This week we were treated to a lunchtime session at Customs House Library with Jill Colvin (@jill_colvin) and Julia Thomas (@julia_thomas). These two talented ladies make up Sydney Festival's digital team and they shared their wealth of experience in social media for events. Here are our top 10 take outs.
1. For creative events, create something new
For the 2013 Sydney Festival, major sponsor ANZ (with Melbourne agency Reactive) created ANZ Buzz - a personalised dashboard pulling in all social media mentions and check-ins around the festival. Not unlike Amplify Festival's Amplify Effect from 2009 it gives a visualised sense of the buzz and sentiment around a major event, and a snapshot of the engagement taking place at any one time. Tracked via #sydfest, the maps are perhaps the most fun part, where you can choose to view twitter, facebook, instagram or all interactions as dots on a map and check out hotspots in real time like the area surrounding 'the duck' at Darling Harbour. There is also the option to create a personalised poster of 'your #sydfest' at the end of the festival that gets sent to you so you have a tangible souvenir from the 2013 Sydney Festival.
2. Use major sponsors to extend your media reach
ANZ has been a major sponsor of Sydney Festival since 2008. In 2013, not only did they support the festival financially and build the ANZ Buzz platform mentioned above, the bank also used an outdoor advertising campaign to plaster the #sydfest hashtag across JC Decaux's real estate in festival locations and all around Sydney - cleverly tapping into ANZ's advertising (as well as sponsorship) budget.
3. Going off site
To get people to share from the Sydney Festival website to social media, here's what they did:
- The Sydney Festival site featured a countdown of the days until every event which was a driver of social media shares as well as ticket sales
- Site featured high quality, well-edited bite-sized (read: sharable) video content
- A new, far more useful and intuitive take on the usual 'Share this' plea was wrapping their Facebook iframe in the language of 'Organise your friends' via Facebook or a prompt to put a 'Who's coming to this with me?' call out to Twitter. This is effective at getting the audience to share the content from the site to social media and rally their mates to attend.
4. Social media = customer service
The Sydney Festival social media crew actually place themselves inside the box office and bookings centre in the week that ticket sales open. Jill stations herself in front of a Tweetdeck dashboard anticipating all the variations of #sydfest that may be used to contact or complain about Sydney Festival. That is, searches for #sydfest, #sydneyfestival, Sydney Festival and @SydneyFestival and so on. Throughout the festival, they use to Twitter non-stop to respond and make adjustments on the fly, a useful instant feedback tool also noted by Matt Ravier in our recent post about his work with The Festivalists.
5. The shift to visual social media
'The duck.. it was all about the duck'. On #sydfest 2013, one in five photos posted was of a giant rubber duck.
In and around 'the duck', these guys know how important stunning photography, imagery and video is for holding eyeballs and attention. They have a constant feed of high quality, professional photographs being streamed in from their photographers on the ground around Sydney and are in constant contact with Sydney Festival staffers who are all slashie instagramographers. They jumped on Instagram heavily in 2013 after experimenting in 2012 and are active on Pinterest. They also weight photos heavily in Facebook posts - making sure to prioritise the posting of large images + shortlink rather than link + thumbnail image when posting (Facebook posts see you choose between 'featuring' an image or a link in posts).
6. Photo grids and collages
An extension of the above-mentioned shift to visual social media, the team use photo grids and collages in header images throughout their different social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter). This gives people more to look at, longer, and gives you a glance over the range of events happening at any one time at the festival. These are updated regularly to reflect what is happening throughout the month.
The Sydney Festival saw 4,000 photos uploaded to social networks via #sydfest, but interesting (despite four years of pushing #sydfest) they had an equal number uploaded against the #sydneyfestival hashtag.
Instagram and collages works so beautifully for Sydney Festival as a visual pulse of the festival.
7. Network with social media teams of other large orgs and help a brother/sister out
The team see Sydney Festival as being 'really' about promoting 'Sydney, summer and the arts'. Because of this they have a lot of synergies with the tourism boards of both NSW and Australia. Cross promoting with the 'Australia' Facebook page and #seeAustralia hashtag has extremely high value for them - in the order of 4 million Facebook fans.
8. Once a year event, year round community
The Sydney Festival team have built a genuine community online over 4 years. Everyone who is involved in Sydney Festival social media understand that the Sydney festival was more than the festival that ran from 5-27 Jan but also about (as mentioned above) Sydney, the arts, and summer. This gives them scope for the kind of content that can be published year round and will still be relevant to their audience. They also follow Sydney Festival artists before and after the event, and ask their community to contribute programming ideas for the year ahead.
9. Consider the journey of your content
In a move toward what we might start calling 'content continuity', Jill and Julia reminded us to consider how content looks and how it is packaged as it is shared beyond your site and channels. Some tips:
- when asking people to share beyond the website with a tweet, prompt with with a pre-populated tweet eg. 'Excited to see David Byrne and St Vincent'
- make short descriptions and thumbnail images as compelling as possible, ensuring continuity wherever links to your content appear
- when writing content and planning, always consider where the content will go after the website - Facebook walls, tweets, Pins. Making sure each of these avenues is optimised with have a great overall payoff.
10. Experimentation and responsiveness
It was obvious that Jill and Julia are a highly responsive team and their experimentation has served them well.
- they adjusted quickly to Facebook's end of 2012 changes, now posting only twice or thrice daily and conflating various messages into the same post to make sure they still get across as much information as possible. So that means sporadic posts, but with packed information (eg. promote tonight's event + sponsor + countdown in one sentence).
- during the festival they plan content at most 2 days ahead to retain responsiveness and that fresh feeling
- they noted early on the broad trend that is seeing social media and community management becoming conflated with customer service, complaint handling, sales and marketing. This is a key shift that is still not realised by some organisations and industries.
That's it - thanks again to Jill, Julia the Sydney Festival 2013 for sharing all their wisdom and the City of Sydney for hosting!