Issue #47

Social Media Overkill

Changes in sharing behavior are leading event marketers to rethink social media.

Think about the last time you saw a social media wall at an event. Did you pay much attention to it? How active was it, really? It’s one piece of a growing body of evidence that social media in events, the “traditional” way of thinking about it, at least, is dead.

Content strategy tool BuzzSumo, in a 2018 trends report, found that based on a sampling of 100 million posts published in 2017, “social sharing of content has been cut in half since 2015.” Social media traffic referrals have “declined sharply,” too, according to the findings, “with Google sites now driving twice as many referrals to publishers.” That data is backed up by content publishing analytics platform Parse.ly that reports among its Top 10 external referrers: Google (42 percent), followed by Facebook (24 percent) and Twitter (2.6 percent).

Sharing is down, according to BuzzSumo, because of “increased competition,” a rise in messaging apps and “private sharing,” and because of Facebook’s latest algorithm changes. Indeed, Facebook announced at the start of the year it would show more posts from friends and family—specifically, posts with lively commenting and debates and less “public content” from “publishers and businesses.”

Overall, consumers are overwhelmed by digital content, which means attendees are, too. It’s why one of the larger trends of the past few years in events supports this shift—the rise of analog experiences that lead attendees to share offline and internally, rather than online and externally. One tactic gaining momentum is participative imprinting, which is effectively replacing the social wall. For instance, at Adobe Max, attendees scribbled and drew messages with colored chalk on a public wall. At Pitchfork Festival in Chicago, CLIF Bar ditched the photo activation for postcards that attendees could fill out and send via snail mail. The brand also declined to use a brand-specific hashtag. Joel Steger, director-field marketing at CLIF Bar, said the brand isn’t as concerned with “metrics” gained from a unique hashtag as it is being part of the larger “authentic” social conversation.

Where social media use is trending, however, is toward video and interactive content, like Snapchat’s 3D World Lenses it opened to brands last fall. Engadget reported that Snap’s “dancing hot dog” AR lens was viewed “over 2 billion times” on Snapchat, which demonstrates not only the sort of content consumers crave, but how popular image-based platforms have become. Not to mention, the proliferation of 360-video and VR cameras available on the mass market, that are allowing consumers to produce compelling content from their everyday lives—and attendees, from the events they attend.

More images, more entertainment, real lives, and real moments. It’s how event marketers can avoid content fatigue, getting caught in the hashtag trap, and contributing to the social media wall graveyard.

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