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How are Festivals Harnessing the Power of Social Media?


How do music festivals use social media platforms to promote their event and engage with their audiences?

Music festivals are bigger now than ever. Live music audience attendance is growing 12% YOY, with 4 million Brits attending at least one festival in 2016. The festival sector in the UK alone is worth £1.1 billion. When it seems like there are new events popping up every month there is no denying that festivals are a rising phenomenon. But how are they harnessing the power of social media in order to engage with festi-fans?


Glastonbury Festival 2017


Targeting Festies 

It’s no coincidence that after you listened to ‘Man’s Not Hot’ 36 times on YouTube that you started seeing ads for Big Shaq’s next festival performance on Facebook. Long gone are the days of the ‘Spray & Pray’ approach to marketing. Now that we spend more time than ever online our activity can be easily tracked. Information regarding our age, gender, location, and importantly, interests can be easily utilised by brands. This way they can target the individuals most likely to purchase their product reducing unnecessary ad spend to people who won’t convert.


Festivals bring together a variety musicians, artists and performers often with a unifying theme or genre. As long as they know their audience profile it is easy to target a specific demographic on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. As a result, research by Eventbrite has revealed that nearly half (46%) of festival attendees found out about a festival they attended through social media.


Hyping it up

Celebrities with large followings on social media platforms have huge influence. Festivals have started to take advantage of the artists performing at their events and influencers with an existing following to promote their events. The Fyre Festival fiasco 2017 was the perfect example of influencer’s exceptional ability to create hype and raise unrealistic expectations of an event. 


Set on a remote island in the Bahamas, promising to be a boutique festival like no other, Kendall Jenner (with 91.5 million insta followers), Bella Hadid (18.2m) and Emily Ratajkowski (17.8m) were all paid to promote Fyre Festival on their Instagram feeds. This pushed publicity and ticket sales through the roof with people paying upwards of $4,000 to be flown in, wined, and dined.


The reality was that the festival couldn’t have been further from what was depicted online. The island did not have the infrastructure, neither could it cope with the demands of the event. It transpired that the ‘luxury accommodation’ were disaster relief tents, with some finding they had no accommodation at all. On top of this, the ‘gourmet cuisine’ advertised turned out to be deconstructed cheese sandwiches and tiny slices of pizza. Needless to say the festival was cancelled after the first day. The founder Billy McFarland defended himself by saying he couldn’t have anticipated the popularity of the festival; “We simply weren’t ready for what happened next, or how big this thing would get”. As unfortunate as this for the attendees, it clearly demonstrates the undeniable power on influencer marketing.  

fyre festival

Promotional material for Fyre Festival & the disastrous reality of the 'luxury' campsite


Creating FOMO

Festivals are making more of an effort to create opportunities for fans to share content on social media there and then. This is clever because fans can become ambassadors for their brand, essentially promoting to their friends. For example at Coachella, guest’s wristbands are linked to their Facebook accounts. Festival-goers can ‘check in’ at each stage and it updates Facebook with their location and which artist they are seeing.


Statistics have shown that festies favourite medium is photos with 81% of attendees snapping pics and sharing them. Intuitively, Bestival have shown that one of the most effective ways to get people snapping is to create ‘shareable’ experiences and hubs. Every year they create a record breaking installation on the Bestival site. In the past this has ranged the world’s largest disco ball to a giant inflatable ‘Happy Kanye’. 


Twitter is often harnessed as an important tool to answer customer queries and complaints. When handled correctly the immediacy of the platform allows for issues to be resolve quickly, effectively and publicly, reflecting well on the brand. 

download festival

Download festival utilising Twitter to keep fans informed


All of this sharing makes those who are not there long to attend one day. This phenomenon is also known as FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and drives ticket sales for following years. According to research, individuals who have viewed a live-stream (Instagram or Facebook) of an event are 30% more likely to attend the following year. As a result festivals make sure not to neglect this potential market by sharing on social media live. This year Coachella set the record for the number of simultaneous viewers on a YouTube live stream with 458k tuning in to watch Beyoncé's legendary performance. 


Post Festival Blues?

Just because the festival is over, doesn’t mean the online conversation is. Festivals know this is the perfect opportunity to encourage attendees to reflect on what an incredible time they had. Almost every festival will hire videographers and photographers to capture professional and colourful content to share on their social channels in the future.


Tomorrowland does this particularly well, uploading after-movies onto their YouTube channel which receive millions of views and thousands of shares on other networks. This continues conversations and sharing long after the event has finished and additionally provides promotion for next year’s event. How sustainable! 


Tomorrowland After-movie 2017: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6dVFy4d61gU