Shares surrounding events are 5x more likely to draw clickbacks within 24 hours. That’s a huge opportunity for marketers considering RTM strategies. Connecting with the right audiences at the right time allows marketers to tap into major swells in social engagement. But as we’ve found, RTM isn’t a “set it and forget it” affair. Sharing patterns around certain events can’t be predicted any more than the events themselves can be predicted. That’s why it’s especially important to rope in audience segmentation and media delivery with your RTM strategies, not just messaging.

We analyzed sharing patterns around a handful of the quarter’s most notable news, broadcast, and cultural events. Some of these–Shark Week, Burning Man, and the iPhone launch, for example–were expected. Others–the Napa Valley Earthquake, #IceBucketChallenge, and ISIS unrest–weren’t so much. Whatever the case may be, we found a handful of characteristics that give certain events their own social “fingerprint”:

Channel usage varies greatly based on the type of event. Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit have proven themselves to be major forums for discussion around events. As we found last quarter, each channel has unique characteristics, which lends itself to different topics of conversation. Twitter–with its real-time feed and active user base–spikes by 2x around sports and entertainment events. News and politics, it seems, are topics best left to Reddit, where in-depth discussion and analysis are encouraged.

Major events cause swings in channel usage. Facebook seems to be the dominant platform to discuss major updates in the weeks surrounding a major event, commanding 85% of activity within a 2-3 week period (31% more than usual). However, Twitter and Reddit are the more reactive channels – within 2-3 days of an event, Twitter activity jumps by 3x.

Here’s a recent example: Apple’s keynote presentation on September 9th caused the internet to explode with buzz: activity reached nearly 40,000 shares the moment Tim Cook emerged on stage (a 400% increase in Internet activity surrounding the event). Taking a closer look at the channel breakout of these shares, Twitter dominated online engagement during the presentation outpacing Facebook by about 70%. At the conclusion of the event, most Twitter activity had died down and Facebook was once again the dominant channel, making up 68% of Internet activity surrounding the event.

The same goes for device usage. Entertainment and culture events are far more active on mobile, while news & politics are more often discussed on desktops. Whatever the case may be, though, mobile activity jumps during events to represent 72% of total sharing (33% more than average). Users are more likely to socialize unexpected content on the go.

 

We saw this trend during the final weeks of Jeter’s career. For the duration of Jeter’s retirement tour, the majority of sharing took place on Desktop. However, the only times we saw mobile sharing outpace PC sharing were during the final games of his career at Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park. These two events caused a spike in mobile sharing as people were more likely to report on the event happenings in real time on the go.

For broadcast events–like Shark Week and the NFL season opener–we also found a 2x spike in tablet sharing. This was especially true around the time of the event itself–peak hours for tablet sharing were between 8pm and 10pm, providing a certain level of credence to the concept of the “Second Screen.”

   

What was more interesting, however, was that such sharing was not always directly related to the show itself, but still surrounded TV activity in general. During Shark Week, for example, Animal and Nature categories saw a 16x lift, but TV show sharing jumped by roughly 22x. Similarly, NFL sharers were 19x more likely share about football, but 45x more likely to share about soccer.

   

Different events draw engagement from different audiences. Significant variances in sharing activity existed between every event. International crises (like the ongoing threat of ISIS in the middle east) drew more sharing from older, male audiences. On the other hand, the Ferguson unrest was generally younger and more likely to be female. Burning Man, it seems, generated a lot of social buzz from older, higher income audiences.

The one exception to this observation was that younger audiences tend to be the first to react. For the most part, sharing lift increased with age group, especially within days of an event. In the first 24 hours after an event, users 18-25 were 2.1x more likely to share. After 1-2 weeks, however, the conversation was picked up by older audiences, with users 55 and over being 50% more likely share.

   

Finally, we found that event sharing is highly localized, more so than other types of sharing. In the days and weeks around major events, sharing activity skews significantly toward the states in which these events are taking place. The Napa earthquake caused a 5x surge in activity in California, with sharing lifts rippling out to 2-3x in neighboring states. Similar effects took place in Missouri after the Ferguson riots, as well as in Washington and Wisconsin when their home teams kicked off the NFL season.

 

Whatever the case may be, events have sharing patterns that are unpredictable and change on a daily, or even hourly, basis. That’s why it’s especially important to set up a true, comprehensive RTM platform that layers in social data, making sure that audience identification, messaging, and media delivery are all optimized programmatically. Don’t just blast out a snarky tweet and call it a day.

 

  • LEVERAGE THE REACTIVE CHANNELS
    We already know that different platforms lend themselves to different conversations. This phenomenon is only amplified when it comes to event sharing. Immediately after something happens, you can expect Twitter and Reddit sharing to spike. But be aware of context: look to Twitter when it comes to sports and TV events, and Reddit when reaching out to users with interests in politics and current events.

  • ACT FAST TO REACH MILLENNIALS
    Millennials are often the first to react on social media, providing a powerful incentive for brands looking to reach such audiences with RTM strategies. But they should act fast – millennials are most active within the first 24 hours of an event.

  • UTILIZE THE SECOND SCREEN.
    Social users flock to lean on their handheld devices to stay updated on events throughout the day. Brands should take advantage of this by layering in a mobile component to all their RTM efforts. For broadcast events, focus on tablets to reach users at peak engagement as they’re tuning in.

  • DIVERSIFY YOUR CONTENT STRATEGIES
    Many events cause ripples in social activity across many different topics. For example, shark week conversation weren’t just about sharks, general discussions about TV and nature spiked even as episodes were being broadcast. In order to truly capture an event’s audience, marketers shouldn’t limit their focus on content specifically related to the event in question.

Check out reports from previous quarters here, and please email pr@sharethis.com for a PDF copy of the report.

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