At CrowdControlHQ we are very excited that today marks the start of the tennis at Wimbledon. It’s the time of year when SW1 and the All England Club experience a deluge of visitors, all clambering to see tennis stars serve to victory.
Wimbledon also holds special meaning for several members of the CrowdControlHQ team.
CEO James’s claim to fame was that he was a court coverer at Wimbledon in one of the wettest years on record. He certainly earnt his money - forced to work even on the middle Sunday which was unheard of back in the day. Sadly, there was no Cliff Richard “singing in the rain” in the stands that year but there were many frustrated tourists who had travelled many miles, huddled as best they could, with every walkway and marquee packed with soaked brollies and picnic hampers, as optimistic event goers prayed that the rain would give way to sunshine.
In those days, the public were at arm’s length to the organisers’ office. They would rely on the public tannoy system to hear updates on the state of play. If rain abandoned play, they wouldn't have thought about turning on their wifi to check the latest travel news or weather update and they certainly wouldn't have had the opportunity to 'talk' to the tournament office or ask questions about what they could do, or where they could go in times of bad weather.
Not a million miles away Michelle (CrowdControlHQ marketing team) was working hard up in the referees office. The envy of all her university mates, she assisted then referee - Alan Mills and his team from the watch tower. With big responsibility for ensuring that the ‘wake up call’ style technology was telling her super star heroes – Navratilova, Agassi and the likes, the correct time schedule and court positioning for their impending matches, as well as processing results to ensure that players could get paid as they fell foul to defeat!
More importantly, the referees office was also the hub of wet weather decision making! Michelle got the opportunity to go court side with Alan Mills as he paced up and down and made a decision on whether to pull the plug on play for the day - directly affecting James and all of the public huddled across the All England Club.
Two roles – at the same venue, both affected by the same issue (rain) yet poles apart. And at the time completely disconnected from each other!
Social media provides live event organisers with the power to connect people. Public with organisers, the stars of the show with fans, event staff with event staff, sponsors with event goers and so on. The opportunities are endless, and the power to ‘add value’ is very cost effective, with even greater payback post event for ongoing promotion.
But many event organisers appear to think that putting the twitter logo on their website as a link and posting the odd tweet stating how ‘excited they are’ that the event is coming (anyone else had enough of event countdowns?), not forgetting the odd result update or five is enough to declare that they are doing social media! The formal ‘soap box’ style messaging – replaces the public tannoy (particularly handy when in a large open space).
Many event organisers simply don’t do enough to ‘engage’ event goers in conversation and we often hear complaints (on social media) about the lack of responses to questions when attending a live event. There appears to be a distinct lack of listening and engagement with participants, spectators and sponsors. And don't get us started on good old fashioned customer service.
A great example of this was when a few friends of CrowdControlHQ wished to enter a cycling event last minute. They tweeted the organisers to ask if there were any places left or any last minute withdrawals? Hearing nothing, they presumed that the event was full as had been previously advertised on the event website. Abandoning their aspiration, imagine how annoyed they were to discover that those who visited on the day witnessed a sign saying, "event still open, please register here". There was no mention on the event twitter, Facebook or website. Everyone loses in this scenario.
The reality is that social media now replaces the ‘Information Office’. This virtual information office is being accessed 24/7 by people who are potentially great advocates of the event. So there are some simple rules we need to consider in engaging with them:
1) Signpost – show how people can find you (this isn’t just about the website, think about prominent positioning on literature and at the event itself in terms of signage and staff).
2) Listen – when they speak on social media (use tools like buzz search and geo-tracking so that you can engage and respond in a meaningful time frame).
3) Share their perspectives – to allow other event goers to feel the ‘virtual’ atmosphere (people want to capture and share the moment like never before).
4) Connect them – to each other, to the stars of the show or sporting event (to add value to their experience)
5) Reward them – identify your biggest fans and advocates.
And while we are at it, let’s be a little more creative about our content. Both James and Michelle had fascinating event perspectives. Just imagine for a second that they had been given the opportunity to be event ambassadors and ‘tweet/ blog’ about their experiences, with Wimbledon aggregating their perspectives into a brand ‘story’ board. True fans would have benefitted from a genuine behind the scenes experience!
The joy of social media risk management tools is that we can be more creative, whilst protecting the brand reputation, brand moderation and checking of content so we really have no excuse not to up our game.
Thankfully the weather forecast is looking a bit brighter this year – so enjoy the tennis!