We all know social media is the new water cooler. The water cooler on Monday was once the colloquial place for sharing our news and experiences, good or bad. The thing about the water cooler was, well, it didn’t really exist. Correction: it ceased to exist in any useful or measurable form once the tales were told. That said, no one questions the statistics that prove people are more likely to believe in your brand, buy your products or return to your event based on shared experiences. Enter this wonderful new age of hashtags, feeds, likes and follows. We all do it and we hope our guests do it too.
Photography is arguably the simplest, most engaging form of social interaction your guests can share. Videos are good, but they can be cumbersome. Words and links are great, but team them with a good pic and the old thousand-words saying takes on new meaning. There’s just one problem. Smart phones, microblogging, selfies … these are technologies and phenomena that seem to be out of the humble event organiser’s control. Not necessarily. Sure, you can’t make people upload a pic to Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, being sure it will appear in the correct searches or reflect your event in its best light. You can do a few simple things to shape their experience, and in turn, their posts.
1. Colour it in. What’s your flavour?
This is a simple matter of using the colour theme of your event to influence the photographic outcomes, both professional shots and smartphone snaps. Event theming staples like banners, napery, motion graphics displays and coloured lighting can all be used to ensure each and every image includes pops of signature colour. When planning the integration of colour to your event space, try to include at least one clearly visible, coloured object or display into each vantage point. When you search for your event on social media the next day, your images should be easily recognisable due to their distinctive, consistent hue.
Tip: If your event branding is not packed with punchy colour, or if there are several different bold shades, try to pick one colour that stands out above the rest. For example, if your event is a black and white theme, punches of red could be incorporated to provide greater photographic impact. If you have a children’s event branded with several primary colours, try to focus 60-70% of your block-coloured theming inclusions to just one (bright blue, for example), and use your other colours sparingly throughout the space.
2. Create an effect. Filters anyone?
These days we’re all familiar with filters. They can make your skin look smooth and your lighting look dreamy. Yes, they’re fun, but they’re also useful when it comes to creating an impact on social media sites. Imagine if images from your whimsical fantasy event were treated with a soft, feathered vignette? Perhaps you could have an overlay of tiny sparkles, an intentionally over-exposed retro look or a pop-art Warhol-esque treatment. Hiring a professional event photographer gives you access to this sort of image enhancement on the spot, if you choose. Upload the pics directly to a site able to be accessed and shared by your guests, and you have a highly memorable photographic outcome.
3. Make props accessible.
The aim of the game is to put guests in front of a camera and ultimately, posted online. To do this, you can encourage them by by incorporating snap-worthy props and activities. A pirate themed gala dinner should have at least one plank with circling sharks below (of course!). A product launch for a new range of smoothies could strategically place Carmen Miranda style fruit headpieces on every table, encouraging wear, banana eating and yes, piccies. Look at what you’re providing your guests to interact with …would they want to be photographed in this situation? Would they find it fun and want to share it? Would they be proud to be seen with a Brad Pitt lookalike? Yes? Well get him in, pronto.
4. Encourage show-offs.
Every crowd has one, or a dozen, depending on the do. Whatever their motivation, the ostentatious event guest can be an asset when it comes to photo opportunities. Encouraging a little playful posing can bring out the fun side even in guests who may start off a little camera shy. If you have access to a big screen at your event, why not have your photographer upload images of your guests on the fly? They’re sure to get a kick out of their 5 seconds of fame. It will be memorable, and dozens of smartphones will click with the surprise appearance of each familiar face.
5. Make photos into entertainment.
Now this is a growing area of our own business for two reasons. Firstly, it combines a necessary investment (photography) with entertainment expenditure; so two birds with one stone. Secondly, it is Social Media Gold (#SMG, btw). I’m talking about fun photo activities like green screen staging, pop-up studios, photo booths and the like. Check out some of the fun people are having at branded events. This sort of stuff is totally customisable to your creative brief and better still, your guest gets a print right there on the spot. You can even have the photo sent directly to their social media … how much more incentive can you give for a quick insty-hit?
6. Mind your branding.
This is very much like the principle of colour placement. Just as you would use colour to create a consistent visual outcome, branding can play a huge part in tying together the imagery appearing on social feeds. The mistake people do make is to confuse ‘branding’ with ‘logos’. Ask any brand manager or creative director and they’ll tell you one does not equal the other. Branding is so much more; it is colour, graphical patterns and devices, photographic styling, banners, uniforms … you just need to look at the brand you’re representing and evaluate their visual assets. When you see a hounds tooth pattern in distinctive black and white, printed on a banner behind a model wearing the latest high fashion garb, we Australians don’t need to see a logo. We know it’s David Jones.
Think about how you can incorporate elements like this to give your photos a clearly branded outcome, without having to splash logos over every surface. Your guests will probably appreciate this restraint, after all, we’re bombarded with brand messages every waking second. We’re more likely to share our images if they don’t scream ‘advertising’. Again we come back to the power of word of mouth. It beats out just about any form of promotion these days, and photos are your greatest weapons in the fight for social media clout. Use it wisely, or should I say, #wisely.