Planning the event venue
The venue can act as a draw. Choose one that is beautiful, expensive, or hard to access. Rooftops are popular. They are usually off-limits and often have built-in, exquisite views. I’ve been to events at:
• Top of the Rock;
• Fancy hotels;
• A luxury penthouse apartment;
• On a yacht;
• New York Public Library after hours;
• Twitter headquarters.
The more interesting and exclusive the location, the better. Explain to the venue that you will have influencers attending who will geotag it — that’s a benefit to them, as well.
Use a secret location, just giving attendees an area of town and the type of venue. The air of mystery can be interesting.
Make sure there are outlets or designate a charging station so no one’s dead battery prevents them from posting. Ensure there is Wi-Fi. You miss a huge marketing opportunity if your digital natives do not have internet access.
Make sure there is adequate lighting, particularly for an evening event. Influencers keep high-quality control on their posts. Dark, grainy photos will not be posted.
Pick influencers who fit well with your brand. This may take the help of a pro or a lot of research. I ask any job that comes to me outside an agency how they found me, and the number one answer is they searched key words and scoured the internet for hours, making a list of people that matched their brand, and had a certain number of followers.
Ask the influencers if they have anyone to recommend. Their expertise, which they are likely happy to share, will save you a lot of time and effort.
Allow them to bring a plus one and suggest it be another influencer.
Insist they RSVP far in advance and have language about a curated guest list in the invitation.
Higher-profile events with more notable influencers may require a contract, especially when monetary compensation for attendance is involved. Contracts lay out expectations and reduce the chance an influencer will pull out. Use them when relying on a small number of high-caliber influencers.
Swag bags are an incentive to attend. Pens, hats, and T-shirts are common, but not memorable.
Personalize the gifts. I once attended a fashion event that asked for my bra and underwear size.
Phone chargers, insulated water bottles, and sunglasses are popular. Pick items that make an impression: a gift certificate to make a phone case, a box of macarons, or a branded MetroCard.
Plan to have food, drinks, and music. Ensuring the vendors you hire have a large social following themselves can increase your event’s social reach.
I’ve been to events with Insta-famous DJs such as Vashtie Kola, Mel DeBarge, and Angel and Dren. They draw influencers, will post themselves, and will also likely be posted by influencers.
Have an open bar. A photographable signature cocktail will increase posting. Some examples are:
• Vodka-lemonade spritzer with a fresh sprig of thyme;
• Rose with an ice pop in the glass;
• Martini with citrus foam and edible sparkles;
• Toasted coconut margarita.
Food should taste great and be colorful. It should be on a well-kept buffet or butlered so everyone can get easy access.
If you can, get trendy food. I attended an event that had Wowfulls and 10Below Ice Cream made on site. Everyone was taking pictures of the treats.
Leading up to the event
Delivering a package to an influencer prior to the event is an almost guaranteed way to get a post in advance. Include a VIP wristband or lanyard, a personalized, handwritten note, or a small gift. This furthers the relationship and decreases the chance the influencer will be a no-show.
Another way of securing attendance and keeping influencers happy is to give them a responsive, personal point of contact. Promote influencers who have signed on to attend, and send a reminder email one day in advance of the event with full details for easy reference.
Arriving at the event
Have a special check-in for the influencers. They are not used to waiting in lines. Let them check in with the media or VIPs. Have a bracelet at the place of check-in, and give a card with the hashtags and corporate accounts you want people to use at the event, along with the Wi-Fi info (better yet, make an open Wi-Fi). I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen people ready to post, phone in hand, asking, "Wait, what’s the hashtag again?"
Have a coat check and a red carpet area with a branded backdrop. Anything VIP-like is more likely to be shared on social. Have a photographer take pictures that can be emailed, texted, or posted immediately. Also, have the photographer take snapshots with smartphones for easy sharing on social media.
Excellent service is a quick way to give the event a luxury feel.
Don’t have people waiting for food or drinks — give them every opportunity to create photos.
Have small signs with the hashtags, corporate account, and Wi-Fi info strategically placed on the bar, buffet, and cocktail tables. They should also be on the photos you are printing and giveaways, whenever possible.
Have a photo booth with a novel angle. I’ve seen ones covered in Mylar balloons and mirrors, and ones with 3D photos. One time, the photos were printed on edible paper and laid atop cocktails. Both print and digital copies should be provided.
Have someone post from the corporate account during the event. Tag influencers. This makes it easy for them to engage with the company account, tag, and retweet.
The top influencer events tend to have stations at which there are interactive activities. Anything personalized makes it more special, but it can’t take too much time. These stations are designed to be interesting and picture-worthy so the influencers can create engaging content easily. Examples of activity stations:
• Painted plywood wall on which influencers could create street art and graffiti;
• Large retro arcade games;
• Virtual reality headsets;
• High-quality temporary tattoos;
• Personalize a soda can;
• Small watercolor painting of the influencer;
• S’mores making;
• Essential oils choosing;
• @TheBumbys ratings.
Leaving the event
Give out the swag bags as your influencers are leaving. They won’t want to carry them all evening. Plus, the promise of a gift keeps them at the event longer. It also provides one more time you can thank them and ask them to post and tag.
After the event
Follow up with a personalized note or email. Thank the influencers for attending and tell them you loved their stories and photos. Link them to pictures of the event on Getty Images, the corporate site, or Facebook. They will share photos that include themselves. If you’d like social content for corporate accounts, ask them to send images and video. They’ll let you post with credit. A follow up strengthens the relationship for future events.
With every action, you are trying to do three simple things:
1. Attract the best quality influencers;
2. Develop a relationship with them;
3. Give them every opportunity to create and post high-quality content.