Event-related communication has always been at the heart of social media, from Twitter’s debut at SXSW in 2007 to the everyday sharing of check-ins, meals and parties in Foursquare and Facebook, to Oreo’s big marketing win with a single tweet during the 2013 Superbowl.

As my colleague Daniel Honigman pointed out to me today, for brands trying to gain attention through social media, simply being event-driven does not ensure engagement. Daniel noted the social media efforts around the 2013 Oscars as an example of event-based communications that underperformed expectations because although they were clever, they were also contrived and (unlike Oreo’s superbowl message) not naturally related to the actual unfolding of the event.

So relevance and timeliness are the required characteristics for successful social media engagement, both in the proactive publicity-seeking outreach mentioned above, and in the other common form of social media communication: crisis response.

In both publicity-seeking and crisis-response, there are mechanics related to generating positive engagement around the event. The trajectory of both types of event are captured in the following diagram:

Intervention

The Y axis in the above represents a desired response to the call to action in our engagement, which can range from increased brand affinity to a direct conversion depending on the nature of the communication. The X axis represents time, with a sub-axis showing the user segments engaged in temporal proximity to any event (first influencers then early adopters, then the broader market).

The green diamond represents the occurrence of the event. In this diagram, the event can be a crisis or a promotion. The red lines show the impact on our desired conversions in the event of a crisis, while the blue line shows conversions in the event of a promotion.

In both cases, an immediate (effective) intervention around the event drives a lift in the conversions. In a crisis, the intervention seeks to stem a rapid decline in conversions (the dotted red line shows the expected post-even conversion rate without any intervention). In a promotion, the intervention seeks to drive a rapid gain in the desired conversion (buzz, shares, etc).

The dotted blue line shows the expected trajectory of a successfully delivered social media intervention around an event without a concerted effort to sustain the initial response through the early adopter and broader market audience segments. With marketing support, the influencer-driven content that most successfully garnered engagement around the event can be refined and repurposed for use in paid and owned digital channels.

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