PEORIA, Ill. — It’s fair season — time for fairs and fair boards to start promoting their county fair and fair special events and concerts.
For fairs that use social media, such as Facebook, it’s time to start posting their fair’s schedule, registration and ticket information for their audiences.
But what if social media fair season didn’t end?
It shouldn’t, said a marketing executive whose talent buying and marketing business works with a number of county fairs to promote their fair, concerts and other special events.
“That is probably one of the biggest mistakes for a lot of fairs,” said Leon Edwards.
Edwards is the vice president of marketing for Inked Entertainment, based in Peoria. Inked Entertainment was started by a group of music enthusiasts and promoters who formerly worked for a Peoria indoor concert venue.
The group started Inked Entertainment as a talent buying, marketing and event promotion business in 2017. They now represent events, including some 30 fairs throughout Illinois, Indiana and Iowa. They also run festivals and indoor shows throughout Illinois and Indiana.
Earlier this year, Edwards spoke to attendees at the Illinois Association of Agricultural Fairs annual convention in Springfield about the best way to use social media to promote fairs and fairgrounds events.
Topping the “to do” list for administrators of fair and fairgrounds social media pages and accounts is — keep going.
Too often, Edwards said, page activity — and audience engagement — is a short-lived event.
“You see three months of huge activity on your social media pages. If they announce a band or a demo derby, then they start talking about the fair. Let’s say the fair is in August, then they start talking about the fair in May,” Edwards said.
Edwards said keeping posts going on social media accounts keeps the fair, as an event, in front of the audience.
“Your audience is regularly seeing your fair pop up, even in December. They are seeing some kind of post from the fair. It keeps all your audience engaged to continually grab onto your name, instead of unfollowing. It keeps your page popping up on social media feeds,” he said.
If page administrators are at a loss for what to post during non-fair season, Edwards said one easy way is to use photos from the fair.
“It doesn’t cost anything. It is really easy to do. It doesn’t have to be a really involved post. Maybe you did 100 photos at the fair this year. Don’t post those all at once. Post five here or five there. Use those throughout the year to help build that engagement up throughout your fan base,” he said.
Another way to create content for off-season posts is to cross post with local organizations and groups.
“Even if you want to pair with another organization, maybe it’s 4-H and you are sharing from the 4-H page, it’s just any kind of content that you can put on there. That is what’s going to keep your name fresh on everybody’s mind. That’s your organic reach, say you’ve got 10,000 followers. You want them to keep an eye on your page to see what’s coming up next,” Edwards said.
When that next event is a headline concert act or main event at the fair itself, keeping an audience engaged throughout the year can pay big dividends.
“It gets everything ramped up to when you announce a concert or appearance, like country singer Jake Owen is coming to the fair and we’re going to announce that day. Now you’ve got 10,000 people following you, and that’s what you want, to make sure that when those important posts do come out, everybody is getting that on their news feed,” Edwards said.
That approach also can help fair boards that are promoting the off-season use of their fairgrounds and buildings.
“If you’re offering that a business can come and rent the fairgrounds office or buildings for a Christmas party, if you are not doing anything between September and December on that page, nobody has any reason to keep engaged with your page,” Edwards said.
Back And Forth
When it comes to promoting the use of the fairgrounds and buildings, Edwards said the same regular posting approach, with a slightly different angle, can work.
“It is just keeping them engaged, but filtering in rental prices or if you’re doing a fundraising activity,” he said.
When posting to a fair’s social media page, like a Facebook page, timing is important. Edwards recommends spacing out multiple posts in the same day so that an audience will see all of them.
“We have a fair that will post something at 10 a.m. Then at 10:05, they automatically have another post go up. That’s two posts they did that day, but they are minutes apart. What Facebook does with those is automatically squash that first post that you did, so instead of reaching 2,000 people, it’s only going to reach 200 people,” Edwards said.
He recommends using the “Audience Insights” tab that is available at the top of all Facebook event, group and business pages. The information available there will show what times a page’s audience engages the most with the page.
“If your page is most active at 6:30 in the morning, at noon, at 5 p.m. and at 8 p.m., there’s no reason to put a post out there at 9 a.m. because most people are going to see what you post at noon or at 8 p.m.,” he said.
Older posts can quickly be forgotten in a news feed, while posts that go up closer to the actual peak engagement times are more likely to draw attention from your audience.
“If you are going to post one or two times, you want to find out what times your audience is on your page because that is going to give you the biggest chance for them to see your post,” Edwards said.