Live events are unpredictable. News broadcasts, live sporting events, concerts, and award shows are all susceptible to Murphy’s Law (what can go wrong will go wrong). There are certain types of events that you can plan better than others, but things don’t always go according to plan. As Mike Tyson said, “Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.”
This is doubly true for people whose job it is to document such events. There is so much more that they can’t control or predict, yet they have to tell a captivating story about what’s happening while it’s happening. It’s not always easy. Can you gain access to a unique location to get a good shot? Will people let you take their picture? Are you creating content that people want to follow along with? Do you share now or later?
If you’re documenting live events on Instagram Stories, there are questions you have to ask and things you should consider in order to give you the best chance at capturing those fleeting moments and making the most of them.
What is the goal of the coverage?
Before you think about what you need to do, you need to think about why you’re doing it. What purpose will this serve? Do you want to inform, educate, entertain, or convert? The type of event that you’ll be covering and your marketing objectives will determine the purpose of the content and will influence every other decision you make around it.
Here are some common reasons for covering a live event on social media:
Real-time coverage is probably the most anticipated reason for covering a live event. In the case of a sporting event, the coverage on social media is not intended to replace the experience of attending the game, but rather supplement it. The people who attended the game can relive some of the highlights, people who couldn’t attend can stay informed, and both groups can get a different perspective than they could have otherwise.
Promotion before an event is crucial, but promotion doesn’t end when the event starts. Throughout, there are so many opportunities to get the word out about other goings-on; more of the venue’s upcoming events, other occasions to take in a repeat of this one, other things that the people involved are doing, etc. Not to mention, anyone can happen across your coverage midway through and join the conversation.
Humanize your brand by putting a face to it. Give followers a person (or a couple of people) to interact with for the day to remind them that there are human beings behind those jerseys, logos, instruments, podiums, or microphones. When you show your followers that your brand is more than just a logo, they’re guaranteed to care and be more invested in the success or failure, however it plays out.
Audience engagement will look different for every brand and/or every event, so this is where your marketing objectives come in. How do you want viewers to get involved? Whether you want them to buy tickets, tune into a live stream, submit questions for a Q&A, or whatever else, you need to give them the opportunity to do so. Not only that, tying it to a live event will give it more of an urgency, a push to encourage people to engage now rather than later.
Behind-the-scenes posts are a good idea for content any time because they create more interested & invested fans. Whenever a brand gives their followers a little something extra (a cameo from a celebrity, a free giveaway, a shoutout, etc.), it makes them more interested and engaged. Behind-the-scenes content is no different. It’s a peek behind the curtain at how the sausage gets made so that there will be a different level of interest when they’re watching the final product.
What is your brand voice?
This is something that should be previously determined for your brand. Essentially, your brand voice encompasses the tone, look, and feel of all of your marketing to help and craft a certain perception of your brand. They’re broad things, like the logo design, but they can also be very specific, like why you chose that colour, that symbol, that style. Some companies find, develop, and tweak their brand over time, but committing to one is not an accident. It’s an intentional decision in order to help shape how people see them and how they see themselves.
Think of some of the big brands across social media. Some of them are straight-laced while others are laid-back. Some make jokes while others wouldn’t be caught dead posting a meme. While it’s important for a company to know who they are, it’s also important for them to know who they are not.
It’s important to know these things before you start creating content around a live event because you have to ensure that you’re properly representing the brand. You’ll want to post content that has the right tone and using text and images in keeping with the brand’s colours. This keeps things consistent. Could you imagine watching McDonald’s Instagram Story one day and everything was blue? How about if Energizer suddenly used a dog instead of the pink bunny? It’s not that either of these things would be bad or too damaging, but every time your brand posts content is an opportunity to reinforce who you are to your community and to the world.
All of this culminates in people feeling a certain way about your brand. There is no right or wrong way (straight-laced vs. laid-back, serious vs. jovial) but it is important to decide which is right for your brand and then reinforce it so that people associate those images with you and people know what to expect when they see content from you.
Once all of the different elements of the brand’s voice are determined, you can create templates in order to help to maintain a consistent look and feel whenever there are new posts, regardless of who’s posting them and when.
Who is your audience?
Similarly to your brand voice, your audience would be determined well in advance of any live events. In fact, it would be determined before your brand voice so that the voice can be tailored to the people you want to reach.
When you think about your audience, think about who they are. What is their job or industry? What are some of their interests? Their age? Their relationship status? This might be easier for some events than others. It might be easy to predict the types of people who would attend a conference about computer programming, or a classic rock concert, and a little harder to determine who would go to a farmer’s market. Still, write it all down. Doing this will help you craft or curate your content with a bit more intention.
Who are the key influencers?
This is where you humanize your brand, and who you use to do that will likely differ with each live event, even ones conducted by the same company. If each event has a different audience or demographic, then the people you choose to represent your brand on social media should be different as well.
A music venue would not use the same influencer to promote two completely different performers. The same person who gets people hyped about a basketball game likely wouldn’t have the same impact on football fans. Once you know your audience, you can get the right face to represent your brand leading up to and during the event.
You see this often with musicians, comedians, and sports teams. It’s common for ‘the talent’ to take over the venue’s social accounts or for players to take turns running their team’s accounts. There is no better way to accomplish humanizing your brand, getting behind-the-scenes content, and promoting the event than by using the influence of the popular people who the audience is going to be there to see anyway.
Make sure that the person or people representing your brand are familiar with the brand voice and that they utilize tagging (usernames and locations) in order to make sharing and organic reach a whole lot easier.
What exclusive content can you bring to your audience?
One of the main reasons that anyone follows anyone on social media is because they can’t get that same content anywhere else. Everyone has a unique perspective, angle, interpretation, and experience that they can share, and live events are no different. Someone posting to Instagram Stories on behalf of a band will have something different to show and tell than a camera crew ever will. Being given a tour of a stadium before a match is something that only followers will get to see. It’s about access, both for the person who’s creating the content and for the audience who are getting the value from it.
What are the strategic locations?
Where can you go to get those unique angles and perspectives that we just talked about? Think about the venue and ask yourself “Where would be a really cool place to get a shot from?” Maybe you can get into the batter’s box, or centre field, or backstage, or the green room.
What are some things that are off limits?
Before you start scouting locations, make sure you know where you can’t go. Different venues and different types of events will have different rules.
We’re not just talking about locations, though. We’re also talking about content. When you determined the brand voice and you figured out how to represent it and how you don’t… make sure to avoid the latter. Keep a consistent tone for the brand and make sure that you’re allowed to talk to the people you want to and share the information that you want to. Make sure that you’re not dealing with embargoed content and that you get permission from people before filming or photographing them.
“Ask for forgiveness instead of permission” doesn’t apply when your brand’s reputation is on the line.
What is the event agenda?
Hindsight is always 20/20 but current events rarely present with that much clarity. If your job relies on capturing fleeting moments, you know how frustrating it can be to see a good one slip through your fingers.
Knowing what, when, and where things will be happening is going to make your life a whole lot easier. It’s bad enough to miss a critical moment with your camera, but it’s even worse if you’re not even in the same room. You want to make sure that you make the most of the time, energy, and resources that you have to create the best content that you can. By planning where you should be and when, you can do just that.
Don’t forget that there is probably a lot you can do outside of the scheduled time of the event, too. If you can, show up a bit early and stay a bit late. There will be other stories that you can tell that you may not have found otherwise. One example might be the ultimate behind-the-scenes content… the setup and teardown to bookend the rest of your story.
What, who, why, where, and when. These are the things to make sure you know before you cover a live event on Instagram Stories.
What are you trying to achieve?
What is your brand voice?
What’s off limits?
Who is your audience?
Who would make people interested?
Why would people watch, what are you providing them?
Where can you go for a unique perspective?
When and where is everything happening?
Answer these questions, and you’ll be prepared to cover a live event. Be ready to adapt your strategy to the unexpected, but this is a solid foundation and a good start to getting people interested in your event and showcasing it as well as you can afterward.
One last thing to keep in mind… Just because the event is live, doesn’t mean your content has to be. You can prepare some content beforehand, take photos and videos during, and post a lot of it afterward. This way, you can focus on capturing and documenting during the event itself and worry about the storytelling later.
We created a worksheet to guide you through these questions and make notes when you have answers.
Shoutout to Jennifer Fisher, Social Media Marketing Manager for Iowa Hawkeyes, who contributed her depth of experience when capturing live events on Instagram Stories for this article
Jenifer was selected from more than 100 students at more than 60 universities in its Instagram Student Section program to take over its official @Instagram account(which has more than 277 million followers)’s story to cover the National College Football Championships, and we couldn’t be happier to have collaborated with her too!
Instagram: @jferfish28 Twitter: @Jferfish28