Made for the small screen: has the currency of social content exceeded the value of the experience itself?

If you see Beyonce in concert, but you didn’t record it on your phone, did it really happen? I pondered this question recently as I watched Beyonce perform at Vector Arena in Auckland. Thousands of fans were opting to watch the entire performance not in the real, 360 degree world of the stadium, but through a 6 x 12cm screen. These fans were present, but in many ways they experienced it as though they weren’t.

Recording and sharing life’s memorable moments is nothing new. But has the currency of social content now actually exceeded the value of the experience itself?

Working in events over the past ten years has given me certain appreciation for the degree of effort involved in productions like the Beyonce concert. In some ways I wanted to shout ‘hey, look around you people!’ I took some photos and video for sure, but not at the cost of the experience itself. This is because I’m over 30, and while I’m an avid citizen of the connected class, I can only bear witness to, and plan events around, this new hyper-connected audience.

When we design events at Haystac we use a ‘content first’ planning model, every event is designed to earn word of mouth coverage via social and traditional media, and with content worthy of owned and even paid platforms. The rationale for this, of course, is that it exponentially extends the reach of the engagement.

For example, our work on the Rekorderlig Winter Lights pop up bar (a collaboration with our sister agency Apollonation) was successful in attracting a packed house every night. It drew over 3,500 people and, by our calculations, it earned an additional 3.5 million points of exposure. So, from a cost-per-touch perspective, the earned exposure has far surpassed the live experience. Of course, you simply wouldn’t have one without the other, but it does force marketers to consider the value of events/experiential as an extremely powerful tool for reach.

People used to talk about PR and social leverage as ‘a loud hailer’ for the event or experience, but it’s no longer enough to apply this logic. After planning the experience for the vast majority of the audience, amplification is the experience. Every aspect must therefore be designed to be captured and shared.

  • Jo Bennett is Haystac New Zealand’s events director and a committee member of The Experiential Marketing Association of NZ (EMANZ) 

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