A Study in Successful Event Marketing via Social MediaSocial media event marketing via Facebook

As a tourist destination, driven by events, it seemed like we needed a shot in the arm, something new to get excited about.  Most of our events, while generally successful, are many years old.  A year ago at our annual Chamber of Commerce board retreat we were tasked with coming up with a new event for the destination.  While there were plenty of ideas, nothing really resonated with everyone.

Sometimes it just seems “too easy” and many times your answers are right in front of you.  Here’s what happened at Lake Arrowhead…

After months of searching for something new it was noticed by many via Facebook that our local Mountain Brew Club (home beer brewers) was especially active and energized.  A local resident and Chamber board member suggested we partner with the club and put on a Brewfest.  A few discussions later a new event, the1st Annual Lake Arrowhead Brewfest was born.  The Mountain Brew Club not only could supply their own personal beers, but they had connections to a variety of Southern California microbreweries that they would be willing to approach to take part in the event.

Now it was time to talk about the marketing of this brand new event. How much money was in the budget to do this?   Absolutely ZERO.  But we weren’t discouraged as we knew we could do it via social media and some email marketing.

Here are the 7 steps we took:

  1. We took a photo of the event venue and turned it into a save the date flyer (scroll down to the Brewfest link) that was emailed to various Southern California microbreweries with an invitation to participate from our Mountain Brew Club.  This turned out to be a real winner as the microbreweries loved the photo, loved the venue and wanted to be part of this inaugural event.
  2. We had a beautiful, eye-catching logo designed by a graphic designer, who is also on our board, so the cost was minimal.  Logos are critical in marketing and this particular logo was a winner.
  3. We started a Brewfest Facebook page, with a few key people posting regularly regarding the planning and the upcoming event.
  4. Those same key people posted to their own Facebook pages and the event started to take on a life of its own.  Everyone started inviting their friends via Facebook to attend the Brewfest.
  5. We started tweeting about it too.
  6. It is all about “the email list” – don’t ever doubt that.   We have two lists – one made of up Chamber and community members and a second, more extensive one for people who have opted in to our monthly digital publication, Lake Arrowhead Life. (click on link on upper right hand side)  We made the most of promoting the Brewfest via these two lists.
  7. We reached out to local media via personal requests and two regional newspapers printed our press release and other Southern California media listed us in their event calendars.

Then panic set in!  Two weeks before the event, only 12 tickets had been sold.  But thanks to social media, the panic didn’t last very long.  In looking at the RSVP list on the Facebook Brewfest page, we could see that many people stated they would be attending.  Now while we didn’t have any real experience with Facebook page RSVP lists, we were encouraged as the 12 who had bought tickets were not ones on that list.

Four or five days before the event, the chaos started.  Online tickets sales picked up, so did the social media enthusiasm and we started worrying not about people coming, but about too many people attending!  What a problem to have.

In the end it was a complete sellout.  The suds, the social media and a solid social media strategy worked!  Whether you’re marketing a small destination, a small business, a small whatever, there’s never enough money in the marketing budget.  For most of us, the past couple of years have provided us with declining marketing budgets and in my particular case discretionary marketing dollars have been ZERO.  But, if you use social media well, if you have your social media marketing plan in place, you can stretch your marketing budget and create buzz and get your word out with very little stress and you can make a huge difference in whatever you are marketing.

Looking for more marketing tips? 

*One tip each day is posted on the  Just a Small Town Girl Facebook page – hope you will visit and drop a note on the wall!

*The Small Town Marketing Handbook  (free short ebook) discusses how social media allows each of us to be part of our own “small town” regardless of where we live. Form over on the right hand side of the page.