Instagram is the third most popular social media platform in the world according to Pew Research Center. With 35% of all U.S. adults using Instagram, only YouTube (with 78% of U.S. adults using it) and Facebook (with 68% of U.S. adults using it) are more popular. That means more than one out of every three U.S. adults use Instagram, and the number is even higher among younger adults. Nearly three out of four (71%) of adults between the ages of 18 and 24 use Instagram in the United States.
If that data doesn’t make you realize how important Instagram is to your overall event marketing plan, I urge you to read it again. In simplest terms, if you’re not promoting your event on Instagram, you’re missing a free (or affordable if you invest in Instagram advertising) way to connect with ticket buyers.
Many event organizers have yet to tap into the reach of Instagram for event marketing. Therefore, below are 10 steps you can follow to get started. As you follow these steps, never forget that the power of Instagram is in visuals. There is an old saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” and nowhere online is that more true than on Instagram.
1. Develop Your Plan
Your overall event marketing plan should include Instagram, so take some time to identify what you want to publish and when you’ll publish it. Come up with categories of content you could publish like backstage images, sponsor images, promotional images, quote images, backstage videos, performer videos, announcement videos, and so on. Next, create an Instagram content calendar and fill it in with your categories. You should try to publish approximately twice per day. If you publish too frequently, you could seem spammy.
With your categories in front of you, come up with content ideas for each category, which you can use to take photos and create videos in order to fill up your content calendar. Here are some image and video ideas to get you started:
- Event production process
- Performer or speaker details
- Sponsor shout-outs
- Teasers of activities, performers, promotions, and more
- Sales and ticket discounts like early bird ticket announcements
- Special ticket package information
- Countdowns to the event
- Quotes from speakers or performers
- Inspirational or motivational quotes
- Photos and videos from previous events
- Promotional flyers
- Sneak peaks of the decorations
- Venue tours
- Merchandise and swag
- Food and beverage menus
- Actual photos of food and beverages that will be available
- Team members setting up the event
2. Create Your Instagram Account
When you visit the Instagram website or download the Instagram app to your mobile device, you’ll need to create an account before you can upload and share pictures. Consider the size of your event and the frequency it’s held before you create your account.
If you’re holding a one-time, small event, then you might want to promote it through an established Instagram account such as your personal or business account, the venue’s account, the promoter’s account, or the performer’s account. The reason is simple. It takes time and effort to build an Instagram following that converts into ticket buyers. If yours is a small, one-time event, it might not be worth it for you to invest that time into a new Instagram account. On the other hand, for large events or events that are held more than once, creating a unique, branded Instagram profile for the event is a great idea and can produce excellent results.
When you create your account, choose images and messages that promote your event. Importantly, make sure you include a link to the event’s ticket sales page with a strong call to action in the profile description. You can’t include links in the descriptions of individual photos or videos, so don’t forget to include it in your profile description!
3. Create High Quality Content
The quality of your images and videos matter on Instagram. Remember, this is a 100% visual platform, so take the time to create clear and compelling images and videos. Use the features offered through Instagram to improve your images (these are discussed in more detail in #4 below) or consider using third-party tools to enhance your images even more. You can learn more about third party tools in #10 below.
Create a variety of content to share on your Instagram profile. You can upload images and videos based on the categories you defined in #1 above to ensure your content is varied. Don’t flood your profile with promotional images though. It’s acceptable to publish an image that’s directly promotional about your event once in a while, but try to keep it to 20% promotional content and 80% non-promotional. No one wants to engage with an Instagram user who only promotes promotional content.
When you do publish promotional images, such as a flyer, make sure the URL to your ticket sales page is included in the image! Few people read the text in the description area for photos and videos on Instagram, so always make sure the URL is in the image where people will see it.
4. Learn the Features of Instagram
Instagram offers a variety of features that enable you to improve and customize your images. Filters, stickers, geo-tagging, and adding text are just a few of the features that can enhance your Instagram content so it’s more interesting, entertaining, and likeable.
Don’t overuse these features. Instead, match the features you use and the ways you enhance your content to your event brand. You can either create a branded style where all of your images and videos follow that style so they’re easy to recognize as yours, or you can publish a wide variety of styles. The choice is yours, but always consider your audience and what they’re likely to expect from your event brand. Your content should always meet their expectations.
5. Publish Your Content
Once you create an image, it’s time to publish it to your Instagram profile. There are a number of studies that identify the best times to publish content on Instagram to get the highest engagement, but I recommend testing your publication times to find the sweet spots for your target audience.
When you upload your images and videos, always include a description and don’t be afraid to include a lot of hashtags in the description. Research has shown that the more hashtags included in an Instagram post, the higher the engagement is. Take some time to research relevant hashtags that people who would be interested in your event are likely to use and search for, and use those in your descriptions. Tools like Top-Hashtags and Tagblender make it easy to find Instagram hashtags.
Furthermore, consider creating a unique hashtag for your event, and include it in all of your Instagram posts. Ask your ticket buyers, performers, vendors, and anyone else who posts about your event to include the hashtag in their photo and video descriptions, too. Just make sure you do some research first and choose a unique hashtag that isn’t already being used to represent something else.
6. Engage with Other Instagrammers
Successfully using Instagram to promote your event and sell more tickets depends not just on your own content but also on how much you promote your content by engaging with other Instagram users. To find people to follow on Instagram, search for hashtags that people who would want to come to your event might use as well as hashtags related to the location where your event will be held.
Once you find these hashtags, look for the most popular posts using them. Who published those posts? Follow them and like several of their posts. Who is following them? Every one of their followers could be interested in your event, so get busy and start following and liking! Chances are many of the people you follow will follow you back thereby extending your reach to even more people who might want to buy tickets to your event.
7. Hold Instagram Contests
Instagram contests can be extremely effective in raising awareness of your event and boosting ticket sales. Tools like Gleam and Wishpond make it easy to run Instagram contests. Offer a prize that your target audience would be interested in such as a free pair of tickets, free merchandise, or a free VIP backstage experience. Next, decide what type of contest you want to run. To get your creative juices flowing, here are some ideas for contests that you can choose random winners for:
- Ask people to post their own photos related to your event and include a specific contest hashtag to be entered. For example, have them post a photo with the performer’s latest album.
- Publish a photo and ask people to comment on it to be entered into the contest.
- Publish a photo and ask people to like it to get a contest entry.
You can also hold contests and choose winners subjectively. For example, ask people to post their most creative selfies related to your event, and choose the winner based on your preference. You could even have your followers vote on the winner.
8. Use Instagram Stories
Instagram Stories is a special ad type that allows you to display a series of videos (up to 10 seconds long) or images that are strung together to communicate a specific narrative to an audience. Your followers can view your stories for just 24 hours, and then they disappear. Therefore, they’re great for quick, short-term promotions like flash sales or countdown teasers leading up to performer announcements and other newsworthy information.
According to Instagram, one in five Instagram stories gets a direct message from an audience member, so they can definitely work. When you create your stories, use the features available in Instagram to make the images or videos even better by adding stickers, text, filters, and more.
9. Advertise on Instagram
If you have an advertising budget to promote your event, then there are a few types of Instagram ads that could work for you. These include photo ads, video ads, carousel ads where people can swipe through multiple images, and Stories. Each of these ads can be effective for event marketing.
It’s important to understand that Facebook owns Instagram, and Instagram ads are served to people based on their Facebook Profile data and behaviors. You can promote your Instagram posts directly through the Instagram app, but to better target your audience, you need to have a Facebook Page and log into your account to create and manage Instagram ads through Facebook’s ad manager tools.
10. Test Tools to Improve Your Images
There are many third party tools that you can use to improve the images you share on Instagram. For example, Canva is a great tool to find free images, add text or quotes to images, create promotional images for your event, and more.
More great tools for editing images are Adobe Photoshop Express, VSCO Cam, Afterlight, and Snapseed. Want to create a collage of photos? Pic Stitch works very well. For creating videos to publish on Instagram, Boomerang is very popular. Start testing tools and see how much better your images and videos look! Just remember to keep your content consistent with your event brand’s image.
Your Next Steps to Use Instagram Event Marketing to Increase Ticket Sales
Instagram event marketing can be very effective, but you need to start significantly before your event to achieve the best results. Like all social media marketing, Instagram is most useful over the long-term, but you can achieve your goals in the short-term if you invest in Instagram ads.