We’ll wager that this isn’t the first time you’ve come across this subject. Certainly this year, maybe even this week. The huge rise of social platforms as communication media has presented brands with opportunities to integrate these platforms into experiential activations for years now. In some cases the seeding of content from a brand experience forms the very backbone of the campaign.

But where a lot of the advice on this goes wrong is the assumption that a social component can simply be crowbarred into an event. This is (in most cases) fine if your objectives around the activity are focused elsewhere, such as the impact of the experience on the physical audience. But if you’re truly serious about making what is shared online as impactful and reflective of what’s happening offline, then the following should help you on your way…

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Is all you really need a good wi-fi connection?

 The first thing you should be asking is whether you need to spend time and money on installations or initiatives to encourage people to tweet, snap and post about their experience. The simple fact is that many people will feel compelled to anyway. Create a relevant activation which is tailored to your audience and delivers your brand message in an appropriate and engaging way, and you’ll find that people talk about it organically.

All you need is some decent social media tracking to keep tabs on the conversation, and maybe the notion of providing free wi-fi just to help your guests out a bit.

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What’s the story?

If you do decide to invest time, resource and budget into the social element, start by putting yourself in the shoes of both your physical and digital audiences. What part of the experience will your physical guests feel compelled to interact with and share? And how will this appear visually on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or any other platform you know your audience uses?

Crucially, is there a story you can tell across both? If your guests are completing a challenge, for instance, think about graphically packaging up the way they share their achievements to make it as visually appealing as possible.

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How many steps to sharing?

Leading nicely on from the last point, it’s imperative to work with your agency or suppliers to make the act of getting content online as simple as possible.

If your experience involves an activation from which guests can post an image, tweet or status update straight away, make sure all they need to do is log into their account and hit send. If they’re being emailed an image, make sure it has one-click links to share. There is nothing worse than a nineteen-step process which takes an unhealthy amount of time to complete.

Or actually, maybe there is – a patchy connection which means your guest has to try to post something seven times. So whatever technology you’re using: make sure you test, test and test again.

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This is just the start

Once you’ve mapped out how your audience will create social content through your experience, be sure to think about what happens next. Use it as an opportunity to start a conversation, engaging with those who take part directly through your social channels. Comment, reply and repost. Retweet, like and favourite. Involve yourselves before, during and after the event.

Have a plan so you know exactly when to start responding, when to ramp things up and when to stop. And measure! Track how many people engage with you, at what times this activity peaks, and anything that creates a spike of engagement. Use this to guide your social media activity during future experiential campaigns.

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Add a dash of imagination 

We’ve had great success when we’ve had the opportunity to be particularly creative about it. Canterbury asked us to get rugby fans to try on the new England shirt outside Twickenham. We knew the importance lay in creating a moment they’d cherish and want to share online. So we built a photo studio with cardboard cut-outs of England players. Fans posed in a new shirt with the players, and we manipulated their image to match the look and feel of Canterbury’s ‘England Is All’ ad campaign shot by David Bailey. 80% of the 4,400 participants posted their image on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

And for NBA House, the NBA’s presence in London during the 2012 Olympic Games, we created a huge Twitter wall. All tweets featuring #NBAHouse or @NBA_UK floated around a giant animated basketball on an interactive touchscreen, with those that were touched expanding into the centre of the screen. It proved incredibly popular with the 53,000 people who visited NBA House.

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And remember – it’s all part of the same story!

NBA House is a perfect example of this. Remember – the social element isn’t an afterthought to the experience, it is the experience. It’s another touchpoint, a moment of interaction between your brand and your audience that must communicate your brand, your product and the objectives behind your experiential activity.

Get it wrong and a great experience can be turned swiftly into an average one, or worse. But get it right and that great experience will be talked about and shared with a whole world beyond the physical one you’ve just built.

So tie it into the fabric of the story, don’t bolt it onto the end.

To discuss social integration with your next experiential campaign, give us a shout at hello@flourishcreative.co.uk or on +44(0)20 7253 8167.