Social media’s inexorable rise as a form of contact provides the ideal medium for brand storytelling but with the speed at which the medium is moving, it pays to have a strategic content plan that fits into the brand’s overall social strategy.
Event marketers and planners need to consider what platforms each user is on and what they expect from those; it’s about getting into the head of your target audience, understanding what interests them, what they want to hear and how best to communicate it.
“Don’t try to tell a thought leadership story on Instagram unless you can genuinely link it to beautiful or interesting imagery,” says Uniplan Hong Kong director of planning and strategy at the agency, Jane Saunders. “That same user will be much more receptive to that story on LinkedIn.”
Event organisers should also consider whether they are planning an event-specific social activation or one that is part of the brand’s larger strategy. If it’s storytelling for an event, consider whether the social storyline should be added into the brand’s owned platforms or exist as a separate account or page. If it’s the former, consider how that event’s content will fit into the brand’s overall social presence; the messaging must be relevant to the whole audience, even if your event only targets a subsection of the brand’s followers.
And if it’s the latter, consider how you will get users to this new site and what will happen to the site and users after the event is over. The Rugby Sevens, Saunders points out, is a good example. During the sports tournament, thousands of people follow the page on Facebook but how do they keep interest the rest of the year and do they need to?
For Joycelyn Hoh, director, Singapore at BCD Meetings & Events, attention grabbing and engagement is key to telling a story on social media.
“Consider why people get addicted to games and what keeps them on the games for a long period of time—these are all key elements that can be adopted into storytelling on social media,” she says.
Leveraging ‘dark social’, where content is shared across ‘private’ social channels, such as email and messenger apps, is another potential area for storytelling that brands can tap into.
Last year Adidas worked with We Are Social on a social media programme based around its ‘Tango Squads’, select groups of young, influential football fans around the world who communicate widely across platforms such as WhatsApp. The aim was to create positive brand sentiment whenever these squads talked about anything football-related, with Adidas facilitating the exchanges by providing members with access to exclusive events or the chance to buy clothing before it went on general sale.
It’s a tactic that was also used last year by UK bakery chain Greggs, which created a VIP club on WhatsApp, offering members exclusive content, news and access to competitions, with the aim of boosting engagement and brand conversation in the run-up to Christmas.
“For re-engaging audiences [across social], sometimes the element of surprise helps a lot,” says Zoe Cheng, director, business development at X2 Creative. “With people surrounded by so many brand messages per day, people expect certain things from brands they follow. Better to keep social media content fresh with new campaigns or surprising ideas—such as Gucci launching its own memes as one example.”
Part and parcel of using social media is staying engaged with it—both the good and the bad, such as negative feedback or conversations that you are not privy too. Uniplan’s Saunders says this is one area where event planners could consider turning to an experienced partner.
“Social requires a dedicated team that is ‘always on’, which most event agencies can’t provide,” she says. “When we partner with a social agency, a team is in place that is always monitoring the various platforms. This enables them to react quickly to negative issues, and to respond quickly and on brand to unexpected positive opportunities.”
As the line between live events and marketing becomes ever more blurred, event designers will continue to play a key part in delivering brand stories—an area that is a natural fit, as Robert Rogers, principal at Events Man, points out.
“Event designers are natural storytellers, and as the demands for return on investment and return on event grow, ways of measuring the success of an event have become more important. By delivering key messages through rewriting the narrative, the message is more memorable, creating better opportunities to measure the results.”
Creating successful brand stories within B2B events is also about collaboration. “Planners need to understand the importance of this and be open to partnering with PR agencies and ad agencies to drive integrated experiences, using their expertise in audience engagement and activation to support event agencies’ expertise in event design and experience,” says BCD M&E’s Hoh.