Owning your event's conversation... and its #ashtag (Hashtag)
Thursday, 06 December 2012 02:54

Blogging about using an official twitter hashtag for eventsIt's finally here, the "SuperBowl of Rodeo", the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas.  The Top-15 in the World Standings in each event of Professional Rodeo will compete for their share of a $6.125 Million Dollar Purse and the title of World Champion.  This annual event will have 175,275 people through the gate at the Thomas and Mack Centre to watch over the 10-rounds of competition, while Millions will watch around the Globe... specifically on GAC in the US and Sportsnet One here in Canada.

As with any sporting event, many will participate in telling the story of the Wrangler NFR online on Twitter... but the conversation may be hard to follow.  Lesson to be learned: Own Your Event's Hashtag.

According to Tweet Database Service Epilogger, leading into Day One of the Event, there have been over 4,143 Tweets, Re-Tweet and @-Mentions about the Rodeo by 2,192 people.  But the conversation is scattered.

Searching the popular hashtags / keyphrases:

  • wnfr - 912
  • wranglernfr - 556
  • nfr12 - 315
  • roadtonfr12 - 208
  • nfr2012 - 138
  • nationalfinalsrodeo - 6
  • roadtonfr - 0
  • note: #nfr alone pulls up other tweet content aside from the finals in odd languages like Malay, so the database was targeted to include rodeo or vegas with nfr and was successful in pulling 1,916 tweets, but this is a confusing tag... 

There are many reasons to have a centralized twitter hashtag for an event.  First and foremost, it's effective, targeted and free advertising before, during and after your event.  Secondly, it's a way to see what your market is excited about seeing, and what they enjoyed.  A great plus also is that it's a great way to grow your network of online contacts.  Lastly, this feedback can be used to sell the next event... great information for Sponsors, Vendors, Attendees, etc.

Focusing on the Pre-Event first, the best thing to do is decide on a few options for the hashtag.  Look at what people tweeted at previous or similar events.  In the WNFR example, there were many.  It can be dated, or it can be undated.  One of my favourite events of 2012 was Canada's Outdoor Equine Expo... they used #COEE in 2011 and 2012, and that makes sense because their entire marketing was around the name without the year (316 of 444 of their logged tweets had that hashtag).  If the event is marketed as a "Event 2-K-12", then that probably should go in the hashtag.  

Next, make sure that no one is using that hashtag now.  I recommend two searches: 1) search.twitter.com with and without the hashtag, and make sure you check the "all" and the "people" results, and 2) Google it with and without the hashtag.

Once it's good to go, then include the hashtag on all materials: marketing, tickets, sponsorship, websites, etc.  

The goal is for attendees to generate "buzz" by using the hashtag before the event.  If they get their tickets early, they will be more likely to share with their friends (followers) their excitement, and use the hashtag to do so.  The same being if they are thinking about attending or planning on attending... they will jump on the conversation... As you release information, it is hoped that it will be retweeted and shared and the hashtag will make some ground.  Before the event, if the hashtag is interesting to someone on twitter, they will click on it and ultimately see a number of "outsiders" showcasing the benefits and excitement of your event!  In the WNFR example, over 2,192 people did so in the 3 weeks leading into the event, but again, that information was scattered.  In terms of exposure, with the average number of twitter followers a person has being 126, the event was talked about to approximately 276,192 people.  If the hashtag was a constant, a more controlled message could have reached 1.1 Billion impressions leading into the event... but the strongest reach (convoluted #NFR) would have approximately reached 127,638 with 245,000,000 impressions.  Stats-wise, with a strongly branded event, this diverse message was cut fractionally with different messages reaching at most 21% of a potential market as a targeted whole.

Events must realize that not all of their followers read each of their tweets, and not all of their uber-fans follow them on twitter.  The hashtag is going to be the best way to reach enmasse, and be able to seed that message to the target market.

Social Media Demographics 2012 Social Media Demographics 2012 featured on JoeScully.com

Why focus on "the twitter"?  While only 8% of America is on Twitter, the demographics skew high with most event attendees.  55% of Twitter Users are over the age of 35.  The core audience is 25-44.  This market is known to have disposible income to spend on entertainment for their family... the focus of event ticket sales... Using event attendance statistics, depending on the market, upwards of 20% of event attendees are on twitter.  But the message does not just stay with Twitter... Tweets instantly go onto the world-wide-web and become "google-able"... so, the tertiary reach in essence becomes massive: 78% of Americans are on the Internet...extrapolating against event attendance, almost 90% of attendees.  

The benefit of targeting and delivering enmasse and the tertiary benefits outweigh Facebook... though a powerhouse that should also receive an equal amount of promotional attention, the conversation your event wants to tap-into is usually "locked up" to personal networks.  

In the lead up, your brand can "jump into" the conversation and seed the information, and direct the message.

During the event, "live-tweeting" is the thing to do, but is very difficult for one person to do while the event. By providing the attendees a hashtag, they will be more inclined to post content, and now the "live tweets", pictures and videos are stemming from all angles and areas of the event.  A great example of this would be the Cedar Run Rodeo in 2012 where fans tweeted pictures from Zip Lines... 

People not at the event will be inclined to click on the content, again the hashtag to "see more", and potentially become interested in attending asap or at the next one.  

Those in attendance will commence having conversations with each other and the event's brand, thus creating the online story of the event.

The event brand becomes the authority to a new in-attendance market, and for those interested in attending. This now creates a great game of "follow, follow, follow" to enhance the network of followers with the highest potential of purchasing and further engaging with the event brand.

Post event, the database of tweets is golden... recaps, networks, quotes, criticisms, followers... all playing an integral role to the next event.  

The event must give their market the tool though, that being the hashtag.  From a recent blog post:

"The big takeaway here is that people are more likely to talk about your event when they can hashtag it. There are many reasons for this: to contribute to the conversation and get their voice heard, to earn more followers, to be recognised for thought leadership, etc., but either way it’s building hype for your event. In this day and age, where people are increasingly recommending good products and services to their networks online, an active community discussing your event can do wonders." Source: THE IMPORTANCE OF HAVING A HASHTAG

And the best tool to fuel these benefits: a tweet databasing tool like Epilogger. Twitter only keeps tweets search-able for so long, but Epilogger keeps them forever.  It's easy to search (i.e. the WNFR Stats), the pictures are separated into an easy to navigate group of pages, and all of the Links are separate as well.  

As the event admin on Epilogger, there are many immediate benefits pre-, concurrent and post-event.  If you're logged in with the event twitter, you can retweet, reply and favourite tweets, pics and links right in the app.  As you're most likely busy at the event, the tweets are all waiting for you, whether it's a small event with a handful of tweets or long event with thousands upon thousands of tweets.  I have found this as a great tool in addition to find traditional media content (newspaper, radio, tv) as most outlets tweet the content... just by monitoring the database, you now have great content to share back into the twitterverse.........with your hashtag.

If you've had a chance to click the example links, you may have noticed that not all were associated with a hashtag... I am aggressive with setting up the twitter searches for beyond the hashtag... in the WNFR example, Epilogger is set to search: 

  • wnfr
  • roadtonfr12
  • nfr12
  • nfr2012
  • wranglernfr
  • (national finals rodeo) - tweet will contain all three of these words, not necessarily in order
  • (nfr vegas) - same, but used NFR and Vegas in the same tweet to weed out the non-english, non-rodeo
  • (nfr rodeo) - same as above
  • (wrangler nfr) - same as above 

Brackets allow the words to be mixed up in the tweet, i.e, "I'm going to the NFR next weekend in Vegas" = (NFR Vegas), whereas if the search was "NFR Rodeo" in quotes, the tweet would have to have those words in order, i.e., "headed to the NFR Rodeo"

Just as in setting the Hashtag, this search should be tested in search.twitter.com by using all lower-case letters and OR being placed in between.  Therefore in the WNFR example we would search: wnfr OR roadtonfr12 OR (national finals rodeo) OR (nfr vegas) OR (nfr rodeo) OR (wrangler nfr) OR nfr12 OR nfr2012 OR wranglernfr.

So... how did the WNFR leadup play out?  Quite interestingly:

In the beginning people were using multiple hashtags if using hashtags at all.  A promotion happened using #RoadToNFR12, then soon #NFR12 became the most popular hashtag.

On November 29, @TKTRASK, a PR Person for the Title Sponsor Wrangler (@WranglerWestern) tweeted: "T-6 days before I leave for VIVA LAS VEGAS! Be sure to follow @WranglerWestern for exclusive content during the #WranglerNFR! #rodeo #WNFR"  This was the first of the #WranglerNFR Hashtag.


Then later the same day @LASVEGASNFR used the hashtag and it soon experienced many retweets.

A request came a few days later from another social media conglomerante of the Rodeo Twitterverse, @CS_RODEO, on December 4th requesting the official hashtag: "@LASVEGASNFR@CS_RODEO: @LASVEGASNFR what is the official hash tag this year? #nfr or #wnfr?” Please use #WranglerNFR! That will pick up in arena! Thx'
(December 4, 2012 12:04a)


And then Hashtag became official later that day when the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association @PRORODEOONLINE tweeted: "For all of you following us on Facebook and Twitter, the official hashtag of the 2012 WNFR will be #WranglerNFR !" (December 4, 2012 7:54p)


Click here for the "Birth" of the Official Hashtag of the #WranglerNFR

Two days later, the event is staged to begin.  3,600 tweets in other directions... but a re-direct of the message via an official hashtag over the course of the event should bring #WranglerNFR to the forefront.

As more people adopt Social Media both as consumers and broadcasters, more will be discovered.  An event of the scale of the WNFR is the perfect ground to piece together social media strategy for all events.

In 2012, we discovered several other examples of mixed messages through twitter hashtags for events.

There was the Royal in Toronto that has multiple twitter accounts, some non-active; and used multiple hashtags.  They did some phenomenal Twitter Contesting with hashtags like #RoyalCourseWalk and #RoyalGuestsOfHonour, but then tried to use multiple hashtags throughout the course of the event... #rawf was the winner by 1,000's.


And the Reach Ranch Rodeo, which everyone was using #RanchRodeo; but there was another Ranch Rodeo going on in the world (similar to nfr and other languages).  What made this one confusing is then the venue: REACH was substituted for the town: Clinton.  All for the #ReachRanchRodeo

Reach Ranch Rodeo Tweets

And outside of events, there were even TV Shows trying to get people to vote over twitter using "#showname 1."... which would be almost unsearchable and seperateable... spaces in a hashtag is ... well, not a hashtag.

Moral of the story: short, targeted, unused hashtags.... launched as soon as the event is launched... and tracked by Epilogger.  

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