In the past few years, we have seen a shift in social media across all channels, starting as platforms promoting interpersonal connection and evolving into powerful vessels of consumerism, word of mouth, and B2C marketing.
Instagram was one of the pioneers in creating a new landscape for marketing and advertising, particularly in an avenue we are starting to see grow exponentially — influencer marketing. Large accounts that showcased their photography, art, and hobbies began to open up and allow followers to know the person behind the account, creating the invaluable marketing tool we now know as the “influencer.” Photographer and influencer Jaci Marie Smith recently posted a TikTok video on the evolution of Instagram, where she took a deep dive into her Instagram feed in 2014. She was solely a photographer at the time and most of her photos were of her subjects. Then, she noticed a trend. Out of all her curated, impersonal photography, a post of her eating lunch gained the most likes. “The reason that’s interesting is because, at this time, being a social media influencer wasn’t really a thing yet,” Smith said in the video. “Once I realized people were more interested in the person behind the lens, and their life, and following along with that, I started … working with brands and ‘becoming an influencer.’”
This speaks volumes to the rise of the new world of social media we marketers thrive in today. Instagrammers would start branding themselves for the masses, curating a lifestyle industry that their followers tuned in to daily. Consumers would buy products recommended by their favorite influencers because they trusted their opinion and wanted to recreate their personal brand for themselves. Brands and other businesses began to realize that word-of-mouth promotion was booming and began to work with influencers to promote products or services.
The next step in this evolution came with the creation of “Stories.” Snapchat was the first to implement Stories, a means of photo and video slideshows. Instagram, Facebook, and even Twitter soon began to implement Stories on their platforms. Individual users would post throughout their day, curating a new sense of realism and romanticizing the mundane.
Since the creation of Stories, gone are the days of heavily stylized posts — consumers want to see a glimpse into the “behind the scenes” of daily life and brand authenticity. The key to Stories is their video capabilities. Brands and influencers can film themselves promoting a product or service and directly provide a link for their followers to access immediately. Brands have even sold out of a particular product within hours because a particular influencer posted a photo with it or filmed a story raving about it.
After influencers have well-dominated the social media marketing game, then came the rise of video within the last few years, specifically short-form videos. TikTok and Instagram Reels have been a game changer in terms of word-of-mouth marketing and user-generated content. Viral videos on TikTok have led to feta being sold out in grocery stores because of users attempting to recreate a popular pasta dish they saw. Certain makeup products have been sold out for months due to the popularity of one successful video, and the list keeps growing!
Not only is this platform a tool for creating influencers out of everyday TikTok users who inspire and promote brand loyalty with companies they love, but the companies themselves have hopped on the bandwagon with their own TikTok accounts. There, they create funny, snappy, engaging content that users love. Production studio Lionsgate is an excellent example of this, posting witty videos poking fun at their own films, especially ones that have cult followings. Followers want to see their favorite brands have personality, they want to see authenticity, and the best way to convey brand personality is through short video content.
If you’re wondering how this influencer and video-based marketing translates to events, it wouldn’t be much different. While we are not selling products at MCI, we sell experiences, and the world of quick, captivating video and influencer marketing is invaluable. We all remember the disaster of Fyre Festival, but why did it blow up to begin with? One could say a key participant in this false hype was that Kendall Jenner and other A-list influencers promoted the teaser video on their Instagram accounts.
When looking at more successful music festivals and events such as Coachella, a huge part of their popularity is that celebrities and music artists attend and film videos of themselves there or preparing to attend. Companies even pay for social media influencers to attend, sponsoring them with VIP passes, because they know they will document the entire experience by posting photos, creating daily Stories, and filming in-depth videos while there. This is a major part of the hype of these events. If it’s seen on social media as something desirable, the masses want to be part of it.
How does this translate to the events we work with at MCI? While we may not be marketing Coachella, every event has an audience and industry, and in every industry, there are influencers who are well-respected and widely followed by prospective attendees. Find them, connect with them, and use them to promote your event. Many potential attendees will register because a particular influencer tells them it is worth their time to do so.
In addition, consider your audience to have a short attention span before they lose interest and move on. They will glance at a photo and keep scrolling. Video begs them to hang on a little longer and watch engaging content to understand the full message. Video media is crucial nowadays. Everyone is watching something, whether it be a streaming service, scrolling through TikTok or Instagram Reels, or engaging with content on Stories. Video can capture attention faster than a photo, especially when scrolling through primarily photo-based social media feeds such as Instagram or Facebook. To the consumer, it feels more personal and authentic, and it is an excellent way to inspire brand loyalty through word-of-mouth and user-generated content, as well as establish your event’s personality.
Juliana Pearce is a marketing specialist in MCI USA’s Strategic Events, Meetings & Incentives business unit. She has been with MCI for three years and continues to develop marketing materials, campaigns, and creative content for both SEM&I event clients and MCI. She is based out of the Dallas office. In her free time, she loves to explore creative writing, photography, travel, and cooking — and of course, becoming an expert in all forms of social media!