10 Steps to Buy Social Media Advertising Easily and Inexpensively


The air show audience is using social media, and you should be using it, too, or you’ll miss opportunities to connect with the larger and larger percentage of the population that gets their information from social media platforms. And, more to the point, you’ll be missing the chance to increase attendance at your event. The proof is in the data. Approximately 77 percent of Americans have social media accounts (Source: Statista, 2018).

“Social media is essential to the survival of the air show industry,” says Steve Kapur, pilot and marketing officer for GEICO Skytypers. “The demographic profile of air show fans is aging significantly, and we need to switch our focus to recognize what’s effective with the new audience. Younger air show fans get most of their information digitally. We have to be on social media.”

However, getting noticed on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, LinkedIn, and so on is challenging for air shows because large segments of the social media environment have become a pay-to-play medium. That means you need to invest in social media advertising or no one will see your message.

Here are ten steps to buy social media advertising easily, precisely and inexpensively so you can connect with air show enthusiasts, create new fans, and drive attendance to your events.

1. Choose a Platform

All social media platforms are not the same. Facebook is perfect to connect with a broad audience, but that audience is skewing to a slightly older demographic. Instagram and Snapchat are excellent if you want to connect with younger demgraphics (the future air show fans and the group least likely to be reachable via traditional or “legacy” marketing).

“Use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram (in that order) for air show marketing, but don’t neglect younger skewing platforms like Snapchat,” recommends Kapur. “The air show audience is a leaky bucket. It’s leaking all the time as fans get older. If you don’t fill the bucket with younger fans, the audience will diminish.”

2. Budget

Start small and test to see what’s working. Once you know what drives the best results, spend more. For example, start with a $500 budget divided into different campaigns. Launch the campaigns and monitor the results over 14 days. When you see which ad performs best, turn off the others and reallocate your budget to the high-performing campaign. One of the many benefits of social media advertising is that you can test it at almost no cost and almost endlessly. Your tests become a perpetual feedback loop that enable you to continuously refine and improve your pitch, your offers, and your effectiveness.

It’s not unusual to sell 80 percent of air show tickets in the last 72 hours before an air show, but social media advertising can mitigate the risk associated with last minute ticket sales by driving earlier ticket sales. However, you should still hold a portion of your budget for the critical days before the event. Run your ads up to the last possible minute to maximize ticket sales.

3. Design

If a picture is worth a thousand words, in the air show environment, a video is worth a thousand pictures. Professionally produced videos work best in social media advertising for air shows. Period.

One of the most important things to remember with video content is that many people who see your ad won’t have the volume turned on. Make sure you turn on captions in the video so people can read it as they watch.

In addition, your videos shouldn’t be too long. Brevity is highly desirable in the social media environment. Ideally, your production should be 60 seconds or less.

And, because social media allows you to target very specific audiences, each video you produce should be tailored to the audience you’re trying to reach with that particular video. Literally, you can use the power and analytics of social media to send one video to adult males within 50 miles of your venue between the ages of 18 and 30 with an interest in motor sports. And you could send a different ad with a different video to parents between the ages of 35 and 45 with children between the ages of 8 and 14.

4. Copy

Social media ads perform well when they focus on headline acts or include an incentive to buy tickets with a discount and a time-sensitive offer using copy that explains the offer is ending soon. Creating a scarcity of tickets in your messaging also works well for air shows. The copy can say that a limited number of tickets are left or choice seating sections are close to being sold out.

Use the audience targeting features available to you and create ads for select groups. For example, use messaging that hypes the types of aircraft that will be at your air show for people interested in military aviation and create messages that promote the air show experience for parents of kids between the ages of five and 12. Promoting the experience also works well when you’re targeting younger audiences.

Use the power and convenience of social media to test your copy and see what works best.

5. Landing Page

The fewer clicks that are required to make a purchase, the better. With that in mind, send people to your ticket sales page from your social media ads as your event date gets closer.

Of course, if you’re advertising your event to build awareness and interest months before the event, you may not have your ticket sales page up yet. In that case, send people who click your ad to your home page or a special landing page that hypes about your event and offers them an opportunity to register with their e-mail to receive more information.

6. Targeting

Facebook is the leader for air show advertising, particularly when you use its retargeting features which allow you to show ads to people who have already visited your website and are probably interested in your event. In my experience, retargeting delivers the lowest cost per conversion of any campaign for air shows.

No other platform has the advanced targeting capabilities that Facebook gives you. For example, you can target people who have purchased tickets for your air shows in the past by uploading their data to Facebook. Once uploaded, Facebook will match the data to its users. You can create an ad, target people geographically, and then let Facebook decide who looks like your audience. The targeting options are almost endless, but definitely try these parameters: 30-day web visitor retargeting; check out initiated retargeting, those who watch more than 50 percent of your video and previous ticket purchasers.

7. Test, Test, Test

Start testing images, video, and copy with different audiences several months before your show. Sometimes you’ll see that the effectiveness of different ads changes as your event gets closer, so it’s essential that you never stop testing.

Most social media platforms offer a variety of tools to conduct testing. Be sure to control for variables so you can identify the cause of an increase or decrease in an ad’s performance.

8. Track

The best indicator to determine whether or not your social media advertising is working is cost per result. You can get this data directly from Facebook. It’s also important to track impressions so you can provide the data to sponsors and the airport host. “We got 1.8 million impressions in six months leading up to our most recent show from Facebook ads,” shares Scott Buchanan, Chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Vectren Dayton Air Show.

Most social media platforms provide a large amount of data, but don’t get overwhelmed. At the end of the day, it’s the cost per result number that matters the most. How much did it cost you in advertising dollars to sell a single ticket? Is the cost acceptable to you? If it’s not acceptable, continue to test and tweak the ad. If it is acceptable, shift more money to your high performing ads and continue monitoring them.

9. Tweak

Tweaking ads to improve results can begin with making edits to the copy, images, and videos, but don’t forget to tweak targeting and audiences as well. Subtle changes to your targeting can make a big difference in response rates.

Most importantly, never stop testing, tweaking, and trying to improve your ads and your cost per result.

10. Repeat

Ideally, you should advertise and promote your show year-round to keep your existing audience interested as well as to attract new fans. This gives you plenty of time for testing and optimizing your ads. Realistically, you will spend 75 percent of your budget for social media advertising in the 30 days prior to your event. Periodically using engagement advertising for compelling posts can be fairly affordable and keeps your content in front of consumers throughout the year.

Dayton’s Buchanan lists ongoing advertising as one of his top tips for air shows. “You have to continue advertising before and after an air show to keep your web traffic moving and fresh,” he explains. “If you have a large audience of people who are paying attention to your show, you need to be active and stay relevant all year.”

Bonus: A Simple Idea for Social Media Advertising

Try running a simple engagement campaign with a Facebook ad. This is a great campaign to try if you have a limited marketing budget. Three weeks before the air show, publish a contest post on your show’s Facebook Page using a video that has already performed well with your target audience. Ask people to share or comment on the post to be entered to win tickets to the show.

After 12 hours, put some money behind the post and run a Facebook ad for four to five days. This generates a huge amount of impressions and shares for a couple hundred dollar investment.

When the contest ends, notify the winner through Facebook. Also, publish a Facebook post saying the winner was chosen, but notifying people that there are still limited tickets available. With this strategy, your ticket sales will increase even before the contest ends.

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Herb Gillen
Herb Gillen runs the Herb Gillen Agency, a Columbus, Ohio-based marketing, advertising and public relations agency that services the worldwide air show community.