Dave Grohl and the Foo Fighters just premiered the first episode of Sonic Highways, an HBO series and companion record that follows the band across eight cities as they ingest and pay homage to the diversity of American music.
I was among a limited number of fans, roughly 1,500, to get into the Foo Fighters’ crowdsourced show at The National in Richmond, Va., on Sept. 17. It is widely believed to be the first time that a rock show has been organized in this manner, and Grohl has said it could be the future of concert promotion.
Most attendees paid $50 for the show, before it even existed, with a promise of a refund if the Foo Fighters declined the invitation. I, on the other hand, missed the window of opportunity to buy tickets. As a result, I had to pursue a much more challenging route to get there by attempting to win tickets offered by the concert’s commercial proponents (Sugar Shack Donuts and Brown’s Volkswagen).
Along the way, I learned a few lessons that I believe apply to marketing, particularly when dealing with social media. It took some time, but I ended up winning not once – but twice – on the day before the concert.
Here are some of the things I gleaned from the nearly two weeks spent trying to win tickets:
- Form A Network – I was striking out constantly until I connected with other folks (Cathe, Joanne, Mark and Shannon) who were also vying for tickets. We bonded on Facebook, eventually calling ourselves the “Foo Five” while keeping each other informed as to contests and other promotions. When it was all said and done, every member of our unofficial group had tickets in hand.
- Create a Brand – We had our alliance formed, but we still needed a way to stand out and get noticed. Brown’s VW was making full use of hashtags, so I decided we should have one of our own. Whenever possible, we would drop #FooFive into our posts. I knew we had traction when other people starting referring to our group by using our hashtag. We were on the radar screen.
- Make People Notice You – I could have easily called this one persistence and personality (which would be a great name for a Foo Fighters record). A member of our group, Mark, excelled at this. One evening, he found so many creative ways to post on Brown’s VW Facebook page. He wrote witty messages and uploaded photos with slick captions, including one where he doctored Brown’s winners list to include his own name. It worked, and Mark was among the first of us to win.
- Put Yourself Out There – To truly get noticed, you sometimes have to leave your comfort zone. I certainly did that by recording and uploading a desperate karaoke version of “Monkey Wrench” for Sugar Shack Donuts. Rather than tighten up, I had fun with it, using high kicks and direct pleadings to the company to pick my video. I won! They told me later that I was the only participant who “understood what desperate meant.” I think that was a compliment.
- Target Your Marketing – Too often during the contests, I passively posted items on my Facebook and Twitter accounts asking people to vote on certain entries. It didn’t work. Eventually, with great advice from Faith and Mark, I send personal messages to friends asking them to ‘like’ my posts. I also used the messages as a chance to reconnect with people, which was a nice bonus. I think this approach only works when you are sincere in your approach and avoid the temptation to just hit people up for a favor.
- Expect Surprises – This lesson was great. The entire time we were jockeying for attention from Brown’s VW, we thought we were trying to catch the eye of General Manager Bill Colgate. I met Bill and his wife at the concert, where I found out that she was the one who kept watching the Foo Five antics and encouraged her husband to pick certain winners. It goes to show with social media that you really don’t know who is on the other side, creating a heightened need to be creative in a way that has broad-based appeal.
For me, the crowdsourced concert was part of a much larger narrative. This experience
began as an obsessed attempt to score tickets to a once-in-a-lifetime show. It ended up becoming an opportunity to forge friendships, and learn lessons, that will hopefully last a lifetime!Those were some of the major takeaways that I wrote down in the few weeks since the show. I’m sure there were other lessons that the rest of the Foo Five could provide. We all had fun vying for those tickets.
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