Leveraging Influencers, Events and Social Media to Ignite Brand Momentum

03/20/2014 06:44 pm ET | Updated May 20, 2014

In today's digital society, any consumer has the ability to share their opinion about a brand, company or experience with tens, hundreds, even thousands of friends and strangers thanks to social media. Through social listening software, brands can be very responsive to consumers and join the conversation -- answering a question on Twitter, re-gramming a photo on Instagram, or sharing a customer story on Facebook. To engage on an even deeper level, brands can create shared content and experiences with those consumers in real-time. So, how can a brand capitalize on the interplay between real-world events and social media?

Identify your advocates and influencers
Aligning with advocates and influencers can essentially do the heavy-lifting of igniting social conversations for your brand. Your word-of-mouth campaign is only as powerful as the people you start with. There are many digital tools to identify and qualify the reach of online influencers but those numbers only tell part of the story, and it's sometimes a misleading one. Click farms have become the sweatshops of the new economy, causing social brands like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter to regularly police and clean up bogus accounts designed to inflate social reach. Look beyond analytics to content in order to evaluate fit and authenticity. Does this person have credibility in your category? Are they using their social profiles to constantly shill and promote or are brand mentions authentically weaved into content? Look for people who have influence out in the real world too, either in personal or professional circles. Some social influencers are great at getting followers but rarely leave the house. Once you've identified potential influencers, make a thoughtful introduction to your brand, assessing their passion and engagement to find the best match. For those who are already passionate advocates, show appreciation by asking for feedback and offering insider access.

You can also tap into new advocates and influencers by aligning with a like-minded brand, creating a halo effect of aspirational brand associations and further fueling the target's passions and interests through well-curated partners. Additionally, brand partners can further amplify your message and content to their own audience, increasing the event reach.

Build an experience around them
Find out what inspires and motivates your attendees and leverage their interests, social media habits and lifestyle trends to develop a compelling experience and content that will inspire social sharing. At Grow, we always customize our experiences to line up with the interests of our attendees. At our Malibu Island Spiced launch event, we capitalized on the young, female target's fascination with selfies with a custom braid bar. Freshly styled New York socialites were incentivized to snap and share photos of themselves and each other on Instagram and Facebook. Catering to a more affluent demographic, our G.H. Mumm Formula 1 event offered sophisticated and compelling eye candy ranging from aerial ribbon dancers, to champagne sabering with celebrity guest Josh Duhamel. Whatever the catalyst, guests should be so inspired by your event that they cannot help but share it.

Keep it simple
Not only do you want an event that is highly shareable -- you want sharing to be super easy for guests and intuitive to how they already use their channels. Use a hashtag to collect all social conversations, so guests can reply and respond to one another and your brand can track and respond in real time. Display conversations and content throughout the event space, to encourage additional sharing. It can even be as simple as rewarding them with their own content, use a hashtag to curate the social conversation and reward guests with a physical print of their photo.

Listen and respond
You have influencers and advocates doing their part to socialize and share about the event -- your brand should too! A brand should be live and active as a part of the social conversation at the event: retweeting guest's thoughts, liking Instagram photos, and actively engaging with participants. Use this opportunity to connect on a digital level and create deeper social connections. Make listening easy. Before the event, capture all guests Twitter handles into a Twitter list -- follow this list throughout the event to keep up with guest conversation or use social listening platforms to search for key phrases or hashtags.

Curate original content
Events are huge opportunities to create content that can extend the event beyond the four walls so it can live on. Not only should your brand involve themselves in the event conversation, you should use the event as an opportunity to create as much new and compelling content as you can. The essentials: live tweets, posts and photos shared right from the event. This allows the brand to extend the event to a wider audience, allowing those who are not able to attend in person, to feel as though they are part of the event. The extras: professional photographer, videographer event reel, guest testimonials or Q&A's, event livestreaming and Google Hangouts on air. Adding an unexpected twist can further ignite interest. For the Gap BE BRIGHT NYC campaign, we drew additional buzz and engagement around the opening of the brand's newest flagship store by simulcasting photos taken of consumers in-store to a digital billboard in Times Square, emailing a snap of their billboard back to the consumer to share with their friends online.

Fuel momentum
You've worked hard to socially engage guests, create new content and reach a wider audience, and these efforts should not end when your event does. Keep up to speed on post-event chatter. Use Twitter to thank guests for coming, use social listening platforms to keep your eye out for tweets that happen after the event is over and blog about your event. All of this content should be answered, shared and repurposed by your brand. Post and comment on photos, create a splashy event recap reel to post on YouTube or shorter video clips to post on Instagram. Offer up tips or advice for fans to create a version of your event at home and ask them to post their photos, rewarding the best ones. Keep the dialogue going and the content and momentum from your event will continue to ripple through the social web fueling conversation, connection and advocacy.