“How Social Media Powered The Pop-up”
For Social Media Week (September 24th – 28th in London), Eventbrite
As part of Social Media Week, EventbriteUK (@briteuk) hosted 60+ attendees at Engine to discuss why pop-ups use social media, how to market big new ideas and what growth really looks like in a world gone digital. We heard from a great panel composed of major London pop-up entrepreneurs:
Andrew Swain – social media consultant at Boxpark (@boxpark),
Alice Hodge – co-founder of The Art Of Dining (@artofdiningldn)
Max Bergius – founder & editor of Art Wednesday (@artwednesday)
Sam Michel – founder of Chinwag (@chinwag)
Daniel Young – founder of Young and Foodish (@youngandfoodish)
For pop-ups, the problems with promotion and consumer traction are obvious: they are intrinsically ephemeral, underground, inconsistent, and often invisible to the naked eye (read: invite only). They are projects built from scratch by courageous and inventive individuals keen to bring something new into the world. Conversely, they’re often unable to afford the luxuries of promotion, mass-marketing, or any paid advertising whatsoever. We heard from the panel that proper (paid) promotion can actually damage reputations if the goal is to find an authentic and authentically engaged consumer base.
Enter Social Media.
“Everyone on Twitter Is Into Crochet”
The consensus in the room was that user/consumer/fan-generated content is the most valuable to both identifying and growing a dedicated base of customers. Rather than filling Facebook with every little announcement, or feeding Twitter with flippant information, success comes from re-posting Instagram photos, sharing positive consumer feedback and reinforcing messages of gratitude. While these strategies seem fairly obvious, we were given plenty of counter-examples where Pinterest had been used to mask commercial interests, verbose blogs fell on deaf ears and scattershot over-use of Facebook and Twitter isolated everyone.
As Daniel Young put it, “Everyone on Twitter is into crochet.” This doesn’t mean that any crochet business will de-facto succeed through Tweets alone, but rather that the challenge is to bring new and useful information and projects to the platform. Take the time to tell the right people about them, and then take them on a journey. Daniel found a collaborator in Edible Experiences, and they often share and support each-other’s content.
For Alice Hodge, the journey starts with ‘being real’, which is facilitated primarily through Twitter and Instagram. The accurate buzz word here is “oblique.” Tweeting about mis-steps and antics, coupled with Instagram photos of what happens behind-the-scenes can do a lot to bring humor, life and humanity to a new business. Andrew and most of the panel echoed the value of re-posting Instagram images and other user-generated content as a way to build a reputation directly through relationships, rather than ‘pitching’ anything at all.
Email = Workhorse
So how do you connect directly with your base to promote events, sell tickets, generate a buzz or announce a new feature? And how to do you measure retention vs. interest when social network stats are only as good as the last week’s activity?
For Max Bergius, email equivocates best. Because it is so direct, Art Wednesday sees the most monetization come from direct emails. MailChimp is the favorite tool for scheduling and building email campaigns (we use it at WAPU for our mailing-list and love it). As social networks grow larger daily, getting a signal through the noise can be quite the challenge. But email – set apart from networks and inherently personal – is a great way to find and keep your ‘sticky’ supporters.
Quality, not G+
Of the many platforms supported and praised for their ability to help connect and network users, Hootsuite and Tweetdeck were praised as tools to manage and schedule social updates (they focus on Twitter and Facebook). Path, Highlight and Banjo were mentioned as good personal networking tools. Drupal and WordPress were the blogging favorites.
We would like to throw in Shhmooze as an up-and-comer which helps you find people from your networks at events hosted by Shhmooze, Eventbrite and MeetUp.
The consensus was that Google Plus and the complicated integration of Google Plus Local and Google Plus Groups makes it more of a headache than a tool. When resources are already stretched across development, outreach and service, convoluted software that changes frequently is the most likely to drop off.
“If corporates can get out of the way… we’ll have a great time”
The most poignant question of the session came at the end of the event, when Sam Michel had a chance to discuss the role of big brands amidst the pop-up phenomenon. The title quote is his, issued after explaining the potential and exciting opportunity for entrepreneurs and brands to partner around offering large-scale, authentic experiences. Brands can bring financial support and capability, where entrepreneurs bring authenticity and a true connection to consumers.
This is most likely to work if the brand is just barely visible. We imagine meaningful or quiet product-placements, rather than big noisy ad-campaigns. Most brands now don’t seem to cop to the idea, so maybe they just need to be taught. Connecting with true pop-up entrepreneurs is a great opportunity for brands to authentically connect with their consumers – as we see in The Art Of Dining’s new Tradicional project.
Many thanks to Katie McPhee and Eventbrite for facilitating this fascinating conversation. (And for not forcing everyone in attendance to wear big orange shirts.)
Event overview and speakers: http://eventbriteatsmwldn12.eventbrite.com