Lessons from YoU2ube

As part of their 360° tour, U2 stream their concert live from the Rose Bowl tonight to millions of viewers over YouTube.  There is no charge to watch the concert.  No request to provide contact details.  There are four CTA’s (Calls to Action):

  1. Buy their new album – they have a captive audience, the perfect opportunity to ask them to part with their cash
  2. Join their mailing list – building their contact database
  3. Visit their website – driving hits to the site where additional offers are promoted
  4. Donate to Red – a charity set up to eliminate Aids in Africa – promoting (corporate) social responsibility

Such a contrast from the mindset of most marketers, myself included, where our measurement systems drive the behaviour that capturing responses is EVERYTHING.  And this often happens with little knowledge of where the prospect is in their decision-making process.

Thinking about the U2 approach, there’s a lot that can be learnt.

Don’t be afraid to give away prime content

With the advent of music downloads, live concerts are the prime way for bands to earn money.  And for a band like U2, whose daily running costs for the current tour are more than (GBP)470,000, just putting on a show is an incredibly expensive affair.  In fact, the band are only set to break even tonight, despite having played 42 shows throughout Europe, the UK and the US.  You would imagine that this would mean that the band would be more protective over their live concerts, limiting the amount of footage made available and forcing people to purchase tickets.  Instead, they have adopted an open approach, recognising that making this footage available is MORE likely to encourage people to purchase tickets to see them live.

Seeing U2 perform live is an experience.  Streaming footage of the concert doesn’t assault the senses in the same way – you can’t capture the sense of excitement and anticipation, the smell of spilt beer and musky deoderant mixed with steamy perspiration, the bonding of the crowd as they singalong like a rowdy choir, grinning at each other and punching the air.  And by recognising that the experiences are different and that an army of fans would prefer to see them in the flesh, streaming live on YouTube only serves to increase the loyalty of their fanbase.

Provide opportunities for fans to congregate

The trick is to understand who your fans are, provide forums to engage & connect with them, and allow them to collaborate and connect with each other.  Fans are encouraged to promote the live webcast on Facebook and Twitter via links on U2’s YouTube channel.  They are also able to interact with each other via a Twitter gadget embedded on the channel, heightening a sense of community around the live performance.

Companies are trying to do this through the use of communities on internal and external sites, but in a B2B environment where we’ve been so used to pushing information at people and selling to them, it’s a real mindset change to relinquish control and provide forums that are about engagement and conversation.  Perhaps, in opening up our corporations to our customers via the use of social media, we will find it easier to identify, reach and develop our die-hard fans and THEY will determine how they would like us to engage with them.

Provide rich experiences for your fans

Whilst I’ve been toying with the idea of live streaming elements of the face-to-face events that I run, it’s difficult to do so without the fear that this will deter people from attending in person.  It’s increasingly apparent that more needs to be done to clearly differentiate and enrich both the live and online event experiences.   An IT event is far removed from a concert, but there’s no question that people prefer to interact in person.  Live events offer the opportunity to fully engage our senses.  A plenary session and a number of breakouts giving people the opportunity to listen to a variety of speakers does little to take full advantage of this medium.  No wonder there is a significant drop-out on the day for our free events.  People are aware that they can access the presentations and videos afterwards, and whilst they’ll miss out on some of the networking opportunities, this isn’t always enough to encourage them to attend.  Social networking sites, enabling people to connect with each other online, may reduce this need still further.

Perhaps we should be less focused on improving the online event experience, and pay more attention to how we can enrich the face-to-face opportunity.

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