The Marketing Toolbox


A home building project generally involves a basic toolbox with common essentials like a hammer, screwdriver or saw. In fact, you might own several different hammers, drills or even a high-end electric saw made by diverse brands such as DeWalt, Ryobi or Craftsman. The brands and options are endless, as are the methods with which to complete your weekend project.


The Marketing Toolbox is similarly stocked with the necessary equipment to achieve the desired goals, whether it’s delivering compelling return on investment (ROI) for a sponsor or hosting a successful and profitable air show for the community. It’s also a lot like walking into Home Depot and facing a dizzying array of overwhelming choices for a simple screwdriver.


Basic marketing tools are nearly universal, whether you’re an event organizer or performer. But the digital age has dramatically altered this complex landscape, and the tools that transform it are equally diverse. We frequently discuss traditional marketing tools such as advertising, exhibit space pricing, ticket promotions, and social media.  But what are the best tools to connect with your audience or potential audience?


First, ask and answer the following questions before you begin worrying about which apps or programs to use:


  • Have you created a marketing plan?


  • Have you defined your audience?


Second, have you updated your website or does it still have an oh-so-nineties flash open? Does it automatically play embarrassing groovin’ music when the site opens while you’re at work?


A site overhaul may be needed because fans expect real time responses to their questions and concerns. This Social Customer Response Management (CRM) can grow your brand, build loyalty, and strengthen your sponsorship. Conversely, ignoring it can destroy your brand. Can people log in from their phone, tablet or laptop with their Facebook, Twitter or other social account? Intuitive navigation with the ability to share elements of your site with one click also makes your site and your business more competitive.


Get Social


Social networks have revolutionized the ways in which people engage with one another and the world, whether it’s sports, music, news or air shows. With truly unique stories and wonderfully dynamic visuals, air shows create ample original content opportunities to share across multiple social networks. The “2014 Social Media Marketing Industry Report” by Social Media Examiner reported that original written content was the most important form of content (58 percent) followed by original visual assets (19 percent).  Michael A. Stelzner, Founder of Social Media Examiner, reports the top two benefits of social media marketing are increasing exposure and increasing traffic.


Ninety-two percent of all marketers indicated that their social media efforts have generated more exposure for their businesses. Increasing traffic was the second major benefit, with 80 percent reporting positive results.  Most marketers are using social media to develop loyal fans (72 percent) and gain marketplace intelligence (71 percent).


So what’s the best social platform to use? Without a doubt, Facebook dominates social media, followed by Twitter and LinkedIn, YouTube, Blogging, Google+ and Pinterest. Perhaps you wanted to try Snap Chat, but — with a reported one percent engagement — it’s probably more valuable and effective to focus on the top six networks.


People have written a multitude of blogs and books on each of these platforms, but we’ll focus on best practices and tips to drive the greatest social return on investment for your program.




Assuming you have correctly set up your Facebook page as a business rather than a personal page, there are additional key tips to improve your fan reach and engagement. Diluting your post engagement by posting too frequently is a common mistake made by air show professionals with robust content options. Facebook rewards page-reach with strong engagement through “Likes” and “Shares,” making it actually detrimental to make frequent and weak posts.


Are you #airshow #fan #performer #event #misunderstand? Leave the hashtags to Twitter and Instagram because Facebook allegedly penalizes your post with reduced reach when you copy/paste a post from another network or use # and @ in your copy. The same applies if you use a third party app like Hootsuite, Buffer or Sprout Social rather than posting directly to Facebook. Forwarding your Twitter feed will also reduce your engagement and reach. The social behemoth denies the correlation, but research and analysis by The Social Business prove differently.


Regardless, many small businesses use Hootsuite or Sprout Social to manage all their social traffic because it’s easier to monitor posts for required response or deletion along with tracking contests or campaigns. “We used to use Hootsuite, but, last year, we started posting directly to Facebook and saw much better engagement from the fans,” says Christina Cary, Air Show Director for the Bell Helicopter Fort Worth Alliance Air Show. “We had a central hub on the grounds, but had key committee volunteers posting from their positions on the ramp.”


For the Home Depot-style do-it-yourselfer, companies like Heyo and ShortStack allow you to create Facebook campaigns or contests that are already optimized for any screen size (mobile, tablet or web) with simple drag and drop templates. No coding required!


By December, Facebook is reportedly going to eliminate Page “Like Gating” which prevents user access to your Facebook content, contest or coupon until they “Like” the page. However, sites like ShortStack can create an “action gate” which allows you to collect valuable emails or other actionable data by answering a question or downloading a unique piece of content.




This social media giant has revolutionized communication and journalism as the premier breaking news and sports reporting tool. All Twitter, which bills itself as the unofficial Twitter resource, reports the average U.S. brand sends 221 tweets each week, with every message an opportunity to connect, engage with and delight customers, both new and old. But brands that are too self-promotional risk losing touch with their audience; 61 percent of people say that they’d cut social ties with a business that doesn’t provide them with relevant content.


The basics include knowing the difference between a Tweet and Retweet plus how and when you use @ and #. With Twitter, Tweets with at least two hashtags are re-tweeted significantly more than posts without a # or more than two hashtags. A hashtag is essentially a keyword or way to organize trending topics. Including a photo or video along with your 140 characters also makes your tweet more viral, especially if you use a link-shortener like bitly. While Twitter automatically shortens included links, bitly tightens it up even more, allowing your tweet to be easily shared.


Ken Krougue, a popular social media guru, suggests the following to research and improve your hashtags:


  • track your tags and keywords to improve social media insights.


  • Topsy


  • Twazzup


  • Twitter Reach


  • Social Media


The last four allow you to “listen” to conversations about your show or act and analyze hashtag performance, as well as identify the key influencers of your account.


To include media, the most obvious choice for video is Google-owned YouTube, although some people prefer Vimeo because of the perceived video quality. As you consider your options, be sure to keep in mind Google’s enormous digital footprint and influence as it also relates to Search Engine Optimization (SEO).


Photographs and air shows have been a natural content combination since the days of film and the Wright Brothers. The digital world makes it easy to share that perfect vapor shot with sites like Twitpic and Yfrog.


Krougue also recommends using network builders like TweetAdder and Tweetpi to target relevant users you want to follow. For Twitter-specific analytics, he suggests Twitonomy and Twtrland for “social intelligence.”


Do you want to tweak your tweet? Social media scientist Dan Zarella says the best time to tweet — if you want to be retweeted — is on Friday at 4 p.m. EST. That’s based on aggregate data he has analyzed from millions of retweets.




Dynamic, multi-faceted events like air shows — which include complex committees and teams — require communication on multiple levels: stakeholders, volunteers, vendors, performers and fans.


Email with a social call-to-action is another effective tool to reach the desired audience who may not be as socially savvy, or who may simply prefer to hear from you through email. Popular solutions with social connections and analytics to measure include the following:


  • Constant Contact/Nutshell Mail


  • Mail Chimp


  • AWeber


All have their strengths and benefits, but vary on template options, tech support and usability. Emails are a great resource to promote ticket sales, “insider information” and communicating with your sponsors. Plus, platforms like Constant Contact also provide you with analytics to determine what drives your audience, both in logistics and content. Do people close to the airport location open the email? Do they click on a linked photo? Do sponsors click on the “latest news?” Do more people click on a story about a performer or tips to enjoy the show? Or are people looking for ticket discounts? Platforms like Constant Contact can help you get answers to those kinds of questions.


Project Management


Performers and events can take advantage of sites like Basecamp and eTouch to track everything from hospitality passes and tents to sponsorship benefits. Christina Cary of Fort Worth Alliance has been using eTouch for the last several years to keep the large Texas air show organized and on budget. Sponsorship guru Phil Pacific incorporates eTouch into all ADC Group’s marketing of sponsors and events. “The biggest thing is consistency because it creates one depository for contracts, logos, ads, public address announcements, who signed the contract and when,” explains Pacific. “I can send reminders about ads or a contract, plus send a timely invoice. You might think that a $1,000 [investment in the software] is expensive, but — if it keeps you from renting six tents you didn’t need or wasting money on duplicating items — it more than pays for itself. It protects you.”


Some management solutions also generate newsletters, surveys and even a website that’s also mobile friendly. One of the greatest advantages of project management tools is that they allow your team to efficiently work as if you’re down the hall from one another rather than across the country.


Overwhelming, isn’t it? When you boil it down to the core, most social media is about compelling content or interesting insights shared with your fans, sponsors and partners.

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Deb Mitchell
Deb Mitchell is a former broadcast journalist who ran the NAS Oceana Air Show in Virginia Beach, Virginia for several years and helped create the Air Show Buzz website.