Integrating Social Media into Your Venue
We’ve all been there: looking at your competitors’ social media feeds and wondering how they are getting so many likes, visitor posts, and comments. Getting your visitors to engage with you through social media takes time and a lot of planning. The good news is that people who visit experiential venues like zoos, museums, and botanical gardens want to share their experiences; you just have to give them the opportunity.
To get started, you must create a social media strategy. This is similar to your marketing strategy—define measurable goals and set tactics to reach them. I know, easier said than done. Luckily, there are useful online tools to help. Hootsuite’s Step-By-Step Social Media Strategy Guide is a great roadmap to use when creating your strategy. It takes you through the steps of developing S.M.A.R.T (Smart, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Timely) goals. With all the time you can put into social media, it is vital to focus your efforts to make sure your time is productive. Here’s a S.M.A.R.T goal example:
Business goal: Increase visitor engagement and traffic by 5% in 3 months
Social media goal: Increase social media visitors posts by 20%
Social media KPI: Number of unique posts from visitors using our hashtag or checking in on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter
Once you have your goals set, the next step is to implement tactics to help you reach them. To start engaging visitors, here are our top venue-specific tactics to consider:
Choose a Primary Social Platform
Choosing primary and secondary social media platforms is key to reaching your target audience. Since venues are often places people want to visit and subsequently share with their followers, I recommend using Instagram as your primary account. Users can check-in or mention a location in their posts and stories. Since users will be looking to tag your Instagram, make sure you update your feed frequently and make it look cohesive.
People are more likely to follow you if you have eye-catching photos and post useful information in creative ways.
Create Sharable Moments
We all love to see something cool, outside the norm, and inspiring. Add a few share-worthy touchpoints throughout your venue. Investing in unique installations such as statues or sculptures or branded lighting installations are great ways to draw in visitors and get their cameras snapping and fingers hitting “post.”
The Ice Cream Museum in LA is the perfect example of intriguing installations. From a popsicle-melting room to a pool filled with rainbow sprinkles, every room of the museum celebrates the joy of ice cream in the most “Instagrammable” way possible.
Use and Create Hashtags
A simple, yet important step is creating a venue hashtag. Here are some tips to creating the perfect hashtag:
- Keep it short and sweet—easy to remember
- Don’t include a date—use it year-round
- Make it visible—post it in your social bios, venue signage, and website
A good example is #LAZoo from the Los Angeles Zoo, which has around 167K posts on Instagram. This hashtag is short, and easy to remember.
Along with creating your own hashtag, it’s important to actually USE hashtags, especially on Instagram. Instagram hashtags are an effective way to get more followers and increase your engagement. In 2018, Instagram rolled out the ability to follow hashtags, which means that instead of users scrolling through endless streams to (hopefully) land on your post, they will now show up in users’ feeds. Many people question the appropriate amount of hashtags…but that’s still an ongoing debate. For me, using around 15-20 hashtags on Instagram works well. But if you’re not conformable using that many, feel free to opt for less. My advice is to experiment in finding what works best for you.
Give an Incentive
Why should people post about your venue? Because it’s awesome! But some may need a little more incentive, a reason to share. Try to keep the incentive simple, yet something people really want, like two free admission tickets, a free item from the gift shop, or a VIP pass to your next event.
Always ask for an action item when giving something away. You can tie this to your goals. For example, if you want more people to share about your venue, have a photo contest—best photo wins when tagged with your venue hashtag. If you want more engagement, ask people to leave a comment on a post. If you want more reach, ask people to tag their friends in the comments. There are a number of ways to create a contest. Just make sure the rules and action items are clear. And don’t forget to socialize it.
There are so many possibilities when it comes to engaging your audience on social media. The key to success is just getting started, making a plan, and seeing what works by tackling your goals.