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Whether terrified or fascinated (or both!) by sharks, there’s a lesson for all of us in marketing when we look at the creative ways the Discovery Channel keeps Shark Week’s 723,000 Facebook fans engaged.

Shark Week fans are a committed bunch! They follow Shark Week on Facebook for facts, videos, and even sneak previews of upcoming episodes. They watch the Shark Week Twitter stream during the episode, competing with one another to be the first to correctly answer trivia questions. And after an episode, fans go back to Facebook to catch un-aired scenes from the latest show, or share ideas and points of view with the other fans.

What the Discovery Channel understands is that while we tune into TV for our favorite episode, we are also flanked by our iPads, smart phones, laptops, etc. with another ‘view’ to the show. While the TV is on, we are “always on” working across the various social media channels. Knowing this, they carefully guide us from one social media channel to another and maximize on the show’s ‘experience’ across the fan base.

I see a parallel with TV programming and business events. Both have a start and end time, and there’s opportunity to engage with our fans/prospects before, during, and after the event. If B2B marketers embrace the Shark Week system of engagement when we plan our business events, we will ensure attendees are prepared and welcomed as they arrive, engaged during the event, and stay engaged with us after the event.

What tactics have you used (or experienced) that made you feel the event organizers were dedicated to giving you a great experience from beginning to end?

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13 Comments

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  1. Laurie Hawkins

    At recent events I’ve attended, such as the Sirius Decisions conference, the organizers have been displaying participants’ tweets about the event on large screens in the meeting rooms.  It helps to generate a sense of enthusiasm and community to see the comments of fellow attendees.

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  2. Tim Porterfield

    Here in Atlanta, we have an improvisational comedy troupe, Automatic Improv, that does a great job of engaging their audience from the moment they announce an upcoming show right through participation in the show itself.  Fans can “pick a theme” for an upcoming show through Facebook announcements, then literally guide the direction of a skit by tweeting specific topics to the troupe’s handle, which the improv actors read from their own mobile phones and incorporate in real time into their “improvised” dialogue.  They also feature a skit where they ask an audience member to lend their cell phone.  The skit’s theme is picked (“28 year old man discovers for the first time that he was adopted”), and then one of the improv actors is given the phone.  That troupe member is then required to use only the IMs contained on the phone as their dialogue with the other cast members.  The audience is literally part of the experience, and makes for a fun (and possibly embarassing) evening out!

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  3. Savita Raina

    To make the engagement for both physical or virtual events long lasting we will need to consider all parts of the engagement from start to finish and thereafter. My thoughts are more on lines of logistics, convenience and community development.

    Pre – event

    – Make registration process easy and simple.

    – Make event details easy to add to your participants calendar.

    – Reminder notices before the event – via phone/ email/ text with venue information and timing as per participants preference

    At the event

    – Make badging, car parking, direction to venue and other additional information such as Wi-Fi connectivity simple and easily accessible. This will reduce the stress for the participant

    – Clear directions how to access the virtual event

    Post

    – Provide participants with additional resources related to the topic, if participants desire so

    – Gauge their interests in other related topics and provide them that information frequently as per their preference.

    – Motivate them to be part of the event or topic related community so that they can share their experience, provide additional feedback and add to community’s learning

    – Record interesting discussion topics and post them on the community site. If participants want, also share with them via email or make those easily accessible through community site.

    – Send them information on upcoming events related to topics of  their interest

    – If event is paid offer them discounts so to increase their participation as form of loyalty program.

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    1. Reed Hornberger Post author

      Exactly.  one thing I don’t see us doing enough of. . . . testing and using our online channels enough.  I was in a launch a few weeks ago,  everyone was crowding into the main event room, yet no one seemed to be concerned about what the online event looked like.  As I logged in . . . it wasn’t easy and it took 8 minutes to load up.  WOW.  more testing. Lets throw and event and have everyone join it online to learn what to check on.

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  4. Nikolaos Fiolitakis

    What ever you are organizing,keep your participants present. If you organize an event let participants be part of the creation, if you organize a scenario let them be part of that.

    Use simulation software to predict audience reaction!

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  5. Desiree Daniels

    In an increasingly participatory social world, audience members want to feel like their input matters. The days of simply viewing a presentation, or watching a television show have become part of the past. Social user interaction has become routine in almost every aspect of popular culture: from the brands we endorse, the technology we consume, and the events we follow. The audience has grown to expect that their opinion or involvement will be necessary, in one form or another, for these social events to exist. With interactive user experiences being increasingly expected aspects of events, marketers have reached the mecca of engagement. Audiences are more eager than ever to share their opinions and experiences, using multiple channels to do so. We are living in the golden age of social marketing!

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  6. Shahzia Banth

    One of my favorite lifetime experiences was shark diving off the coast of South Africa, which was inspired by watching years of Sharkweek! I do agree with you Reed, the Discovery Channel (and increasingly other networks as well) have really started understanding and implementing strategies to interact with their audiences in more innovative ways and increasingly using mobile technology.  Gone are the days of pre-event/during-event/post-event communications as we live in a hyper-information world born through social marketing. Audiences want to be more than just informed, they expect to be involved by an ongoing interactive 2-way communication, so they can be heard. One of my all time favorite examples is how text message voting created a new way of audience interaction for American Idol. The interaction was simple, but powerful and engaging.  And that is where I think event marketers can learn from … simple, powerful, engaging.

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    1. Reed Hornberger Post author

      And there’s more . . . . over the weekend was the Grand Prix of Monaco.  I love race car events, but don’t get the time to participate in many.  Especially when they’re in Monaco.

      While I watched the event on TV, the McLaren team had a real time web site from which you can watch the speed, RPM, shifting and G Forces on the drivers. Great visual analytic tools that helped to interpret what the driver goes through for several hours. Amazing! McLaren had two cars in the event.  At one point in the race one of the screens on the #6 car went out.  I wondered what happened to the web site for that car?  It had crashed into a wall (without injury).  That’s real time.  And like shark week, connecting the various online and TV channels.

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  7. Russ Novy

    At a recent OMM Mobile conference the organizers encouraged tweeting in real time via announcements during each session as well as printed right in the conference guide. The tweets were projected on one of two screens (one for the real time comments via Twitter and the other for the session content). It was surprising to see the audience involvement elevated to such a high importance level. It was also very interesting to see what the audience was choosing to spotlight – almost like “community notes” on each session. It was encouraging to see the social elements taken so seriously at this event.

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    1. Derek Klobucher

      That’s a great idea, Russ! It’s easy to forget about Twitter seconds after a speaker provides the handle. But these screens serve as a constant reminder of Twitter — and offer attendees a venue for conspicuous participation!

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  8. Ramesh Ramakrishnan

    At a CIO level event in Netherlands in 2010, they had live tweets from participants shown on the speakers presentation screen (bottom right). What it did was – during the first presentation at a case study stage, tweets were posing questions about sharing the negatives in the partnership as well, not just the positives. This turned the whole atmosphere into a more open/social, we are here to learn from each other, no one is perfect & not promote kind of atmosphere. No doubt the dutch are very open in their approach. It was a great experience 3 years back and the subsequent events lead to speakers (both customers and vendors) giving a balanced view of both positives/negatives.

    Another events group in the Nordics region had a portal where attendees can see the profiles/streams ( tech/business etc) of each other members and send meeting requests, share agendas to meet/discuss.

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