Looking Back at Essence Fest 2018 and its Social Media Usage
Essence Festival is an annual event held in New Orleans over a series of days, typically near the Fourth of July. It is “the world’s largest cultural, music, entertainment and empowerment experience and the global epicenter of Black culture.” This event has major components to it: there are workshops that cover beauty, politics, fashion, social issues and entertainment in the day time. Then there are major concerts during the evenings. I have had the opportunity to attend Essence Fest back in 2018, and it was wonderful. In the evening, I was blessed with witnessing Erykah Badu and Jill Scott, iconic R&B singers, perform live.
ESSENCE, the magazine publication that initially created the event to celebrate its anniversary 26 years ago, does a great job promoting the event and getting attendees excited for the weekend-long event. Essence Fest provides countdowns, features guest speakers and performers, and has an app where attendees can get further information on the events happening throughout the weekend.
Since I have had first-hand experience with Essence Fest 2018, I’ll suggest what I think would’ve helped me and possibly other attendees. In order to assist, I’ll break down social media communications before, during and after the event.
Essence Fest provides a lot of communication before the event, especially emails. Among that written content, there were articles from third-party websites detailing what to expect for the event, but we live in an age where videos on social media are more effective. Kristen Craft, a writer for Unbounce, said that videos are integral to creating excitement for an event. She wrote that by “offering a conference sneak peak, you give people a feel for what their experience will be like.” Although I know that this event is hosted by a magazine publication, so written content is expected, I believe there should be a balance for those who do not necessarily want to read.
Hosting a Facebook Live Q & A session and allowing users to breakout into meeting rooms might create more excitement surrounding the event in The Big Easy. Amanda MacMaster, owner of MacManda Media, wrote, “users love video. Your audience is more likely to see and remember to your message if you deliver it to them in the ways they prefer.” She also added that it is helpful because the organizers can answer questions in real time and build relationships with the brand.
Essence Fest can also gauge excitement and increase event visibility from social media by creating a Facebook Profile Frame for attendees. This free feature is beneficial because companies “can use Frames for raising brand awareness, and promote events and other activities.”
I had a great time Essence Fest, however, the lines were extremely long and my friends and I had questions, but we were unable to get them answered because the event had over 510,0000 people in attendance. Disclaimer: The official mobile application had frequently asked questions, but we had timely questions that were not able to be answered in that section. Since this is a colossal event, I’d suggest having an active social media team on Twitter to answer any questions that attendees may have by following the hashtag, #AskEssence18. Allocating a specific hashtag to questions allows for the social media team to decipher between general posts and problems.
Since Essence Fest is an annual event, they can start generating excitement about next year’s event by offering a post-event contest. Adrian Si, a marketing strategy director, wrote that “guests need to have something to look forward to when they leave the event — or you risk losing their engagement altogether.” Si also adds that these contests could attract new attendees to the event. By continuing to conduct a contest throughout the year, which will lead up to the next event, will keep the buzz around the festival.
The post-event contest could be on Twitter and Instagram where past attendees could post a picture, talk about their favorite part of Essence Fest, and use the hashtag to enter. Every month, Essence can select a winner to receive a complimentary concert ticket for the upcoming event.
Social Media Success
Essence Fest has been very active on social media. They do a great job featuring a variety of content, from talent to food to New Orleans-specific posts. In 2018, as we approached the event, Essence Fest was posting 2–3 times a day. They would host Twitter Chats with celebrities to get attendees excited and involved with the event prior to arriving.
I admire how they have a themed template for the event, but it isn’t flooded with only that specific look. If they were to have every post with that brand, it might become monotonous, so it’s great to see a variety of content posted on their social media accounts. During the Festival, they make posts reminding attendees of the events happening that day. They also add to their Instagram stories, so people can see exclusive things happening behind-the-scene. After the event, they post recaps of the weekend and feature talent that attended the festival.