Thursday, March 19, 2009

Using simple social media tools to capture an event

(This post is an update to an earlier post I did...)

How could a cultural event, a charity or an organisation get extra free coverage for their event? Very simply it turns out.

I worked/volunteered on this year's St Patrick's Festival parade. I carried a camera and a Nokia N95 and just used twitter and photos to try capture what I was looking at.

Some of the Twitter reactions were

These are great photos - makes me feel like I'm there with you all!!

Thanks for those cool photos - looks excellent and no rain, who knew it could be like this? ;-)) - Love the accent!! Thanks for posting these pics...I always get a little homesick on this day :( ...

Thanks for those pics Darragh, I'm there in spirit. Enjoy the remainder of the big day.
Doesn't that sound like something you'd like to hear people saying about your event?

The challenge is somehow, using text and images, to convey to someone what's going on from a different angle. While there's great TV coverage and press photographers will capture the spectacular shots, for me it's also about the experience of the people in crowds, the performers and the tourists, so I made an effort to talk to as many as I could yesterday.

Imagine that recent twitter attempts like @MIMA2009 - the Meteor Irish Music Awards and RTE's @IrlTalentShow - All Ireland Talent Show had planned it out so they could do similar, properly? This sort of stuff isn't huge budget expense, it's using simple (free) tools to connect with and engage people in a rather cool way. Those two accounts could have been very very cool but weren't.

Today FM's Ray Foley was twitpiccing like a mad yoke at last night's event which was great, except that because of his seat he looks like he was far back. Imagine someone was given press clearance to do it officially? It's something that event and marketing people need to wake up to - "Oh that looks like fun, I'll go to that when it's on again".

No one is expecting perfection - which is not the same as professionalism anyway - but it is opening the event up to a larger audience and putting a human face/name behind it. That's why I'm really looking forward to the photos from Darren Greene and Hazel Coonagh who were wandering around the route with full access yesterday.

It was brilliant too to see Denise - @stpatricksfest - tweeting and keeping people updated as well. We worked well together, me posting, she retweeting and it helped give people who weren't just following my twitter channel some flavour of the day.

In short, what St Patrick's Festival did this year was, as far as I can see, unique, and their partnership with was something no amount of marketing and advertising through "conventional" channels could equal. There's a record there of how people enjoyed the day, what they saw and how it was received that they can go to their sponsors with and say "Here, this is what your money did." That's different. That's special.

So how can you do that? Whatever your event or charity or organisation or campaign, how do you get people talking about what you do before, during and after the event?

Here's a few suggestions:
  • Register a Twitter account. Start tweeting. Follow me - and I'll tell people who you are. Not sure what Twitter is? Check out this video from Niall Harbison.

  • Talk to about creating a group. Here people can upload photos of your event, share what they've seen and you can direct people and sponsors towards it to see what's happening.

  • Get yourself a YouTube channel. For example, mine is here. You can see a wide spectrum of some of my interests and what I like to do. Look at the Performance Corporation's one - they keep a record of what they do that they can share with everyone.

  • Get onto Facebook and create an event page for a date specific event and a group page for an organisation. Here's what the Peacock did for Ages of the Moon. Ben & Jerry's Ireland have 789 people they can message about their Free Cone Day in April. Here's the Independent Youth Theatre group and an event page for their Cooped Up production.

  • Get a blog. Don't DARE tell me that a blog takes too much time and that you couldn't update it. Do you write press releases? Do you email people about what you do? Do you have to give your web designer copy for the website? All these can go on your blog.

    It doesn't have to be just written by a marketing person. Get anyone who knows what a blog is to get involved. That's what No Nonsense Insurance did.

    The 4DayMovie blog was done in 4 days. Seriously folks, it's easy to do with a little bit of creativity and time. A photo here, a video there, an interview, what's been said about you in the papers, what's happening - it's all there for the taking.

  • Do you need a Bebo and a MySpace just because everyone else has them? Perhaps. If you're going to use them though make sure you have the right resources in place to be able to deal with them - to respond to the questions, to interact with those who follow you and to keep them updated on what's going on. There's no point in having a channel if you're not going to use it and it doesn't give anything to those watching it.

  • Finally, talk to people! The names that spring to mind straight away for me are Niamh, who pretty much manages everything I do, Emily Tully on the PR side, Aisling Ryan on the event management side, Denise Rushe on Arts Management and the superlative Kathy Kinsella for volunteer coordination. Ronan Flynn and Cian McKenna are great designers to work with.

    You can connect with people on Twitter, on IGOpeople, LinkedIn and good old fashioned email.
Ask for help and advice. People are there and happy to do what they can to help. If you don't take advantage, they'll be happy to oblige.

Think about it - what do you want people saying about your event? What results do you want? Ask St Patrick's Festival who now can go with photos like these to their sponsors and say "This is what you were part of. You can be part of it again." That's worth something, isn't it?

Photo by smugairle


  1. Yep, so much potential in all these tools - and it can only get better.

    I would love to see a St. Patrick's Festival book come out featuring selected quotes from throughout the day and photographs - along the lines of the Obama Inauguration book at

  2. Fantastic post. Simply tools used to their fullest effect can make an event so much more accessible.

  3. Yo Darragh, noticed the linkage to me aul site, many multiples of thank you's for the kind words, indeed it was a great day and a brilliant example of what you can do with a few (hundred thousand) people and cameras, don't think there was an uncovered angle along that route