Exactly one week ago the annual Manchester Jazz Festival was entering its penultimate day of nine, which had seen crowds packed into venues across the city to see more than 80 bands.
It was also the culmination of a festival marketing campaign that, for the first time, had social media hot wired into it.
With a small core team, a modest budget and a principal focus of getting the music right, the festival organisers gave a couple of people – myself included – a fairly free rein to see what social media could do for audiences this year.
So, did the social investment work? The honest answer is, I don’t know. Hopefully the research among gig-goers during the week will reveal all. But what I do know is that using a small selection of social media platforms effectively exposed the festival to a greater number of eyes and ears, and created the beginnings of loyal online community.
The main issue we faced was having little concrete information to work with until a few weeks before the festival, when the line-up was finally confirmed and published. Add to that a pre-existing suspicion among the general public about what they think jazz is: in other words, elitist, pretentious and a whole load of screeching noise.
So, what did we do?
- Invited festival Facebook Group followers to migrate to the newer (and more versatile) Facebook fan page.
- Trawled the festival’s existing Twitter follower and followee lists to pinpoint and connect with the influential/popular feeds in Manchester and North West England music/arts and entertainment.
- Began retweeting others’ content; showing the willingness to share.
- Started conversations where appropriate and where we could add something meaningful.
- Set up an Audioboo account to generate some low-cost content, by way of interviews with scheduled bands and music samples.
- Set up Google alerts to track all mentions of the festival by bloggers and venues to provide a steady stream of content for Facebook and Twitter updates.
- Used the Twitter “all friends” feed to find useful jazz content to keep the platforms refreshed with audio and video.
By the time the festival’s new website came online, with extra facility for multimedia content, we already had a burgeoning online community eager for festival fodder. Using links from static parts of the website (such as daily gig listings) on the Facebook page provided another route in to the online materials.
What did we achieve?
From a humble base of just over one hundred Facebook fans two months before festival launch, this reached nearly 500 by the time the music started.
Interaction on the page had also increased considerably:
Twitter followers doubled from 600 to 1,200 and we had developed some great contacts, including leisure and entertainment bloggers who featured festival previews, reviews, competitions and – amazingly – became jazz converts! Granted, the numbers weren’t in their tens of thousands but, don’t forget, this is jazz not Kylie Minogue!
If an increase in social media followers for the festival – and the user generated content that showed up on the sites – is indicative of active audience interest in the event, I would like to believe this contributed to the week of packed houses.
In the words of the old jazz tune, “T’ain’t what you do it’s the way that you do it (and that’s what gets results)”
(Photo of Adam Nussbaum, drums, and Steve Swallow, bass, c/o William Ellis)
Jon Clements is a Chartered PR consultant specialising in B2B PR, corporate and marketing communications and is the founder of Metamorphic PR.