Talk is Cheap, Tweets Are Money

Social media has grown in popularity, with brand marketers and PR professionals monitoring conversations and the increased reach of brand messages. But the maturation of strategy and the use of social by consumers are opening new doors for marketers. Whereas the initial goal was to reach large audiences, the focus is now shifting to actual engagement -- and ultimately, purchase or conversion activity.

Large-scale industry events have become a cornerstone in marketing strategies, so we thought it would be interesting to assess the potential impact of social brands at these events by taking a closer look at social media activity of the 13 sponsors at theSXSW Interactive festival on Twitter. In terms of marketing focus areas, we found that the data signals new implications for social media during these large-scale events.



Strong social strategy brand implications

The cost of reach is being exponentially lowered for social savvy brands.

Between March 8 and 14, the 13 sponsors potentially reached 33,154,224 people via Twitter. To reach as many people, it would cost an estimated $675,000 through a Times Square billboard and $800,000 through a 30-second commercial during the Grammys.

A small group and time period helps achieve maximum results with big events and social.

Events maximize a short time to reach a large group. In comparison, to reach approximately 33 million people through a Times Square billboard, it would take 66 days, or roughly two months. SXSW is more connected and influential than many audiences, but thinking beyond one event, this model could easily apply to other events like theConsumerElectronicsShow orLeWeb.

Cost efficiency for potential impact is lower in comparison to traditional channels.

Given the reach and the narrow window of time surrounding the event, a strong social media strategy proves its worth with high ROI. For example, if only 1% of the 465,132 who tweeted about Samsung during SXSW purchased a Galaxy Smartphone, Samsung would make $1,391,247. While this is a theoretical example, the low conversion rate considers not just those reached, but those who engaged.

What a strategy should include for events

During events, social channels help fuel conversations, mentions and meaningful engagement in a way that other channels don’t. Brands that did this most effectively at SXSW included Samsung with 465,132 Twitter mentions, Microsoft with 220,719 Twitter mentions, and Pepsi with 190,250 Twitter mentions. While these are major household names, any brand can amplify their effect at events with a few critical elements.

Pre-planned content and hashtags

Promoting brand-specific hashtags and pre-scheduling content increases the chances that your audience will talk about you and that your brand can engage without having to worry about publishing content and responding to conversations simultaneously. It also allows people who are not attending to interact.

Engaging with trending topics and event hashtags

Brands should capitalize on trends apart from their products and services. At SXSW this might have included commentary on hot technologies that were getting buzz. At the least, every brand should include the general event hashtag to ensure their content and commentary appears in general search. For example, we found that The Austin Chronicle, and esurance were most impacted from SXSW, with the highest percentage of SXSW-related versus overall mentions at 47%, 19% and 8%, respectively.

Specials and giveaways

Giving your audience something compelling to talk about helps to amplify conversation. Chevrolet provided free rides in their new Equinox cars and Samsung hosted a blogger lounge -- both free and interesting offers to the SXSW audience that helped start social conversations and commentary.

Integrating with traditional marketing

Don’t just limit social content and promotion to social channels. Include these on your Web site and in pre-event email correspondence, and incorporate social opportunities into on-site events.

Based on the data collected during the 2012 SXSW Interactive Festival, it’s evident that social strategies are evolving and are not only an important aspect for event marketing, but increasingly a more cost-effective way to reach a large and engaged audience in a timely and relevant fashion.

Brand sponsors of SXSW Interactive included AT&T, Austin Chronicle, Chevrolet, Doritos, Esurance, Free Credit Score, IFC, Isis, Microsoft, Miller Lite, Monster Energy, Pepsi and Samsung. Data collected by People Browsr Data Mine.


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