The events of 2020 disrupted the status quo for many industries, but few have been hit as hard as those that rely on face-to-face interactions and in-person experiences. Museum visits are mostly on-hold, live entertainment (e.g. concerts) are a no-go and sporting events are nearly shut out to anyone who isn’t a player. As a result, brands have accelerated their digital transformation and realized the impact of social media on customer experience. With social media, brands can bring entertaining experiences into their audience’s homes and keep fans engaged until things return to “normal.”

Keeping your audience engaged is just a matter of having the ingenuity and insights to pivot and provide a meaningful experience. Sprout Social’s Analytics and Publishing tools can fuel that ingenuity, surface those insights and help marketers bring new customer experiences to life.

Interactive entertainment from the comfort of your couch

Major music festivals like Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza have embraced social media entertainment and streamed their shows for years. Now, with everyone stuck at home, artists and organizations are finding ways to make livestreaming events more innovative, interactive and accessible.

Recently, Visible, a new phone service, partnered with Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado to host Unpaused, a three-day immersive virtual concert series with big names like Phoebe Bridgers, Megan Thee Stallion, Sam Hunt and more. Unlike other virtual concerts, fans were able to customize their concert experience and interact in ways that made it feel like they were really a part of the crowd.

Using technology from Visible, a new phone service, audience members could cast their vote for each artist’s encore song. And perhaps best of all, they could also send a message to the bands and artists as they played, which would then be projected on the rock faces in the stadium.

Fans also shared their excitement and experience using the hashtag #VisibleXRedRocks, which made it easy for Visible to later reach out to those fans and drive additional engagement and brand awareness.

A total of 8.5 million people tuned into the event, which was a major turnout for the artists and a massive audience that may have learned about Visible for the first time during the event. With an analytics tool like Sprout, brands can measure the short and long-term impact that these kinds of immersive events have on brand awareness. Tracking branded event hashtags like #VisibleXRedRocks can also help brands pinpoint what moments of the show resonated with attendees and apply those learnings to their next live event.

The innovative approach to the concert series, the chosen artists and the incorporation of their own technology says a lot about the Visible brand itself, and will leave a lasting impression among those in attendance.

Audience-inspired events and content

Shedd Aquarium in Chicago is a local treasure and now, a brand with fans around the world. During the pandemic, Wellington and his crew of penguin pals at the aquarium became internet sensations. While it was closed to the public, the aquarium was open to penguins for exploration, which their social media made sure to capture. It was social media entertainment gold. Since reopening, the aquarium has made sure to keep the Wellington content coming, to the delight of all their new fans around the world.

The aquarium has a regular schedule of events, but this year, they’re organizing and promoting virtual events on social, so that non-local followers can participate. The fanfare spurred on by the aquarium’s behind-the-scenes social content inspired a new online experience, Virtual Animal Encounters. Fans can still catch a glimpse of the animals on social, but if they want a real-time virtual meet-and-greet with the animals they can do it from the comfort of their home.

Shedd Aquarium’s success is proof that social media is a great testing ground for brand content and new initiatives. To understand the results though, you need social analytics tools. With Sprout’s Premium Analytics, you can do post-level research to identify what’s working on what platforms and what’s resonating with your audience. For example, a destination like Shedd Aquarium could create animal-specific tags for each of their posts. In doing so, they could then look back at the Tag Report in Sprout to determine which animals their audience adores most and should therefore be included in their Virtual Animal Encounters series.

Livestreaming social media entertainment

Even after the pandemic is over, when businesses open up to the public again, expect virtual events to continue going strong. The convenience, cost-effectiveness and ability to broadcast to audiences around the world can’t be overlooked.

In the Sprout Social Index™, we found that 37% of consumers found live video to be the most engaging type of in-feed social content. That may come as no surprise since nearly every social media platform has adopted its own version of livestreaming, and the lack of in-person experiences in 2020 has made us crave real-time human interaction.

Rather than canceling, New York Comic-Con decided the show must go on via livestream on YouTube. The event was free to fans around the world and even if they missed the stream while it was live, the videos and the accompanying chat remain available on the New York Comic-Con YouTube channel.

For marketers, an obvious benefit of going live is that you get immediate feedback from viewers that you can respond to nearly instantly, which mimics an in-person experience. That experience is equally important for viewers and fans, like those at Comic-Con, who are eagerly awaiting answers from their favorite panelists in the live chat.

If your brand hosts or sponsors a virtual convention, conference or event via livestream, the people in attendance will inevitably want to share takeaways and highlights with colleagues, friends, family and more. Planning your content and scheduling it ahead of the event will give you the freedom to engage with audiences in real-time.

Create a collection of content links, social handles, community questions and other resources that relate to the event’s topics and speakers. Then, use a publishing tool like Sprout to create social posts around those takeaways. You can either schedule each post to line up with the time of the speaker(s) they relate to, or save posts as a draft and publish when you feel the time is right. That way, viewers can put a pin in those resources or share on their own social platforms, which in turn contributes to your social and marketing goals. It’s also a great way to learn what points resonate with your audience most.

New normal? Try the next normal

Leveraging social media and virtual experiences to entertain, expand your brand value and sustain profitability is not just the new normal, it’s the next normal. If you’re not sure how your brand can or should enhance your social presence to better serve your customers, turn to your social data. Nearly everything you need to know about your audience can be found with analytics. Look back at content that had strong engagement, reach, link clicks or another KPI that speaks to your goals and let it inspire your future social strategy.

As people continue to search for entertainment close to home, having a localized social strategy will be critical for reaching the right audience, especially for businesses with multiple locations. Those businesses should also consider creating separate social media accounts for their various locations. To help you identify if there’s a need for your business to have location-specific accounts, complete this free worksheet.