This weekend I have had half an eye looking skywards and half an eye on a data set relating to the activities of the skies. In particular, with reference to the annual Bristol International Balloon Fiesta (#BIBF)
Once a year, the skyline of Bristol is treated to a series of mass ascents where close to 100 balloons silently creep across the city where ballooning has a rich heritage and performs a vital role in the income of the city. A record 500,000 people visited the event site itself and countless other vantage points were packed with people with a well-earned crick in their neck this morning. I could enthuse about the magical nature of hot air balloons, the City of Bristol and the Red Arrows display that formed the pinnacle of the event but I have a brief to stick to and that is the discussion of marketing, social media and delicious data.
From the sample I have been working with, 2003 records were recorded from the day before the event to the morning after the final day. (10-15 August, if you prefer). Overall, Twitter occupied a 51.92%, video/photo 36.35%, social networks 6.19%, online media coverage 2.30% and forums just 1%.
The interesting element of this is the high volume for video/photo content. The visually stimulating nature of the event means that there are a lot of photos to taken and shared online. Flickr performed strongly as a platform for hosting such media.
Curiously, Twitter mentions lead the way on every day of the event until Sunday when photographs storm in front with 374 photos to 212 tweets. This suggests that the Red Arrows performance on Sunday was most picture-worthy or the delay in the previous days of ballooning and photo ops meant that Sunday was the day that they finally were removed from the camera or memory card and uploaded into the online social stream. Immediate upload technology is still an affordable standard camera feature dream.
The multiple mass ascents of balloons, one early each morning and one at sunset, are the constant source of online discussion but it was the Red Arrows and their polished visual display in the Sunday afternoon sunshine that wowed the crowds and provoked a glowing online response. As an investment into the entertainment programme of the event, the Red Arrows delivered 33.3% in positive mentions, of all mentions of the Red Arrows and only one grumble (0.8 %) from someone tweeting having been woken by the jets.
What do they bring to the event? People (people with money, hopefully). How much do they cost? Unknown. If the positive online mentions are anything to go by, they were a reason to attend the event and delivered a nice return on investment in terms of positivity towards the event as a whole and a reason to be in the arena itself. A definite event magnet.
Event punters were left feeling somewhat deflated when it came to the car parking arrangements. The out-of-town location of the event arena means organisers have to make provisions and as the event is free, their main source of income after sponsorship, is from the car park. 2.5 % of all event conversations related to car parking and this is where the bulk of any negativity relating to the event came from, 51 % of the ‘parking’ related talk was to vent frustration at “chaos” and “not moved in 1.5 hours”.
How can events marketing and social media monitoring strike up the perfect relationship?
• Identify the Top 5 online commentators of the event and work with them in future events or offer rewards to build organic advocacy. Better to do this without publicising pre-event in order to reduce noise and gamification of the competition.
• Run a ‘Best photo’ competition. Promote this style of competition to source quality over quantity. Make the best photo the programme front cover image the following year etc.
• As a specialist event, the casual spectator will always second guess if the weather conditions are suitable for flight or not. On the final evening, crowds amassed to watch the final mass ascent only to be disappointed that it was “too windy for flight”. Those that had access to Twitter knew this information immediately, those without were left to decipher if the whispers were rumour or not. This speaks of the need for regular and authoritative lines of communication from the event organisers.
• Use the social media data to learn from mistakes and what worked well, gain quick and easy feedback and shape the future of the event.
James Ainsworth is Community Manager for Alterian