Event marketing and influencer marketing are often thought of as two separate strategies. In recent years, however, they have become more and more intertwined, with influencers becoming integral to brand events and live experiences.

So, what are the benefits of using influencers for brand events? Let’s take a look at a few examples in action and some tips for using influencers.

Creating more authentic partnerships

The benefits of brand-influencer partnerships are pretty straightforward, with brands being able to reach a wider audience (that is heavily invested in the influencer) and to enhance the promotion of a particular product or campaign.

Key to this is also picking the right influencer, i.e. one that has a natural and authentic advocacy for the brand. This is not always guaranteed, however, especially when it comes to one-off product promotion rather than a larger scale campaign. Typical one-off promotion may involve a brand sending a product to an influencer to use and feature in an Instagram post – which is not exactly proof of genuine advocacy.

This is where event marketing comes in, as it can be extremely helpful for brands that want to invest in more authentic and longer-term influencer partnerships. While most people might consider an event from the consumer perspective – i.e. to enable people to ‘experience’ a brand in person – the same applies for influencers. By giving influencers an enjoyable and immersive experience, brands are able to foster and build real brand advocacy, which can result in more authentic and higher quality content.

One example of this is fashion brand, Revolve, which holds its annual #Revolvefestival at the same time as Coachella. Its own brand event has stolen the spotlight from the main festival, largely due to the number of influencers in attendance. Throughout the weekend, Revolve holds exclusive brunches, lunches, and parties, and performances from top musical guests.

With Revolve Festival creating huge buzz within the fashion community, it’s a great example of event marketing made all the more visible due to influencer presence.

Meanwhile, with these trips usually being all-expenses paid, it’s also a sure-fire way to generate love and appreciation for the brand from influencers themselves. In turn, the partnership (and resulting content) appears authentic.

In terms of which influencers to choose for an event, it might seem obvious. For Revolve, it tends to be those who align with its edgy and ‘cool girl’ image – and those with a large following. For other brands, particularly within FMCG or  other industries, it’s not always obvious, meaning marketers must feel confident that the choice will align with their audience and what appeals to them.

There are data-driven ways to do this, such as using social media monitoring tools to look at mentions or engagement on particular posts. Another way is to simply ask, using basic market research to determine who might tempt people into attending.

With event marketing also relying on immediate results (i.e. tickets sold or attendees present, and not just audience reaction), it’s all the more important to be sure of who will generate excitement.

Building buzz 

Looking at it from a consumer perspective, another big benefit (and probably the most obvious one) is the visibility that an influencer brings to a live event or experience. It’s not a new concept – celebrity appearances have been popular for a long time. The soap star who cuts the ribbon on a supermarket is somewhat of a clichéd scenario.

Fast forward to the digital age, however, and the sheer power and influence of online personalities can generate much more buzz and excitement than regular celebrities. Again, this is because of the amount of investment and engagement generated, with influencers building a more direct and open relationship with their audience.

Due to the power of engagement – which is often seen as a more important metric than follower count – many brands are turning towards micro influencers to appear at and market events. This is because, instead of an influencer with a large but un-invested following, micro influencers tend to have a fervent and highly engaged audience.

In this sense, their audience is much more likely to take action, such as buy tickets for an event. Another benefit is that brands do not have to work hard or be intrusive to market their event or experience (e.g. sending out email campaigns or taking out ads), instead, it is simply recommended to consumers by their favourite influencer.

Refinery 29’s annual event, 29 Rooms, is another great example of event marketing that incorporates influencers. The event involves a number of brand-sponsored ‘rooms’ – each one a unique and immersive experiences for visitors.

In 2016, to use just one example, Perrier partnered with three online influencers –  Jessi Malay, Tim Bryan, and Serena Goh – to create additional content across their social media channels. This allowed Perrier to build interest in the event, as well as to drive additional ticket sales for Refinery29.

Create a plethora of social content

User generated content often comes from consumers on social, with people showing their appreciation and love for a brand. Influencers can also create high authority UGC, and events provide the perfect opportunity for them to do so.

This is one of the biggest reasons brands invest in such luxurious and large-scale experiences. The locations tend to be highly ‘Instagrammable’, with influencers unable to resist documenting it on their social channels. It’s a win-win for both the influencer and brand, giving the former a ready-made stream of content and the latter being able to enjoy increased exposure and visibility.

There can be pitfalls – it usually means the brand has little or no control over what the influencers are posting. But again, with the trips designed to generate brand advocacy, it boils down to trust.

Events tend to be a one-off or yearly occurrence, but that doesn’t mean content or social media activity should only happen during it. Influencers can also be utilised to create content in the run up, throughout, and after the event in order to create the biggest splash.

Again, if the brand and influencer relationship has been a successful one, the influencer might naturally be inclined to stagger and share multiple pieces of content after the event has ended – even if they’re not contractually obliged to do so. Similarly, a positive experience might also lead the influencer to naturally recommend the brand again in the future, based on the engagement and success of the content produced.

Don’t be afraid to think small

Brands like Benefit and Revolve have the budget and resources to heavily invest in splashy influencer experiences, but this is of course not the case across the board.

It’s also false that the biggest influencers or events create the most impact. If, for example, a B2B business is holding an event, an influencer with authority on a niche subject is likely to be a far better choice than a huge celebrity (who might provoke cynicism from the audience rather than interest).

Influencer input doesn’t always have to conform to traditional norms, either. Business solutions company, SAP, utilised influencers during its annual Sapphire Now conference in 2016, asking them to conduct interviews throughout (which it then live-streamed online). According to Traackr, this generated 17% of the online conversation surrounding the event.

On the other end of the scale, this year SAP featured Justin Timberlake as its closing act, proving how multiple influencers (both small and large) can be utilised by the same company.

Overall, of course, brands do need to think more about how an influencer might have a positive impact on an event – and not just who has the biggest follower count.