One of the clearest lessons I learned when helping teams to pilot the Digital Event strategy in the Spring of 2020 was the power of utilizing social media for your event. At first, I remember telling teams that Youtube was the only place they should broadcast their event - splitting up the broadcast by adding Facebook live or another streaming service would also split up the audience. I've written another article titled Two Platforms for Two Audiences about why I now believe that streaming on Youtube and Facebook is the best option, but for now I just want to pass on what I learned about the power of social media.
The main point of this article is simple: having people share your Digital Event's Facebook Page and livestream is one of the most effective methods for getting the word out about your event. Social media (and Facebook specifically) has proven to be one of the most reliable ways for information to spread. The entire concept of 'going viral' was interwoven with social media because, through social shares, the way that content spread resembled a viral infection.
A WALK DOWN MEMORY LANE
Here are some specific examples of the power of the social share that I've seen in my lifetime. Depending on your age and online presence, you might remember some of these.
KONY 2012 - Wow - what a ride. This 30-minute documentary garnered over 100,000,000 views on Youtube and was the first time in my life I ever saw my peers believe that they could change the world by sharing a video and voicing their opinion online. I remember that I would log onto Facebook (I was in college at the time) and for over a month the first thing that showed up was '146 of your friends shared this video'.
Jefferson Bethke - Around the same time as the KONY 2012 phenomenon this Youtuber's career was launched with a video titled Why I Hate Religion but Love Jesus. That video now has 34,000,000 views and Jefferson still has 700,000 subscribers. Again, this video was shared widely among young evangelicals of the time and essentially everyone (Christian or not) saw it on their timelines at some point.
Cru's 'Be Still' Event - Looking at a more recent event, this online prayer meeting was watched live by tens of thousands of people in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. The primary source of this success was Cru's use of social media sharing to make sure every Christian heard about the event. Not only did everyone see the event, but even if they didn't know about Cru they saw they had 20, 50, or 75 friends who had RSVP'd for the event and wanted to see what all the fuss was about. There were follow-ups to this event with the same branding that never reached the same heights because they failed to prioritize social media in the same way.
Race In America - This video, put out by the creator of Veggie Tales (Phil Vischer) went viral recent to the time of this article's writing. It stands out to me because it wasn't on the mass scale of the 3 examples I've already listed but it was still just as effective. I remember hearing about the video and having some friends say I should watch it, but I didn't actually click the link until I logged onto Facebook and saw that a few friends of mine had shared it. All it took was a few shares from people I respected to move the video to the top of my news feed and make me think, "If those people like it, I bet I will, too."
I'm sure you can think of dozens of other examples of videos and events that gained notoriety through the power of social media shares. Entire platforms like Tik Tok have been created to capitalize on this phenomenon.
A REAL-WORLD EXAMPLE
You're probably thinking, "That's great for all of those videos, but my Digital Event isn't like those videos at all. How will people sharing my broadcast tangibly help me?" Well, let me pull back the curtain and give you some numbers from a Digital Event I helped to put on in June of 2020.
We were doing what we could to promote the event through a local campus team's Facebook page. This team has a moderate social media presence - their Facebook and Instagram pages each have about 750 likes. Here are two posts that we made to promote the event along with the marketing analytics:
Post #1: One Day Before Event
80 Impressions (Times people saw the post on their screen)
4 Interactions (Times people clicked on a part of the post)
Post #2: Live Broadcast on Day of Event
915 Views (of at least 3 seconds)
Both of these posts were shared to the same original audience less than 24 hours apart at around the same time of day. The only two differences were the medium (one was a video) and the fact that we asked our staff to share the second post. Just 11 people sharing the broadcast led to thousands of exposures and hundreds of views (the only way to interact with the post would have been to begin watching). It's worth noting that only around 130 people had RSVP'd for the event ahead of time, so almost all of these views came from people who weren't planning on tuning in.
It's important to remember that this will never be able to replace the power of an individual, intentional, personal invitation. But the power of the social share must be considered for any online event in this day and age.