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    Social Media and the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta

    From October 1-9, Albuquerque will host its forty-fifth International Balloon Fiesta. The event draws visitors every year from around the country and the world, for an enormous spectacle and breathtaking views. But in addition to presenting majestic experiences for onlookers, the Balloon Fiesta has generated media attention since its inception. While this involved more traditional television outlets from the beginning, it has become a social media sensation in recent years. The event’s website shows just how much its organizers are doing to push this aspect of coverage, and in doing so provides lessons in ways to use social media to maximize the reach an event can generate.

    Social Media Platforms

    The fundamental step one must take to achieve social media success is to use the platforms available. Not every social media outlet makes sense for every person or business, but there exists a wide, exciting world beyond the borders of Facebook and Twitter. Options continue to expand, but even now there are sites on which you can establish a presence that allow you to reach a larger audience every day.

    The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta has pages on no fewer than six social media sites:

    • Facebook
    • Twitter
    • Google+
    • Instagram
    • YouTube
    • Pinterest

    The pages contain similar colors, fonts, and designs across all six platforms, even as they provide some variety for viewers. This allows a combination of synergies and alternatives for people interested in finding information and images related to the event. Anyone who prefers one or more of the six social media options can find what they need on that site, so to the extent they represent different audiences or demographics, the audience for each can find Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta information. In addition, because some sites feed off each other—for example, Facebook allows direct posting of Instagram posts—a powerfully connected intersite presence emerges that allows the Fiesta to grow not only within each platform, but across them as well.

    The surge from social media sites particularly benefits the Balloon Fiesta because it allows connection by users on every site. Connections yield shares and greater exposure, connected to an event that already has beauty and longevity on its side. When all six platforms are deployed, the reach of the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta through all of the social media user networks to which it becomes connected allows it to grow in exposure far beyond what even its history and prestige would otherwise allow.

    Inviting Social Media Influencers


    While the Balloon Fiesta reaches out to the masses, it nonetheless acknowledges the benefits that some social media users bring beyond what everyday users can provide. After naming large, popular online sites on which articles about the Fiesta have appeared, the event website goes on to encourage “social media influencers and community managers” to apply for media credentials. Traditional media outlets, like CNN, The New York Times, The Weather Channel, and NBC’s The Today Show cover the event, but alongside those titans’ reporters will appear individuals with large online followings and presences.

    The concept of social media power players as credentialed media members accomplishes two goals at the same time. First, it empowers the more significant social media users to focus specifically on this event, with a legitimacy that encourages diligent coverage. Social media can provide a tenuous layer of support for a person or event, as many who have conducted live Twitter Q&A sessions can attest. But the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, by directing particular users to drive the coverage there, helps mitigate the risk that irreverence among those who do not take what they are doing seriously could derail coverage. It brings a potentially volatile mix into the fold.

    Second, the drive to gain coverage through influencers helps ensure that the event achieves its maximum social media reach. Page rankings depend in part on the reputation score that a website attains. By giving preferential treatment to the social media users who lead thought in relevant areas, and thus giving them more reason to give attention to this event, the organizers of the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta are setting themselves up to generate more page views, more attention, and more overall success for an event that is already doing very well for itself.

    Drive for Interactive Experiences

    In its focus on generating social media attention, the Balloon Fiesta allows its media presence to serve as an interactive experience for those interested in the event. Social media gains some power from people looking at pictures and seeking more information, but that represents a small component. Every social media like, comment, or share helps boost the profile, and with it the success, of the event. Users take action on the posts, and with every instance of those actions, the posts gain more visibility—as posts of general interest, and as posts that weave their way through the social media feeds of other users and their networks.

    By allowing this across so many social media platforms, the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta maximizes the impact it can make there. This helps it gain more advertisers and fund the event, because its potential audience increases exponentially through each platform. And by creating a more involved audience, letting them feed off of the excitement the event generates in turn allows the event to feed off of them, in a symbiotic relationship that helps everyone involved.

    Leveraging History and Prestige

    Of course, the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta is not trying to create itself from scratch. It has reached its forty-fifth year, and has grown steadily into a massive, international event. Social media may be new to the party, but the party itself has been going on for decades, with no sign of slowing down. The event organizers are using new tools in addition to the prestigious traditional media players not to build from the ground up, but to expand higher into the stratosphere.

    The lessons here are plentiful. Even a brand new business has a history, a story to tell. The Balloon Fiesta is telling its old story through new outlets, and developing new stories to add in. The past, present, and future will be well-represented, through older media outlets and the most current social media players. The result is an audience that mixes current, loyal customers with a new group, people who attend every year with people who will follow the event and plan to attend one day. Growth in the present certainly plays a part of the strategy, but growth into the future plays a role as well.

    When an event this large and prestigious trends on social media, it creates excitement and energy that belie its status as a traditional endeavor. The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta lives off of tradition, but its social media strategy demonstrates that it is not relying on it or settling for being merely a traditional event. The growth strategy creates opportunities that focus forward just as much as they focus backward.

    The Power of Pictures

    Through all of this, neglecting the simplest of social media strategies would miss one of the greatest aspects of what the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta offers. Social media thrives on images. Feeds on most of the platforms available include written content, but capture the most attention through visual content: images and videos. The Balloon Fiesta offers an opportunity for some breathtaking photographs and videos, from a clear, blue sky dotted with colorful balloons to the slow rise and movement of an individual balloon into the air. The event is set for the optimal time of year in Albuquerque for the best images to emerge.

    The social media focus within the overall media strategy takes full advantage of this opportunity. For nine days, the spectacle will provide ample opportunity for spectators to take pictures, then share them throughout the social media landscape. The focus on social media influencers in particular allows the visual content to reach high levels of exposure across large social networks. In short, the social media strategy is designed to help not only achieve the organizers’ goals, but to move the event to levels it has never before reached.

    SEO Lessons

    Not every event or company has the established advantages that the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta has. Still, the approach it takes provides an excellent blueprint for leveraging social media into greater gains. Spreading a consistent presence across multiple, sensible outlets should provide the beginning step in any social media marketing strategy. From there, taking steps to extend the reach and keep the voice positive and consistent across those outlets can help many businesses. The internet can be a snarky place, particularly on social media; working with major influencers and treating social media like a legitimate piece of the media on which you rely can help ensure your voice is not distorted along the way.

    Beyond this, work with the basics. You have a story and identity, and these should come through on your social media pages. Use imagery that fits the story and identity in ways that people will appreciate and share. If you build out a presence in these ways, you have an opportunity to grow well beyond your current state.

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