During Labor Day weekend in 2011, Activision drew more than 10,000 gamers to a massive debut event for their latest installment in the Call of Duty franchise, a full month before the game's official launch. The event consisted of two major warehouses and 1,000 Xboxes–in addition to a Kanye West performance and a real-life paintball "warzone."
It sounds elaborate, but the party resulted in 675% increase in pageviews and contributed to a quick $1 billion sales tally for the game.
Now, that's not to say every small business should run out and hire Kanye for their next event. However, there are small things you can do offline to boost your presence on the web.
"Everyone's looking at how to get their content at an event to live outside of the event," says BizBash Editor-in-chief Chad Kaydo. "It's not just about the two to three hours at the party, they want something that extends the life of the brand."
Kaydo's top tip for any size business is to create an event that's relevant to your brand, yet highly sharable. You want to plan an experience that excites the attendees enough to want to tell their friends about it.
"People don't want to share just advertising, they want to share something that has value," says Kaydo. "Something that's funny, smart and interesting."
Here are three ways you can maximize your event's effect on your online presence:
One of the most popular and easy routes that many choose when planning an event is using a photobooth, which Kaydo admits has been an available event option for a while. But now, rather than just giving guests a copy of photos, Kaydo says it's become more common for the pictures to be posted on social media, sometimes even through a kiosk right there at the event.
2. Social scavenger hunts
One creative example that incorporates the online/offline worlds is the social scavenger hunt hosted by House Beautiful. To promote its March “All About Green” issue, the publication strategically placed 19 green chairs around Washington D.C. and posted clues on Facebook and Twitter. The first person to find each chair won it as a prize.
Using prizes as incentive is always a surefire way to get a crowd to interact. But think beyond just a reward–make sure that the object will leave a mark your fans' memory about your brand too.
If you're looking for something less locationally tied, livestreaming a concert, presentation or conference is a great way to spread your message or brand globally. Sites like Ustream or Livestream can help you broadcast live over the web.
Coca-Cola, for example, celebrated its 125th anniversary in 2011 by streaming a concert online from its headquarters in Atlanta. Fans tuned in globally–and the brand saw engagement with 355,000 people.
Small businesses can utilize this concept just as effectively. As long as you're providing your audience with something valuable or instructional, they're likely to want to share the video during or after your event.
The benefits of social media
The entire process of event planning–before, during and after–benefits from social media. Use it to send out invitations and promote the event, then moderate in real time throughout the event by doing things like creating a specific hashtag. Then once it's all over, you can follow up and extend the life of the event online.
"We're definitely seeing social media have an impact on events of all sizes," says Kaydo.
Although using social media is a less expensive marketing strategy, Kaydo advises an important point when planning and budgeting: be aware of technicalities.
"If you're going to create an event that's sharable, you have to give people the tools to do so," says Kaydo. "Keep in mind Wi-Fi, bandwidth and other technical stuff. Make it super easy for people to share."