to really do a deep dive into those statistics so you can develop a great content strategy,” she says. “That way the content is geared directly toward [your consumers]. You want to constantly be relevant and drive people to follow you.”

Due to increased competition, event marketers are also completing market research before designing campaigns. “More of our clients are in tough competition with competitors for user and customer conferences,” says Emily Kratt, managing director for INNOVATX Events. “We consult our clients on what the hook is to get them to attend their event. You have to do heavy market research on competing events, surveying prospective attendees on where they want to go and what they want to see.”

Armed with knowledge of the target audience, marketers can plan A/B testing on ads to determine the most effective design. A/B testing is a randomized comparison of two campaigns to see which one is most effective. At an additional cost, Facebook allows users to test multiple aspects of an ad, including different images, headlines and calls to action.

While there are definite trends to what marketers are focusing on now, there is a lot of variance of what will work from brand to brand. With real-time data to track what works, marketers should be experimental in crafting their campaigns because not every solution is right for everyone.