Social Media... Marketing? PR? Journalism?

Over-priced tacos, hearing-damaging sound, a parade of skinny jeans, flower crowns, and Chuck Taylors - a music festival. Recently, I found myself at one. Along with all these staples, I was keenly aware of something else: Their social media team’s handiwork was evident. From live streaming the event to holding a selfie contest, they had it covered.

When we were standing in line waiting for the doors to open is when I caught my first glimpse of their team. A male Millennial said to a female Millennial something like, “Okay, wait until the doors are open to take the photo, and then you can post it right after.” As a social media manager and a Millennial myself, of course I was immediately interested.

Social media draws on practices from various marketing categories, including public relations, advertising, and sometimes even journalism. We’re all still discovering how to use it to its true potential. The social media campaign for this festival was purely PR. And while it was a comprehensive PR effort, it missed some opportunities that a marketing approach likely wouldn't have missed.

Live-streaming and live-tweeting

By 2015, it’s not news that "a week ago" in social media time is basically ancient. The timeliness of social media is one of its best PR factors.

Live-streaming and live-tweeting an event are great ways to create a virtual presence for the event, in a way that lets followers see what people are saying about it.

At the music festival, aside from the entire event being live-streamed on the website, photos and videos of the event were being tweeted as they were happening. And the photos weren’t just posted by themselves or with generic-sounding captions, but with witty captions that actually said something about what was happening.

Theses actions created huge potential for conversations between the festival producers and the festival goers. But, from what I saw, things were posted by the social media team, favorited by followers--then no next steps towards a real conversation were taken by the social media team. That was unfortunate as they missed a chance to further engage their followers.

Several other things in their campaign contributed to its potential for conversations.

One United Hashtag

They were encouraging festival-goers to use one specific hashtag when posting about the day. Not only were the festival producers posting about the event, but festival goers were posting about it too. More importantly, all of these posts are easy to find with a simple hashtag search. Using one united hashtag for a brand or event is a great way to monitor all that is being said on social about that event or brand--it’s also a great way to facilitate conversations.

The hashtag was coupled with a contest.

The Selfie Factor

The contest was a selfie contest. To enter, you had to post a selfie with the appropriate hashtag. We all want an excuse to take a selfie. By using trends that are already popular in social media, such as selfie-taking, a brand can meet people where they are and encourage conversation.

There have been studies done and articles written on the selfie factor. Love it or hate it, it’s become something that unites us culturally. And a big thing for social media managers to keep in mind is that, most often, when someone posts a selfie, they’re looking for a validating response.

Moving from Contests to Conversations

Social media contests are great for building brand awareness. It’s great to get lots of people posting about your brand. But then you have to follow up. Once you get them there, engage with them. 

While at the festival, I entered the selfie contest. I would have been ecstatic if someone from the festival had commented on my selfie! They did “like” the post several days later, but there was no true interaction from them. Too late. Too short. Too bad.

A lot of social media planning went into this event, and that aspect is so important. When it comes to things that need the journalism factor of timeliness, dropping the ball on social media is one of the biggest offenses because people expect social media to be immediate.

However, long term goals such as relationship building with key stakeholders cannot be overlooked. A social media manager has to play the roles of journalist, public relations professional, marketer, advertising professional, and a normal everyday curious individual who just likes having conversations. Hashtags and selfies are only so powerful without the aid of interaction efforts by the brand.