It’s traditional that where the Royal Family leads, the world, or at least influential sections of it, follows. So the major use of social media at yesterday’s Royal Wedding should be evidence, if it were needed, of the final acceptance of upstarts like Twitter and Facebook into Society.
And just as dress designers were busy sketching as Kate came down the aisle, so hyperlocal bloggers might consider how they can offer their expertise for a ‘Royal Wedding package’ to internet-inexperienced corporates in their area.
Let’s look at what it might include for a local event that an organisation might want to promote, such as a conference or festival.
The Royal Wedding site utilised Google App engine, which I don’t know well enough to comment on, but if you’re technical enough it certainly looked good and seems to have a free entry point. You could put together something just as slick using WordPress; possibly a hosted install but it could be on WordPress.com if it is non-commercial.
The main site had all the important informative pages and posts, downloads and links, then everything else was embeds and links to Twitter, Facebook, a Youtube channel and Flickr. The full social experience and more stable – if one channel crashes under the weight of millions of viewers then others should hold up. Take note, BBC.
If the organisation commissioning you has social accounts already, it’s ideal to update them during the event but if this is impossible set up special channels that link back to any accounts they already have.
Setting up the platforms and putting them all together is easy enough, but your package will stand and fall on the content. My experience is that the more I’m involved in an event, the less time I have to comment on it, so a dedicated team is best (the exception is unconferences, which have the very lucky position of a mass of fine attendees for whom reporting is habitual). The organisation should pay or deploy as many experienced people as they can find or afford. If there’s a limited budget, you’ll probably know people willing to do it for the fun of it and a free lunch, but don’t put goodwill on the line if it’s an organisation that can really afford to pay.
At the very least, the full package should include one person each who is good at writing, photography and video and at least one more person whose sole responsibility is getting it all online, captioned and credited, not forgetting spellchecking and basic editing for a consistent voice. Can you spot a typo in Clarence House’s tweets? I think not.
The designated tweeter should have adequate knowledge of what is going to be happening and the ‘feel’ of the organisation and be confident with a variety of styles: formal, fun, responsive, as appropriate. Exclusive content aimed squarely at potential fans of the event will get the most retweets. Anything longer than a tweet can go on the blog, but keep it all bitesize, interesting and accurate.
Photography needs to be very personable with good light and no boring rows of backs. Try to get some in advance of the event to illustrate the channels. Will and Kate had their portrait photos from Mario Testini which might be out of reach, but you get the idea.
Beforehand, make sure any necessary permissions have been sought – either by giving participants a clear way to opt out or through formal media consent forms. If it’s a public event like a festival then photography is fine, but use your judgment and make sure parents are happy before taking photos of children.
Agree copyright and reuse considerations with the photographer and commissioning organisation upfront to save arguments later. The royal wedding photographs have all-rights-reserved copyright, but the ‘for editorial use only’ permission and large size means that bloggers have been able to use photos that are as rich and professional as those with a lot more cash. Good photos make bloggers very happy indeed, so encourage your photographer and organisation to do the same with at least a selection of photos and make other local bloggers aware that they are going to be available.
All content should go onto social channels quickly and be shared across the channels. Not only does this make the most of any interest, come Monday morning when everyone comes back to work you shouldn’t have to mess around with any more collation of material, it will all be online already.
Look, no comments! Clarence House were crystal clear here. None of their own platforms had comments, only signs of positive engagement like views, likes in Facebook, favourites in Flickr and some positive retweets. This saved a lot of time-consuming moderation while they still participated in the chat on Twitter through use of a mixture of hashtags.
Rather than trying to manage too much, positive engagement with fans generated positive responses, added to the all-round good feeling. Following the line of the wedding service, the moderation policy simply said to the critics, haters, jokers and cynics: we can all tweet peaceably together. Success is measured by ‘top tweets’ lists and Clarence House came top many times during the day.
Assuming someone has paid for all this, they’ll want to know what they got for their money. After the event, build in time to put together statistics about positive engagements such as number of followers, likes and retweets, plus any good stories of engagement as a result of the coverage (positive curated comments can be added to the website like so). If there are any questions or leads that the organisation should follow up try to make sure they get to the right person in a format that they can respond to and help broker contact if they don’t use the social channel in question.
An event can be a great launchpad for further social interaction and building up a wider brand. Savings through use of third-party services is also worth noting. The Royal Wedding’s Flickr presence was in the account of the British Monarchy and the goodwill generated on the wedding day will undoubtedly have a good effect on their reputation and, in tourism terms, Britain’s profile more generally. Whatever was paid for the coverage of the weekend, this sort of good publicity is likely to be worth a lot more. On a much smaller level, hyperlocal bloggers can offer the same service.