Turning fans of live music into vocal advocates begins with asking, but that’s really just where it starts. How you ask, what you ask for, and how you show your appreciation will directly effect the effectiveness of all of your efforts.
Too often, “social marketing” ignores who festival-goers are actually social with: their friends. People go to events because their friends are going, not because they liked a Facebook post. Topping a recent Virtual Festivals poll of a list of reasons customers attended an event was that their ‘friends and like-minded people will be there.’
“You don’t want people speaking with your brand, you want them speaking about your brand to their friends,” says Liam Negus-Fancey, founder of The Physical Network, an advocacy marketing platform. “You want to give them social currency among their group of friends, and count on them to talk about what’s important to them.”
Being able to convert loyal fans to vocal advocates that bring their social group is a key to higher ticket retention, less volatility, and increased sales. A simple rewards program that lets your fans sell tickets to your events harnesses the natural power of word of mouth marketing.
Here’s how to do it:
1. Understand what makes a good advocate
It’s tempting to want someone with 10,000 Twitter followers to post about your upcoming show. Don’t get caught mistaking quantity for quality. The big shot holds little sway over their followers – how many people would genuinely count them as a friend? Better to have legions of fans that bring 5 or 6 people each. High quality interactions lead to higher retention.
2. Love your fans? Prove it.
Everyone says they love their fans. Most are liars. Love is a verb. If someone signs up to be part of a loyalty program, and the only interaction they get with you is an automated email with a referral link, would you feel valued?
A phone call, a check-in email, a text, it all goes a long way. Treat ambassadors with respect and make sure they can get in touch with you about any issues.
3. Give them what they want.
Your strongest advocates want to be part of the event. So simple thank-you rewards like comped tickets, early entry, and free drinks go a long way. Much farther than cash, which taints the program and tends to attract the wrong kind of participant.
Bestival, a multi-day camping festival on the Isle of Wight, is one of The Physical Network’s largest clients. Top ambassadors make up a ‘festival board’, which they count on for planning, feedback, and help with lineup decisions. The board came up with Temple Island, a stage full of artists hand picked by the fans, with special VIP access to the top tier of ambassadors.
“We had to shut it down two or three times, it got so crowded. Everyone was dragging their friends in, saying, ‘I made that, I picked that artist.’ It was mental,” says Negus-Fancey. “Half the artists we booked said they’d play free next year because the crowd was so good. Really though, why wouldn’t they be? They were stakeholders in the show.”
4. Be patient.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your peer-to-peer program. Bestival sold $5m in tickets through their ambassadors last year. But the first year saw a more modest 2,000 tickets sold, something that’s been replicated in first-year US clients like Spring Awakening.
Advocacy is something that’s earned, and it takes time to build trust with your fans. The flip side is that once it’s built, it lasts. Bestival’s retention rate for tickets sold through the loyalty program is more than double that for other tickets.
Well done advocacy programs build a symbiotic relationship between you and your fans. You see better tickets sales, and they get a better experience and feel responsibility for your success. Everyone wins.