Social media and festivals: it's all about building a relationship

A while ago I had the honour to interview Britz Robins from Shambhala Music Festival. Britz is the Social Media Manager for this electronic music festival. We spoke about the role of social media at festivals. Enjoy!

My name is Britz Robins. I am a social media manager and coach for small businesses. One of my clients is Shambhala Music Festival in Salmo, British Columbia. I’ve been working with them on their social media since 2008.

Can you tell us a bit more about Shambhala Music Festival?

Shambhala Music Festival is an electronic music festival. We’re based in British Columbia, Canada, where we have a 500-acre family-owned farm, which is an active cattle ranch. So cows live on it for most of the year but during the festival they get penned away. But it is very much a working farm.

We have 6 different stages at Shambhala and it represents many different genres of electronic music. It’s very much an experiential festival with a lot of different art installations. There’s a river running through the property, and a beautiful forest surrounding it, and there is just music… 24 hours a day.

It’s different from other festivals that I have been to. For example we try to source local products. We have a one-mile burger that is made from cows that were raised on the Shambhala property. We do a lot of these quirky little things that emphasise the farm vibe.

Shambhala attracts a really wonderful and active community. They bring Shambhala with them 365 days a year. It’s quite an amazing thing.

How do you use social media at your event?

There’s a couple of different ways in how we use social media. We use social media throughout the year to keep our audience engaged and keep the festival at front of mind. We share images with them from the festival to keep them excited about the event.

On the ground we also do things like live tweeting and live photo updates. We have a photography team of about 10 people and they deliver us 5 of their best shots every day. We push those images out via our social media channels on the days of the festival. We do day passes on the Sunday, the last day of our festival, and we actually did see a dramatic increase in our attendance that day. We created a FOMO effect, Fear Of Missing Out.

Can you say something about your social media strategy?

Our social media strategy is a component of our overall marketing strategy. It’s really all about meeting people where they are at in the digital space and communicating with them one on one. This is how you create relationships and connections that makes people feel like the festival cares about them and it’s why they want to come back.

What should a small festival do to implement a social media plan?

It’s all about getting out there and engaging with your fans. That can seem very daunting especially if you are growing your audience and you just started a Facebook page and you only have a few hundred likes.

What you want to do is find your fans that are very avid supporters of your brand and ask them for their help in promoting you. You want their help in engaging more people in your brand. Get them to tell other people about you to create that word of mouth effect in the digital space. Just take note of who in your current network is already excited about your event. Who is already talking about your event and start engaging with them one-on-one.

People really like it when a representative of the festival takes time to talk to them. As a result you are going to create really deep relationships with people who love your event and they are going to spread the word.

Can you give an example how you have done it at Shambhala?

We have done a few ticket give-aways through our Facebook page. I’m fairly well known within the Shambhala community because I do respond to a lot of peoples’ questions and post as myself rather than behind the ‘mask of the festival’. Every time you are posting on Facebook you will be posting as your festival but it is very nice for people to put a human face to your brand.

There was one person who won a ticket a few years ago and he happened to live a couple of towns away from where my grandparents live. So I hand delivered a ticket that he had won. By doing so I took the social media experience and placed it in the real world. Things like that have been really successful for us. Taking the time to come off of social media and have that one to one human connection is very effective.

How do you communicate with your audience throughout the year?

We do a lot of content creation of our own. Because we are a music festival we have this really great opportunity to release music from the festival. A lot of the stage directors record the music throughout the week and we release this on our sound cloud. And we do interviews with artists.

We have huge photo library and we make sure we put out a photo every day. It’s just to keep the festival on people’s mind. Everyone loves a picture with them in it so we share a lot of pictures of the crowd or groups of friends with their fancy costumes on. It’s a feel good thing that makes people feel part of the community.

What makes a good social media manager for an event?

Ah you’re putting me on the spot! Basically someone who really cares about your audience. I personally came from being a ticketholder so I come from both sides of it. Before we started our social media accounts I did a lot of production work with the festival. This means I understand the production side of the festival and also the limitations of, let’s say, logistics that we have to deal with as festival producers. But I also understand the audience experience. Which gives me a neat perspective. I remember being that ticketholder and being so excited to get in on the first day. So I do have a very real connection to the audience experience and I can connect with them on that level.

What is community outreach and how do you go about it?

With Shambhala a lot of community outreach is in the form of donations. We also participate in the community by offering our gear and services to community events. We donate our sound gear and time to the Remembrance Day Ceremony in Nelson every year. We support the Nelson Food Cupboard, soup kitchens and food banks by supplying them with any food that is leftover after the festival. We also have a food collection bin on the way out of the festival for visitors to donate their food to local charities.

Is community outreach a marketing tool?

For us it is a form of a marketing tool. We are an electronic music festival and the perception that people have of EDM and the whole culture around it is not necessarily a positive one. We had to do a lot of work on our image within the community. One way we do this is by offering our money, services and time, and getting out into the community and meeting people. It’s like putting a face to this “big scary rave”.

Going out into to the community and showing people who we are was hugely beneficial for us as a festival. It has definitely done a lot of good in the community and we’ve build really good relationships with people because of it.

What makes a good event manager?

High tolerance for stress! J One of the key abilities is to make decisions quickly and make the best decision out of the available options. As you might know in events things can change very rapidly. You might have plan A, B, and C and suddenly finding yourself needing plan D. Having the ability to go with the flow is a very important skill.

I’ve seen people buckle under the pressure and not continue after their plans go sideways. You should be able to remain calm when things are quite stressful and still treat your team with respect and passion when they’re having a hard day. Some people might have emotional breakdowns and you need to be able to deal with that with grace. That is really important to me.

For more information follow me on Twitter or subscribe to my Youtube channel!