A safer way to rent space

A safer way to rent space with We Are Pop Up

The current state of commercial property is not always pleasant, particularly for businesses looking for short-term rentals. Complex (and sometimes uncomfortable) interactions have come to define relationships between landlords, agents, and tenants. Consequently, adversarial interactions often underpin property rental transactions.

In 2013, We Are Pop Up connected over 150 businesses to transact space and launch incredible projects across the UK. We listened, and learned a lot – putting stories from our community and customers at the core of our development.

We heard about the value of knowledge and promotion, and how the We Are Pop Up community provides guidance and mutual support.  We also heard from spaces that suffered non-payment, brands burdened by opaque rental agreements, and people confused by vague, changing lists of requirements.

With that in mind, we developed an online marketplace – a new way to rent commercial property.  Our rental process not only lets you rent space safely, but also creates collaborative tenant-landlord relationships.

When we started work on the rental process, we needed the right legal partner to create a strong standard agreement – one that benefitted and protected tenants and landlords equally. Hogan Lovells developed a set of terms and agreements that work together as you move towards renting a space. Now, each brand and landlord on We Are Pop Up uses the same property law firm as Google.

How our process benefits you:


We Are Pop Up requires tenants and landlords to make accurate and truthful representations of their businesses and properties.  That includes every action on We Are Pop Up, from profiles and messages to dates and prices.

Open discussion and transparency requires honesty. We take this commitment seriously, and remove members who do not respect community standards.

Transparent Pricing – Upfront Payment

Unexpected charges after a rental agreement puts both parties in an awkward position. We designed our agreement so that landlords declare all charges up front, before you make an agreement and send payment.
(This does not yet apply to business rates as councils collect rates directly)

Trust, Reputation and Trading Histories 

Often, no prior connection exists between the parties involved in a rental transaction. Our community includes many small businesses or independent operators that cannot yet demonstrate the same trading histories as large brands. By transacting on We Are Pop Up, you automatically build a track-record for your business, easily referenced for future transactions.


Parties negotiate directly through We Are Pop Up.  You do not deal with an agent or with us as an intermediary. You start conversations directly with the person managing a space. This gives you the freedom to ask questions and cover off all the details through a very fast communication channel.  You conduct negotiations through email, and We Are Pop Up maintains a record of all interactions (just in case).

Our goal is to put people in control of their own destinies, and make renting commercial property safe and easy.  Now landlords and tenants connect in an entirely new way to bring new experiences and products to their communities and consumers.

Please let us know your stories and thoughts at feedback@wearepopup.com.

The new psychology of space: longer than a day, shorter than a year

Dr Alastair talks “retail futures” at the Digital Shoreditch festival (#ds13) and discusses how some of the changes we are living through might affect the retail landscape.

“This is going to be a 7 minute deluge of ideas. Hold tight.

Firstly, I’d like to say how amazing We Are Pop Up is.

We Are Pop Up is a platform for finding and transacting short-term commercial space – pop ups! And my talk is about why short-term use of space will play an increasingly important role in our retail landscape.

But I’ll start with what I’m not going to talk about. I not going to talk about mobile or e-commerce. Although both currently see double digit growth and are very important for a changing retail landscape.

There was an excellent talk from Roger Wade the founder of Boxpark (and client of We Are Pop Up) yesterday about the importance of customer experience and the shifting pattern of interactions that these e/m technologies facilitate. But I’m not going to talk about multi-channel or omni-channel or any other trendy retail philosophy.

I’m going to start by talking about information. (Channel theory itself having its origins in Information theory). If we want to think about retail futures we have to start with information in social and economic activities.

We’re currently sitting somewhere in the middle of two important revolutions.

Its quite difficult to categories revolutions when you’re experiencing them, as the boundaries of when something started or stopped seem clearer with the perspective of history – and then only sometimes – so I’ll be deliberately woolly on the dates.

However, we can think of the ‘information revolution’ as starting post-war maybe even sometime in the 60s, with packet switching for instance, and lasting up to the mid-00’s post the ‘internet’ bubble. This is when we worked out a whole load of technologies and protocols for moving information around – the plumbing and pipes, so to speak, of moving data around the modern world.

Overlapping this we started to see, say late 80’s to the present, the beginning of the ‘inference’ revolution. The pattern matching, the AI, the machine learning that starts with data and information and begins to turn it into usable knowledge – by ‘inferring’ things.

This revolution will, in our life times, do for the ‘white collar worker’ what the Industrial Revolution did for the ‘blue collar worker’ – ie. slowly replace them. The inference revolution means that things you largely assumed to be the preserve of human level reasoning are automated. Now we probably have 20+ years still to go but we already take a considerable amount of its output for granted, whether that’s product recommendations on our loyalty cards to the response to our limb actions from a device like the Kinect on a shop manikin.

So the first revolution is ‘inference’. And at this point I’d like to remind you that We Are Pop Up is an amazing tool for helping find short term space – a bit like a search engine it can help recommend potential tenants to landlords.

The second revolution is about the means of production – 3D printing if you want.

Again this started some time in the 80’s  – first reported account 81 – but additive layer manufacturing is a technology that has only really begun to be commoditized in the last few years.

To think how transformative this will be, consider ‘modern’ 2D printing.

If you imagine the transformation of the Dot Matrix printer from the 70s to the full colour photo-realistic printers of the late 00s it took less than 30 years for the commoditized product to go from something amazing, but quite primitive, to nearly professional grade processing for the lightly skilled amateur in their bedroom.

Extrapolate this a little bit and in less than 15 years a new digital manufacturing revolution now opens up the possibility of everyone being their own manufacturer. Multiple materials, fully functioning products, embedded electronics, smart materials, all at the click of the print button in a bedroom.

What has all this got to do with retail futures? Is We Are Pop up going to do for the commercial real-estate industry what 3D printers will do for manufacturing. Maybe.

Let’s put this discussion about information in context by going back a decade or so and looking at the music industry.

The music industry was arguably the first industry to be totally transformed by the means of digital production and dissemination. It’s founded on a 1D signal with a comparatively small byte size so the techniques for creating, copying, distributing and selling (or not as the case may be) came along first.

And how it has been transformed. Free downloads, to file sharing, to paid streaming and the resulting P&Ls from red back to black in a little over a decade. No more albums, no more super groups, but more live music, more socialized music, more REAL music and a landscape that now spans X-factor entertainment to solo careers launched by Kickstarter campaigns. The lesson here is that what we do in our digital worlds has a profound effect on what we do in our real worlds.

Is We Are Pop Up going to do for the commercial real-estate industry what Kickstarter has done in spawning and supporting creative projects? Probably.

Now, if you’re in an industry that also sells slightly more complicated digital signals, say the film industry, you obviously really sit up and take note! But the transformation of the music industry should be a salient lesson for all.

At the point where the current inference and manufacturing revolutions intersect most industries on the planet are packaging up, swapping, distributing, pricing and selling different digital signals – except what? Commodities companies?- the real stuff that things are made of. Or the property industry? – the real space where things exist in.

Surely REAL-estate is as REAL an asset class as you’re going to come across. What have these technology revolutions got to do with transacting space?

Well there is some obvious stuff – the sort of digital tools that support logistics, scheduling, portfolio management – digital tools that do some of the ‘inference’ about assets, the sort of tools that have already proliferated in industries like finance.

There is also the white elephant in the room, that, even in the absence of a universal 3D printer, more of our products will be bought and distributed using online models so that the real space in a ‘shop’ is less to do with shelves of stocked products and more about a space in which in which to experience a brand. And, when a retailer like Amazon is paying £4 a sq ft for warehouse space there is obviously lots of room for government to look at how tax and business rate mechanisms could be made fairer in this emerging landscape.

But there is also the tangible influence of the digital world on our expectations of the real world. Our online worlds are changing at an increasing pace, more social, more personalized, more on demand, more ‘everything as a service’ and we will inevitably demand more of these qualities of our offline worlds too.

So I lied slightly – I am going to talk about e/m commerce – because I’m going to talk about commerce. Increasingly the currency of commerce is (wait for it) information – Facebook’s famous “if you’re not paying then you are the product”.

Is We Are Pop Up going enhance engagement and connectivity in the real world in a way that Facebook did for the online world? Hopefully.

You now have a myriad of possible engagement models from free, to freemium, to premium, to subscription, to paid – and increasingly you ‘log-in’ to get a set of services from the walled gardens of the software platform giants – Google, Apple, Microsoft – or the upstarts Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Spotify… name your favorite.

Everyone wants to be a platform! After all logging-in captures information – and value.

To keep ahead in the engagement arms race, fueled by our online interactions, we will need the real world to be consumed in similar ways – freemium, subscription, on demand – 1 day, 2 days, 1 week, 1 month, 3 months. Whatever ever is required – at the right time, in the right location, for the right price. And to capture this value we need to be able to log-in to real space.

The new retail is longer than an event but shorter than a lease – and We Are Pop Up is here to help make that a reality.

Thank you.”

Read more about how commerce is changing in our Future of Retail series: Part 3 or The Rise of the Mobile Audience

Online brands come onto high streets: The rise of pop ups

Dr. Alastair Moore was invited to Downing Street this week for the launch of Lord Young’s second report on supporting small firms in the UK.

Here at WAPU we (obviously) think that new “pop-up” models of retail – longer than an event and shorter than a lease – play a very important role in regenerating the UK High-Street. It was greatly encouraging to see our contribution recognised in the report, along with partners Pop Up Britain and Popupspace.

“For online businesses, a pop-up offers them retail experience to raise their brand profile, test products and prices and have direct contact with customers, all with minimum financial commitment.”

The report goes on to describe the “early pioneers” striving to improve the model and enhance the experience for others. For example, wonderful new brands like NANUKK. Sarah McLeod said, “when you work alone and online, you never get the feedback – it was wonderful to hear that what I was doing on my own wasn’t crazy and that people actually liked my product and were prepared to buy it”

We are looking forward supporting many great new brands in the future!  You can read more here.



Pop Up Shop Collaboration Feature: Sharing

Today we are very pleased to announce new features for a concept we find invaluable to the pop-up community: Sharing

Over the past few months we have heard from our incredible community about their experiences finding new pop-up space. As a result, we have built new sharing tools into We Are Pop Up.

Share Your Space button on We Are Pop Up

Sharing A Space

Often times sharing a rented space or bringing in a collaborator for a new space is a great opportunity, but difficult to manage. Now anyone can extend a property to the community of great individuals and brands currently looking for short-term space on We Are Pop Up.

Why this is awesome:

– Anyone currently renting pop-up space can easily find a collaborator

– Anyone running events or short-term shops can now extend the opportunity to hundreds of exciting UK businesses currently listed on We Are Pop Up

– Agents, landlords or space managers can quickly find a great pop-up business that are ready to move in soon

To get started with a pop-up collaboration, log on to We Are Pop Up and (if you have not already) create a project. There is now a new option to add a space.

Add the details of a property and see a list of great brands looking for space in your area with the click of a button.

Ready for the next step? Make contact with an inspiring brand directly via We Are Pop Up!

Sharing Your Projects And Space Requests


We want it to be easy for all of our businesses to generate buzz and support for everything they do on We Are Pop Up. Now there is an easy way to share your ideas with the world and connect with people who have open space.

A set of social buttons now accompanies all of your projects. These enable the community show support for projects and will have a positive impact on offers to potential landlords and collaborators.

We help too by sharing your great projects on our networks and including you as part of our community pages.

We look forward to hearing what you think about these new updates.  And we’re excited to starting sharing your fabulous projects with the world!

For a more in-depth guide to how our new features work and to ask us any questions about the process directly, you can join our Forum and FAQs.

4 Trends That Are Going To Shape Retail Real Estate In 2013 And Beyond

What is the future for retail real estate in 2013 and beyond? MAPIC Vision #9 look at four trends from 2012 that have the potential to strengthen bricks and mortar shopping, but only if retailers and shopping centres are prepared to look at their business model.

Just when you were beginning to think that online retailing would take over the world here we discuss a range of new digital initiatives that keep retail estate fresh and up-to-date:

– How customer service has reached new levels of sophistication

– How pop-up retail has developed from old fashioned market stalls to truly surprising and profitable elements of the retail spectrum

– How mixed use can take on a new meaning with the addition of culture to our shopping habits

– How bricks and mortar retailers are bringing the digital revolution into their stores; innovating and developing ways of enhancing the retail experience to offer more than online or traditional retail alone

Peter Clucastalks popups with WAPU’s own Dr Alastair Moore with other great insight and contributions from APSYS, EKKi, CLEAR CHANNEL – and our  favorite pop up specialists Pop-It-Up.eu

The full article can be found here.

The Shop is dead. Long live the shop.

Pop-Down Square Cinema Area, Mike Lim, Shoichi Sado, Olivia Wright and Isobel Davies @PopDownSquare

Good article in The Times this weekend by Matthew-Paris about the future of shopping.

The internet changes how we buy and think, but old memes and behaviours take time to change:

“Thus we suppose that shopping and walking are somehow connected, and Americans suppose that shopping and driving are somehow connected. And everyone thinks a shop is a place — a place in a place; a place you go to and, being a place in a place you go to, will thus be either a specialist shop in a mixed cluster, or a “supermarket” or “department store” with the cluster under one roof. The news that these places can now be virtual, accessed on your screen, hardly needs to be laboured. “

As the role of the shop – a place in a place – changes, so no doubt will the way we search, select and transact real spaces. Does it alter the value of space? Does it change the ability or desire to ‘sell’ in real spaces? Whilst an increasing number of our transactions become virtual, our desire to meet and experience the real world, real things, real people, real products seems more permanent than the ‘form’ this engagement might take.

Thats where WeArePopUp.com can help. By enabling people to say what they mean by a shop – by allowing people to propose what a ‘shop’ should be – for what use, over what time at what price, with what activity with which collaborators.

“But still that hand from the past grips us… [finally] online shops (though not online shopping) will prove — like the out-of-town shopping centres that the internet killed, like the traditional high streets that the shopping centres killed, and like the street vendors and markets that the high streets killed — merely transitional.”

Offline shops are changing but activity, offline shopping, will transition to new forms – the shop is dead, long live the shop.

Why Your Mobile & Retail Strategy Should Emulate Samsung’s

Samsung is a master at consumers choice. Samsung offers a mobile phone to suit every customer’s requirements, at all price points, on a variety of different operating systems, while its rivals offer a restricted or – in the case of Apple – no choice.

Analyzing the products available from the top five handset and smartphone manufacturers tells a very interesting story. In the US alone, Samsung offers 153 different cell phones! Samsung also knocked Apple off its perch to become the best-loved smartphone vendor in the US-based Brand Keys 2013 Customer Loyalty Index.

Will we see this sort of thing soon in the m-payments/pos/retail space? What if you could plug any merchant account or and banking facility into a set of tools to help you run your business rather than sitting in one particular silo? What about customer service – click & collect, browse online, buy offline, vise vera.. As in mobile, retailers that offer their customers a widest variety of options possible, for them to pick which ever is most convenient, will provide the best retail experience.

If you like stats, you’ll love: The big compendium of global mobile stats. Read more here.

Welcome To The Future Of Retail – Part 3

In previous posts we have highlighted some of the recent changes to bricks-and-mortar landscape: increasing vacancy rates, reduced consumer spending and lower footfall.These trends are contributing to the rise of short-term “pop-up” retail both in the UK and internationally. However, We Are Pop Up also think this is the beginning of a structural change in the way we use space, rather than just an economic cycle which will fade in time.

Some of the social and technological forces that are changing consumer activity will have profound consequences for both shop space and brands, and offer a great opportunity for those that can capture the imagination of a new audience. For facts and figures about the Rise Of The Mobile Audience, see our overview here.


There are an increasing number of retailers seeking to enhance engagement, from Levi’s Craft Of Music campaign, to Westfield’s Future Fashion events, exciting fashion start-ups like TheEdit @wearetheco and the Vogue-sponsored Fashion Night Out across London’s West End. Even pure-play online retailers like Capital One or eBay are increasingly experimenting with physical spaces and pop-ups to build engagement.

It may seem obvious, but physical engagement with a brand or community or product is the core advantage that a ‘shop’ – or increasingly ‘pop-up’ – enjoys over an online experience.  Mobile computing is an agent in this physical to digital (or vise versa) journey.

The number of ways in which we can participate in a shopping experience is multiplying. We can share our experiences with our social media audience and are provided with digitally enhanced forms of service in-store. Just see how John Lewis bridges this gap with digital kiosks and incentives that cross platforms. For a new generation of retail, these steps are the key to engagement and profitable loyalty.


Hot Tub Cinema – a traveling theater and hot tub experience in London.

How To Engage In The Digital Age

It is estimated that the Vogue Fashion Night Out, for instance, increased footfall across Bond Street by a remarkable 92% – and a recent conversation with Caireen Wackett at Yellow Door reminded me what Mary Portas said back in September 2011:

“The only way for bricks and mortar retailers to compete with online is brilliant real life shopping experiences. Retail is no longer about number of units on the shop floor – it’s about offering a playground for your customers. Throwing big exciting events is one way to draw a crowd – but I believe the High Street should invest in better experiences for their customers every day.”

Big exciting events – the “theatre” of the retail world – don’t scale particularly well on the marketing and PR budget line. But mobile is a channel that can deliver personalized and exciting engagement everyday (remembering the late Steve Jobs’ caveat to “start with the experience, then work back to the technology”). A solution that can combine someone’s recent search history and preferences, the time of day, a particular location or even the last thing they bought, opens up the potential for far more nuanced and meaningful business-to-consumer journeys.

This more nuanced engagement delivers a more ‘authentic’ experience that all parts of the retail spectrum are currently seeking; from a start-up’s first steps into retail – like those working with Pop Up Britain – or an online retailer taking seasonal space, and even fully fledged independents and brands. A new generation of retailers is thinking not only about what they can provide to augment our lives, but also what kind of self-contained experience might captivate us most meaningfully. This indicates an exciting move away from old advertising models that told us what we wanted, and instead is built around what we actually do and care about.

Deloit predicts that over the long-term we will see a significant downsizing of store portfolios:
“This will vary markedly depending on the retailer’s category but reductions by as much as 30-40% are foreseeable over the next 3-5 years.” However some retailers, notably Apple and Nike, have led the way by showing that brand only stores can deliver great customer experience and provide a physical corner-stone to their consumer engagement. As vacant retail space grows more and more flexible, it is only a matter of time before the capacity and liquidity problems in the market are resolved. We can imagine a platform where all retailers have the opportunity to create active digital communities around the physical in-store experience, however short-term or permanent their presence.

This is where We Are Pop Up can play a vital role – enabling great physical experiences, reducing transaction costs and making the process of having a shop as easy as paying for a product online using PayPal.


Kellogg’s Ran A ‘Pay With A Tweet’ Campaign at a Soho, London shop in 2013

The CBRE (the world’s largest commercial real estate firm) observed that in the 1970’s, a retailer needed approximately 200 stores to access 50% of the UK’s population. Today it only needs 90 – sometimes less (assuming, of course, they are optimally located). Let us stretch the theatre analogy further to that of a traveling troupe – how many stores are required globally, over what locations and which time periods, to make sure a significant percentage of the world’s population enjoys your show?

I was recently asked to attended a meeting of the Small Business Statistics group at No. 10, hosted and chaired by Lord Young. The group was discussing the fragmentation of parts of the economy as an increasing amount of trade is transacted by e-commerce platforms like Ebay – and what challenges that this poses for measuring activity and productivity – in the first recession in living memory where unemployment has gone down! The conversations in the room were enthusiastic, and focused on new ways to transact and how to make the most of current market shifts.

Capturing mobile audiences represents an unparalleled opportunity for brick-and-mortar retailers. From start-ups to independents to brands – those that embrace mobile platforms in an intelligent and timely manner have the chance to create and sustain real competitive advantage.

Perhaps with the rise of the mobile audience are we about to see the rise of mobile retail itself.

Further Reading

The Changing Face of Retail – Deloit

M-shopping: Final nail or final hope for the High Street? – Sponge

Other parts of our Future Of Retail installments

This post kicks off a weekly series where each of We Are Pop Up’s team members will take a turn applying their expertise to the concept of pop-up. This week features Alastair Moore – COO and Co-Founder of We Are Pop Up. You can ask him questions on Twitter @latticecut.

The Rise Of The Mobile Audience

Eric Schmidt of Google said, “If your company doesn’t have a mobile strategy, it doesn’t have a strategy.” This is a prescient observation but one that really rang true this year as London played host to the 2012 Olympic Games. Among the 430 million visits to Lonond2012.com, the 4.7 billion page views and 4.7 million social follows, the number that stands out is that 60% of this occurred from mobile devices. To visualise the growth rate of smart phone adoption and use, here’s a chart:

The Rise Of The Mobile Audience

Figure 1. Smartphone penetration per capita by country. Source: VisionMobile

If charts aren’t you’re thing, here’s a summary: The US and UK have the most engaged smart phone users, which comprise between 30% – 40% of people in either given country. In real numbers, over 150 million people in America and 24 million in the UK download roughly 20 apps-per-phone today. Some reports indicate that over half of UK residents now have smart-phones, which would make that 24 million closer to 35 million. The challenges of data accuracy aside, the point is that this rise in the mobile audience undoubtedly influences our retail spending behaviour. Online sales now represent around 12% of the UK’s annual retail spend. Research by Barclays Corporate in 2011 predicts that mobile will come to represent around 5% of retail spending in the UK by 2020. Between now and 2016, they predict compound annual growth of 55% for mobile-based commerce (mCommerce) vs 8% for eCommerce (shorthand for online sales) and just 1.6% for in-store sales. But the attention of new mobile audiences is still notoriously difficult to capture.

Around 80% of branded apps get less than 1,000 downloads – and its very far from the simple case of replacing the online desktop experience. To quote Matt Biddulph @mattb, co-founder of Doppler, “mobile gives everyone superpowers!” Its always with us, and there are signals, and more signals, AND MORE SIGNALS telling us about what’s happening in the world. We can see what’s around the corner in the same feed next to what’s happening in Mumbai. And with a couple clicks we can see both points on a map, and chart a journey via bus. Mobile allows us to see, find, explore, share and transact in ways that we simply couldn’t previously: faster, with better curation and with limitless connections to like-content.

More on this later, but anecdotally, this week heralded my first time paying at an US coffee shop where the only pos system was an iPad using Square! Mobile has arrived.


In 2000, £50 out of every £100 we spent went to High Street retailers. Today, it’s just £42.50. But mobile isn’t about replacing a pound for a pound, and it is one of the “channels” by which customers and retailers engage. Deloitte estimate that for every £1 of purchases made via mobile, the channel will directly influence £23 of spend. The challenge is finding the best ways to influence a mobile audience.

I was inspired by a recent talk by Alex Meisl, co-founder of Sponge at the Mobile Academy about living in the “age of engagement”. I found the following statistics particularly engaging:

– 81% of smart-phone users search for local data

– 34% of US smart phone users have cancelled planned purchase in stores due to information they got from their mobile phone;

– 25% claim to intentionally carry a smart phone when shopping to compare prices and find information (an activity commonly referred to as “showrooming”);

– 46% say research conducted on their phone led them to make a specific purchase at specific store.

Where previously a retailer would have had us captive once we crossed the threshold of a shop, now they are in constant competition for our attention –  locally, nationally and globally – an observation that Simon Forster of Debenhams described in June 2012 as “effectively heralding the end of online versus in-store shopping”. It is not about which of those you are, but how soon you will be both – something that the UK’s 150k online-only retailers should take note of.

So what do people currently do on mobiles? Here is another chart. This one shows a recent breakdown of behaviours from Google:

Figure 2. User journeys from discovery to purchase. Source: thinkwithgoogle.com

Understanding this complicated journey of conversion is not only the key to understanding mobile – and channel conversion – its key to understanding the changing role of bricks-and-mortar.

Notice that 4 out of 6 journeys involve the physical store in relation to mobile. The temporal aspects of this engagement are also important, but not captured by the figure. For example, there is the immediacy of mobile, as Ashley Highfield @ashleyhi observers: “On average, the time difference between first search and purchase is one month on the web and one hour on mobile”.

However the main point is that the biggest opportunity lies in leveraging mobile AND the physical store AND online to shape the overall shopper journey.

The potential of journey and engagement was highlight at a presentation from Hellicar & Lewis  that I attended recently at WhiteLable’s Future Gallery. They gave some wonderful examples of how people are willing to interact with different digital installations to enhance the emotional and social aspects of engagement. And it is the role of social advocacy and endorsement that is critical to the journey of conversion.

Unsurprisingly, Amazon research shows that 83% of us won’t buy having been exposed to critical comments. But much more interestingly, their research also found that 75% of us are unlikely to buy if there are no reviews.

Only one journey in the figure above ends in an in-store sale – but bricks-and-mortar plays a critical role in creating a platform for engagement to support discovery.

This is part of an ongoing series on The Future Of Retail. You can read the continuation of this supporting data here.


“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.)

Watch the live stream

Event overview and speakers: http://eventbriteatsmwldn12.eventbrite.com

Host: http://www.theenginegroup.com