Marketing / 11.06.18
Ticketing Pros Share How Facebook Works for Them
Ticketing professionals are having varying degrees of difficulty keeping up with Facebook's changing rules and algorithms. And this year in particular, Facebook has made significant changes to its News Feed regarding how it prioritizes content. While branded content and ads haven’t been taken completely out of the picture, “they’re … taking a back seat in one of Facebook’s myriad placements,” according to WordStream.
Like other professionals, live event ticketing marketers have been tasked with the challenge of navigating Facebook’s many and frequent updates. Jori Palmer, Marketing and Advertising Manager for the Atlanta Braves, has felt the difficulties first hand.
"A lot of times, we don't find out about the changes to algorithms and targeting capabilities until after the fact,” she said. “It's something we try to stay on top of as best as possible.”
Autumn Kiser, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Revenue at Cleveland's Playhouse Square, the largest performing arts center in the United States outside of New York, laments that she’s been experiencing lower organic engagement on Facebook.
"While paid advertising through Facebook continues to prove successful," she said, "we are experiencing lower engagement on organic [unpaid] social posts, likely due to the algorithm shift. Over the past several years, the lower numbers have brought about a 'quality over quantity' approach to our posting strategy on Facebook, as multiple posts in a day began to seemingly compete against one another for reach and engagement.”
Josh Logan, Director of Ticketing & Marketing for NCAA Championships & Alliances in Indianapolis, acknowledges the need to be nimble with Facebook.
“The constant adjustment of [Facebook’s] rules and algorithms puts us in a place where we have to be ready to shift focus and resources to ultimately make our needs meet their requirements."
Using Facebook to Boost Attendance
Although all three ticketing pros shared the difficulties they face with Facebook, they ultimately recognize the unique value of the channel’s popularity.
"Facebook is getting both more and less difficult to use for selling," Logan said. "Using things like Facebook Events can help us push the needle a bit on sales.” Kiser goes even further by sharing that Facebook is her venue’s social media MVP.
“Facebook is still our most-followed social channel,” said Kiser. “And while we may begin shifting our strategy to focus more heavily on paid content, we won't completely eliminate Facebook anytime soon.” Palmer agreed and shared the specific way Facebook works for them.
“In terms of selling tickets, we do see success with Facebook. We use it primarily as a direct response platform,” said Palmer.
Fortunately, for Palmer and the Braves, Major League Baseball has a performance media team that supports each ball club and helps them execute a lot of their social and digital buys.
"From a league standpoint," Palmer said, "they really have a great pulse on each media partner on behalf of every baseball team. If we have specific concerns or questions, they're able to talk to the Facebook reps and get us good answers."
A specific Facebook success story that sticks out in Palmer's mind from this past baseball season was the Braves' Freddie Freeman bobblehead giveaway. It was a specific bobblehead of the star infielder stretching to catch a throw coming into first base. Most agreed it looks like he is in one of the more popular yoga positions.
"We had a couple of guys from our in-house video team who came up with this concept and put together a short video of Freddie's bobblehead in the stretch position leading a yoga class full of women,” said Palmer. “It was funny, unique, short, sweet and to the point. We posted it on our Facebook page, and our audience really loved it. We saw really great comments, and people were even sharing it.”
She recommends not stopping there.
“We decided to move it beyond just our Braves followers and target specific audiences that we thought might be interested in the bobblehead. With a small investment on Facebook, we were able to generate return on investment of $17. For every dollar we spent, we made $17! It proved that if you have really engaging content, people will pay attention — even those who aren't avid fans of the game."
Kiser, who oversees a staff of 70, also pointed to a prime example of Facebook’s positive potential.
"When Waitress was launching its national tour in Cleveland, many single ticket buyers didn’t know what the show was about,” she said. “Social played a big role in the overall marketing strategy leading up to the opening, as we shared content that told the story behind the show, its creators and the themes of the show. We took advantage of our direct access to the creative team and producers while they were in town during the weeks leading up to the opening by involving them in Facebook Live streams and other videos for social to really put a focus on Waitress content for the summer months."
Advice for Those Looking to Optimize Facebook
Logan, who is responsible for the development and implementation of a ticketing and marketing strategic business plan across all 90 NCAA championships, has some words of advice for venues looking to optimize Facebook.
"Utilize as many resources as are readily available to the organization, and make sure that messaging across web and email is consistent with that on social. If you’re using Ticketmaster, you can even use them to build your event pages and push messaging while people visit your event pages, as well."
Kiser added that it’s important to invest in content that Facebook users will want to engage with.
"Content is key. Facebook’s latest algorithm shift prioritizes posts from friends and family members on personal account newsfeeds, rather than posts from business pages. It doesn’t make it impossible to reach audiences and, in turn, sell tickets. But it does make it more difficult. When a post’s engagement picks up, Facebook pushes the post to additional newsfeeds, increasing the reach. Ensuring that the content is worth engaging with is necessary, and this means spending time and often financial resources to develop strong videos and images."
Palmer concurred, sharing how they approach Facebook campaigns to see success.
"If you put out good content, whether organic or paid, you'll see a higher turn and more engagement with your brand,” she said. “We have a lot of different ticket packs and bobblehead giveaways and post-game concerts and such. So, we have a lot of different campaigns going on at once. Some are popular enough in their own right that our organic support can carry them. But there are some that are more for a very specific audience. That means we have to segment our campaigns really well, have different strategies for single games … and utilize targeting to get in front of the right audience to make our buy more efficient."
All three foresee hurdles in continuing to use Facebook as a means of getting the word out and filling seats. Palmer lamented about how "crowded" the Facebook landscape is getting and how so many people now consider themselves to be content creators.
"One thing we find with Facebook is how important it is to get the word out in enough time to find the right fans," she said. "We try not to start any campaign less than 72 hours before a specific game or specific event. It will be challenging as Facebook rolls out new ad products and new products in general, like Facebook Watch MLB where fans can watch specific games exclusively on Facebook."
Meanwhile, Kiser noted that Facebook's age demographic skews older than that of other platforms, notably Instagram and Twitter.
"While many theatre patrons fall within the over-middle-aged demographic, it’s becoming harder to reach the younger audiences through Facebook," she said.
Logan sounded perhaps the most hopeful in looking ahead.
"I think Facebook is ultimately solving a lot of its problems by allowing such seamless integration between websites, ticket purchasing and event information. While it takes a bit of coordination on the front end, it can ultimately help you push messages at the last minute to folks who might not have received information elsewhere."
Tags: Social Media, Live-Streaming, Digital Marketing, Facebook, Consumer Preferences