Outside Lands Music Festival: A Facebook Marketing Case Study for Live Events

Facebook can be a powerful tool for promoting live events. Not only can organizers create a Facebook Event for their conference, party, concert or other function, they can create a Facebook Page and applications for it, and encourage users to checkin via Facebook Places. This past weekend, the San Francisco’s Outside Lands Music Festival used several of these channels to achieve strong attendance, including selling out all 60,000 tickets for Saturday of the three-day concert.

Here we’ll look at how Outside Lands successfully used its Facebook Page and apps to promote the event, and how it could have improved its Facebook Places strategy to get more users to check in.

Facebook Page

The center of the Outside Lands marketing strategy was its Facebook Page. This was the fourth year of the festival, so when it came time to announce this year’s lineup it already had roughly 35,000 fans.

By placing both Like button to share the URL, a link to the Page, and a Like Box to directly drive Likes of its Page, Outside Lands gained a big batch of new fans when it announced the artists that would play this year’s festival. Fan re-sharing links to the website posted to the news feed by the Outside Lands Page also likely secured Likes for the Page.

Following the event, Outside Lands added a big Like Box social plugin to the home page of its website so it could secure more fans to market next year’s festival to. Now the Page has 67,380 Likes — double the amount it had a year ago and more than the total capacity of the festival.

People often buy tickets to events because their friends are going. To keep people excited and talking about the festival, the Outside Lands Page posted updates to news feed almost every day in the months leading up to the event, and ramped up to multiple posts per day in the last two weeks.

It posted compelling news and content such as updates to the lineup, ticket giveaways,  interviews and videos of artists set to play, and links to its website, Facebook Event, mobile app, and Twitter account. During the event, it posted photo albums and videos of performances, set time changes, and questions about what attendees were enjoying. The festival’s Page strategy could have benefited from reposting content uploaded by fans and recognizing contributors to engender additional good will.

Facebook Event and Apps

Outside Lands set up its official Facebook Event five months ahead of the festival date. Its info included a punchy description of the festival, the full lineup of artists playing, and links to its other web presences. The Outside Lands Page posted links to the Event multiple time, and RSVPs triggered news feed stories for the Event seen by the friends of attendees.

The festival worked with SonicLiving to develop a RSVP app for their Facebook Event that it embedded on its website. It allowed users to if which of their friends planned to attend and add their own RSVP. The app was a big success, with 5,961 monthly active users, meaning a significant portion of its total 21,714 ‘Attending’ RSVPs were made from the app.

The Outside Lands mobile app allowed users to login to Facebook and then post status updates about the festival from within the app. Quick links let them easily cross-post to Twitter and  add an Outside Lands Twitter handle mention or hashtag. The Facebook integration was relatively buried, so it only saw 2,955 logins in the last month.

Event promoters should strongly consider creating or licensing their own Facebook Event RSVP app for embed on their website. Outside Lands’ Facebook Event could have been better used as an archive of important information, such as set time changes, that otherwise could easily be missed in the churning stream of updates from its Page. A more prominent Facebook integration in the mobile app and a prompt to share some Outside Lands branded content and links to the news feed could have helped promote the event.

Facebook Places

The one major flaw in Outside Lands’ Facebook strategy was how it used Facebook Places. The address of the festival wasn’t added to the Facebook Page or Event, so neither had Places functionality — the ability for users to check in and notify their friends that they were at the festival. Without an official Place to check in to, users had to create their own unofficial Places.

Outside Lands still received approximately 7,000 checkins, but they were splintered across 40 unofficial Places. This prevented users from getting a comprehensive list of friends at the festival through the “Here Now” feature. It also reduced the likelihood of the festival being featured in aggregated Places checkin news feed stories that cluster checkins by multiple groups of friends into one big, compelling story.

The lack of an official Place also meant that users accidentally Liked the unofficial Places, costing Outside Lands’ Page valuable fans. All event promoters should be sure to add the address of their venue to their Facebook Page and Event to improve the checkin experience for users and gain more Facebook exposure.

As a whole, Outside Lands executed a strong Facebook marketing strategy. It provided compelling content, cross-promoted its presences and apps well, and was able to gain a lot of fans and checkins. These efforts will pay off next year when it comes time to market the fifth edition of the festival, as more people will have heard of Outside Lands and receive updates about it in their news feed.