Will Evans is a Director of Performance Networks, a UK based specialist WiFi and communications provider for businesses. He has more than 20 years’ experience in communications and has worked at Performance Networks for seven years.
Festivals are becoming more and more about the experience than the big names associated with them. Influencer marketing is similar to this. It’s no longer about the ‘who’ and the ‘what’ – it’s the why. People want to see how the product that an influencer is promoting will give them a good experience, and that’s where festivals and influencers come hand in hand. As we saw with Fyre Festival, it’s no longer about the line-up. If things go wrong, they can quickly escalate on social media. Fyre may be an extreme example, but it shows what can happen if what you promise isn’t what customers experience.
As a result, an increasing number of festivals are seeing the benefit of inviting influencers to the event as a way to boost awareness. Micro-influencers, those who might have less than 100k followers but tend to have a higher engagement rate, are thriving, and festivals big and small can take advantage of these to promote the experience of their unique set up. With the number of festivals in the UK rising each year, from vegan to folk, comedy to rock, this could be the difference between someone choosing your event or not.
But there’s a problem: influencers often want to share their experiences live. Festivals are often held out in the sticks so that more people can congregate in one area and the acts can attract bigger audiences. These two things don’t always go together.
There are very few places in the UK that are unable to connect to WiFi or let us connect to our mobile phones. Yet music festivals, which remain the highlight of many summers, are commonly still not fully operational. Owing to the number of people swarming into ancient woodlands and huge fields, strong 4G coverage is often just a pipe dream. Almost everyone there will be trying to use the internet at some point on their trip. For some it’s slow and scattered, for others it’s simply not available at all. For influencers who want to share their stories and experiences live, the staggered internet connection may cause them to miss the boat and become frustrated in the process.
If they attend the event and post their highlights a few days after, it’s still great content. But vertical content, or stories, are booming, and these are done live the majority of the time. This poses an issue for the connection problem. Especially with video, which requires more bandwidth. Social media requires a strong connection to give people the option to share their memories as they’re happening, and can even give them the opportunity to take over people’s timelines.
Fans no longer have as much patience. They know their favourite influencer is at an event, and they want to see things as they are happening. This can help brands in ways that they never previously imagined by joining the influencer bandwagon and using them to build buzz. If they cannot share their stories or there is lack of quality in the content, that’s a loss of awareness and can also affect the influencers’ opinions of your festival.
With better connections, more people can share their unique perspectives of your festival, thereby taking it to new heights. Ultimately, it’s free publicity.
Outdoor festivals need to secure fast, short-term coverage in a rural location. They need to be able to overcome user density and ensure connections remain secure for different user types. You can even use it to get to know your customers and capture data that can help your marketing efforts. This all requires specialist design and equipment.
Conduct a wireless survey to establish why your installation may fail. In this case, it’s the poor coverage and lack of design. Establish the goals of your network in accordance with this, such as if it needs to run Voice Over Internet Protocol, and what system you require. You will likely need video capabilities, and you will need to strategise depending on how many extra devices are likely to be there.
It doesn’t have to be a one size fits all approach for each festival either. Establish the areas that require coverage and the type of service you wish to offer your guests, as knowing this in advance will help ensure your network is as efficient as possible.
Professionally installed festival WiFi networks provide festivalgoers with reliable connectivity in the remotest of locations. They will typically require a log-in via social media accounts, but by using social WiFi, it means that people can access WiFi networks quickly and easily while giving the festival organiser or sponsor a fantastic marketing opportunity.
A professionally installed festival WiFi network can provide site-wide coverage to the entire event, and they are custom-built, which is crucial. They can mitigate the operational risk too, by applying a network security to wherever users go, ensuring that security worries they have around public WiFi are mitigated. Tools like Cisco Umbrella can monitor all traffic both on the network and off it to analyse everything for threats, ransomware, untrusted links, phishing and malware.
One well publicised example of a much smaller scale network was the WiFi cows that appeared at Glastonbury a few years ago. The life size fiberglass cows acted as EE’s 4G hotspots, and meant that festivalgoers could get super-fast WiFi with ease, along with business boosts by enabling contactless card payments.
By mounting enterprise grade access points at various strategic locations, you can provide full park coverage. This also means that the operator can carefully monitor the service, and can bring the park guests back online as soon as possible if a problem is encountered. It is much more reliable, it offers better coverage throughout the park and is maintained properly with continued troubleshooting.
With festival WiFi, guests get better value for money out of your festival, and you can even use it to attract festivalgoers to specific areas in your festival and target attractions around this. You can also go one step further and use this network to offer things such as interactive social screens and virtual reality.
Influencers are born and bred in creating hype. Choose the right few, and you can get thousands more visitors to your festival. They have expertise in communicating to their fans in their own personal way, and they can create a huge snowball effect of word of mouth to boost visitors year-on-year.
How we connect at events is more important than ever before, and by having the right tools and technology in place, you can put the wheels in motion to deliver a more positive, memorable experience. It also goes further than benefitting the visitors at the festival, ensuring you get eyes on you from audiences across the world.