A Creative’s Guide to Designing Stand-Out Social Events
Social media has changed the way designers work. Whether we are designing a new piece of content, promotional materials for a marketing campaign, or an entire live event—social media necessitates a new set of creative considerations and responsibilities while also creating opportunities to expand the reach and impact of creative work.
Whether you are a designer like me or a social marketer that works with creatives, you probably experience this changing dynamic daily.
It's been nearly two months since SXSW where we hosted the Social Suite at our offices and the Social Stage at the ACL Moody Theater. As we documented our learnings internally, we realized it may be helpful to share this insight with other creatives designing events for the social age. Here are six lessons we learned:
Make some critical decisions early on and stick to them.
Nothing is worse than scrambling to make high-level decisions about an event in the middle of planning it. In order to save time and future headaches, make decisions about event naming, overall feel, and the all-important hashtag early on and align around them. Once you get stakeholder buy-in, you are all set for some smooth sailing.
Early agreement on these critical factors will ensure your team is aligned and working toward a comprehensive, unified experience.
Remain dedicated to a dedicated team.
Any project is more successful when you have great minds working together with plenty of time to focus. For large events, we select an internal team of event professionals, creatives, developers, and community managers and let them dedicate their time to crafting great experiences.
Building a diverse team ensures all aspects of the event are given proper consideration. The result is that attendee experience, visual impact, and social reach become pillars for the event to stand upon.
Focus on the core experience and design around it.
It’s really hard to have to sacrifice any portion of a planned event, but it’s a reality that your original concept often needs to evolve based on budget, timing, or other considerations. One way that we make sure that nobody walks away disappointed is to define the core experience of an event early on. From there we apply design and complimentary experiences, ensuring that our defined core stays intact. If you end up having to scale back, attendees still walk away (very) happy.
Be deliberate about incorporating shareable moments.
As we designed the Social Suite, we pushed ourselves to create experiences within the space that were so delightful people would want to share about them. For us, that meant including a jewel-colored candy bar and rotating menu of local food truck fare, hosting nail art artists who recreated iconic Austin street art in miniature, and displaying our uncommon SX swag as a custom wall installation.
We also incorporated several custom socially interactive visualizations using our own Experiences product to encourage people to share and participate with us in both spaces. My personal favorite was the digital graffiti wall.
Partner for a bigger bang (and more bucks).
Something new for us this year was the great opportunity to partner with Viacom Velocity for the party at the Social Stage. By partnering, we ensured that we could bring in killer musical talent (Future Islands and The Flaming Lips) , increase the overall size of the event (we secured one of Austin’s best venues—ACL Moody Theater), and create even bigger social reach (something a global mass media company like Viacom has a knack for.) Social media makes sponsorship opportunities even more valuable—allowing the cross-pollination of two like-minded social audiences.
From a design perspective, make sure you share brand standards, communicate early and often about the event theme, and identify the areas that will be co-branded individually branded. This is also an opportunity to new things and have fun. A good example of this was designing the color palette for the Social Stage—merging our own Spredfast orange with Viacom Velocity’s bright color palette yielded an exciting combination which allowed the event to take on its own unique branding.
Don’t forget about self-promotion.
When you are in the heat of planning for an event, photo and video coverage is often one of the last things that gets addressed. In fact, it often ends up getting cut all together or handled internally by the employee with the ‘nicest’ camera.
Instead of an afterthought, we think about capturing the experience from a very early stage. Along with future event promotional uses, you often are able to capture imagery that can compliment assets like white papers, blog posts, or case studies. Great imagery and video can also help to extend the event buzz on social for days after you’ve wrapped up.
Designing a social event presents challenges and opportunities. It means thinking about how everything that you experience in-person translates into a digital experience (and yes, that means some production work, resizing assets to display correctly across social channels.) Ultimately, it’s exciting to design an event that will be experienced by more people that just those that walk through the venue doors.