Live Events Are Re-Writing The Book On Viral Marketing

Mobile devices are revolutionizing live performance as the ultimate social media marketing tool--a tool that extends way beyond the stage.

During his concert this past summer in Fenway Park, Bruce Springsteen talked about seeing the “summertime fireflies” and asked if there were any in Boston. Fans responded by waving their “fireflies”--no longer their lighters, but cell phones, which illuminated the entire stadium for five minutes. It wasn’t just an example of The Boss issuing orders; it was a display of mobile’s omnipresence at live events. It’s not surprising, as 63 percent of all attendees have a smart phone, according to a recent study by our LiveAnalytics team.

Live events (let’s call the stage the first screen) and smart phones (the second screen) go hand in hand. Mobile devices enable users to be constantly connected and share their experiences through a variety of social networks. From the Olympics to the Super Bowl to Lady Gaga’s latest global tour, live events spark more social traffic than other experiences or information. When it comes to concerts specifically, fans are loyal in posting that content to social media. We conducted a study this year that found that 40 percent of concert goers post content to Facebook that is related to their live experiences, compared with 33 percent of sports fans who do so, and overall, up to 75 percent of concertgoers’ capture and share images or videos during a live event.

Because of the evolution of mobile capabilities and social sharing, concerts have become more than 90-minute set lists; they are permanently stored online through images and videos, extending their reach from a lucky few thousand, who bought tickets, to millions of people around the world, via the second screen. Before social media, the social experience around concerts was mostly limited to the circle of people attending the show. Now the social experience extends from before to well after the show and it involves a wider network of friends and like-minded strangers.

As social media becomes pervasive at live events, the sphere of influence and participation increases exponentially, providing brands with owned and earned marketing opportunities to connect with consumers. When Samsung Mobile USA hit 5 million Facebook fans, they chose to celebrate: with all 5 million fans, on Facebook. Samsung orchestrated a free celebration concert featuring Santigold and special guests Pharrell and Andy Samberg. Samsung fans in New York City could RSVP for the free live event at Irving Plaza. Other fans could watch the concert for free via live stream over Facebook.

A thousand lucky Samsung fans attended the live event and thousands more watched the concert stream. On stage, Santigold took pictures with the Samsung Galaxy Note handset that were then posted on Samsung’s Facebook page. Likes to Samsung’s Facebook page and comments on the page increased during the promotion. The program generated millions of PR impressions from media outlets covering the event. As more bands and artists begin to cater to fans via mobile and social, brands will follow suit and join forces in an even bigger way.

As CMOs examine their marketing mix and consider using music to reach target audiences, launch a new product or engage with consumers in new ways, here are three tips to keep in mind to capitalize on the growing relationship between the stage and the second screen.

1. Give Music Fans What They “Like”

Fans’ passion for the artists is already a common denominator, and artists can create enough social conversation based on their performances alone. Brands can join the experience and take it to new levels by creating situations that encourage and increase participation and memories. Serious fans that can’t attend a given event will even be eager to soak up and share content generated by attendees.

As a premier partner of Live Nation’s site relaunch, Chevy Sonic sponsored the launch event concert with One Republic as well as the “First Looks” fan photo gallery on LiveNation.com. The First Looks gallery utilizes geo-fencing technology that identifies concerts as they are happening by location and time, and pulls Instagrams, Tweets, and other social communication from the event into a live feed on the site for fans to enjoy. This multimedia “scrapbook” of each concert is archived for fans at the show and around the world to reference and share whenever they want.

2. Extend Your Reach--Before, During, After, and Outside of the Show.

The second screen is always on. Consequently, a concert can be always on, too, and so is the opportunity to connect with fans. It is important to understand that fan demand doesn’t end after the event--there is a buzz that persists. There’s excitement before the event, surprise during the event and joyous reflection following. Brands can be there each step of the way, helping bring exclusive content and experiences that enhance all aspects while increasing their visibility.

As an official partner of the Lady Gaga Born This Way Ball tour, Skype created a destination site at SkypeBall.com to present exclusive behind the scenes content from the tour as well as provide a platform to showcase the user-generated content from the shows. Pre-show promotions allow fans to enter a sweepstakes to win a chance to be a concert reporter at a show. At each concert stop, Skype has set up blue carpet step and repeats as well as video booths for fans to have their picture taken and record personal messages. Content is then uploaded to the site for them to retrieve and share after the event.

3. Put Fans in Direct Contact with Artists

Thanks to social media, fans are more connected with each other and with their favorite artists than ever before. Communication has become instantaneous and viral with sharing, retweeting, blogging, and tagging making individuals powerful keys in the proliferation of information, fads, trends, and content. Communication is also two-way with fans having more channels than ever to talk to artists and engage in public dialogue. Artists are “more accessible” to more people than ever before.

This translates to the second screen, too. Bud Light, the leader in its category, created a Battle of the Bands event surrounding its sponsorship of the Port Paradise Music Festival in November 2012. Bud Light offered consumers an opportunity to vote on which bands would compete in the “battle.” As an incentive to participate, voters were entered into a contest to win a trip to the Music Festival. The first round of winners then went on a nationwide tour, providing the opportunity to create authentic branded video content and in-person consumer engagement. The final three winners joined the Music Festival line up along with acts including Pitbull, Brad Paisley, and Flo Rida. Through social media, fans influenced multiple concerts, original content during the Battle of the Bands, as well as an entire music festival. The combination of offline and online interaction created a complete experience for every fan involved.

By enabling music fans to engage with their favorite artists, brands are getting consumers to engage with them, too.

Marketers must remember that live events are unique properties, and opportunities abound to make meaningful connections with the on-site audiences and the fan base beyond. With mobile technology and social media, fans can capture the experiences immediately and preserve them in perpetuity. Embracing social media and its connection to the second screen is one of the most effective ways a brand can extend its reach and talk to live event fans everywhere.

--Russell Wallach is President of Live Nation Network. Find him on Twitter at @russellwallach.

[Image: Flickr user Percy Duran]

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