Drive Up Attendance During Festival Season with SMS Messaging Part 2

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Festival season is upon us! Experienced festival organisers predict that to be successful you need more than just music. You’ll need to offer an experience to your attendees. In the last blog I covered some of the reasons for that, and ideas on how to start building your SMS marketing list before your festival begins.

In part 2, we’ll take a look at how to use SMS to create engaging experiences for attendees while they are at your festival, and even after they leave. There are also some rules and guidelines to using SMS this way, so I’ll tell you about those too.

During event

If you hadn’t heard, people take their mobiles with them everywhere. An infographic on timeout.com last year reported that 139 mobile phones were turned in to lost property during the Boomtown Fair. At Glastonbury in 2014, attendees downloaded 2.5 TB (that’s terabytes, 1000 times bigger than a gigabytes) of data. So people have their mobiles at festivals (unless they lose them) and they certainly are using them too.

Now that you have no doubt attendees enjoy using their mobiles while enjoying music, here are some ideas on how to leverage that to engage them with SMS messages.

  • Have them vote for favourite act, or song, or vendor. Everyone loves to vote and share their opinion. For this to actually engage them though, there has to be some meaning behind it. Will the most popular act get to close the show? Will they get more time to perform? Will the favourite song be the one the act closes with? What sort of deal could the favourite vendor offer (or you can offer the vendor)? Sometimes voting can just be for fun, but it helps motivate people to participate if their vote counts for something.
  • Send special vendor deals (but be careful with this one). Is it the last day and one T-shirt vendor is holding a closeout 70% off sale? Let them advertise it to attendees using your SMS list (for a fee of course). Maybe a food vendor is offering free samples from 10-2. These sorts of messages can be appreciated by attendees, but not if their mobile phone is turned into a bulletin board. If you choose to support your vendors and offer this service to attendees, make sure you do so judiciously. There’s more about this in the last section.
  • Info messages about lost items, people (hope not!), or other logistics. Sometimes you need to make announcements that everyone needs to hear. Perhaps the facilities on the west side of the area are out of order for a few hours for unscheduled maintenance.  Maybe you want to let everyone know that if they lost their keys, you have had many sets turned in during the event so they should check before they leave.
  • Schedule updates or alerts. Was there a last minute change to the schedule? Did you have to delay the start of one performer? Are there other activities going on during the festival attendees will want to know about? Sometimes things happen. You’ll likely have an announcement if there are delays or changes, but will everyone hear them? Sending messages for the most important changes or alerts can ensure everyone that wants to know finds out.

After the event

Once everyone gets home and the clean-up begins, there are still ways to keep everyone engaged. Here are some messages you can send to keep them talking about the memories and planning for next year.

Ask attendees to sign up for alerts for next year’s event. Since most festivals are annual, you’ll want to have this year’s attendees get on the list to be notified for next year. You might think that since you already had them on this year’s list you can just send messages to them again next year. And you’re right (provided you give them the chance to opt out too). But the next messages from you are likely going to be a long ways away and they may forget between now and then. Having them specifically opt in a second time can help you if anyone complains of spam if they do forget.

Also you can contact those who haven’t opted in to SMS messaging via post or email (if they gave you permission for email) asking them to opt in for alerts for next year’s event.

What can you send them? Alerts when ticket sales begin, let them know who you get to headline the next show, or any other important information they need to know.

Best practices

Obviously getting the initial opt in is important. If you need a refresher you can read about it in timeout.com of the series.

Beyond that, you need to make sure you only send messages they signed up for specifically. Make sure the content relates to the festival and is something your attendees will want to know. In fact, you should spend time figuring out what your attendees want. You can try to find out ahead of time by sending surveys to those who bought tickets, or attended the previous year. See how much messaging they want, what type, how often, and expected times. That’s a starting point.

And keep timing in mind. Usually acceptable hours are “regular” hours for normal working people. Though that definition varies, 9 am to early evening, maybe 7ish is what most people think is ok. But festivals often run much later into the evening so you could use it during the hours of the event. If people opt out during the event due to late messages then you know not to do that next time (or maybe you found out good times from the surveys you did before the event).

Despite prominent and costly mistakes (learn about that in this blog), SMS messaging can be one of the best ways to reach your attendees during , before and after the festival. Just remember messaging can be done in a fun way, but you still need to follow best practices and regulations.

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