The 2020 Guide to Instagram for Event Marketing

Go beyond just followers to more ticket sales

Congratulations! You decided to create your own event. You have the right venue and the right people in place, but how do you get them to actually show up? Social media has become a powerful tool for event creators in finding the right attendees. 

While Facebook may have taken centre stage for the past few years, it’s not the only place to get potential attendees’ attention anymore. Instagram is the social network to build your event’s presence. Algorithm changes are making event promotion on social media increasingly difficult, but Instagram provides a direct way to connect with event-goers. 

Eighty percent of Instagram users follow at least one business on Instagram, and 200 million users check out a brand’s profile every day. 

If you’re not on Instagram, your event will be left behind. But attracting thousands of Instagram followers is not your ultimate objective. Your goal is to sell tickets – and that won’t happen unless you’re strategic about how you use the platform. 

So how can your team use an Instagram account to drive tangible ticket sales? 

Here’s how smart event creators convert Instagram from a brand-engagement tool to a ticket sales conversion platform. 

This guide is for… 

Event founders, owners, and marketing directors who want to convert Instagram from a simple engagement tool into a powerful ticket selling platform with measurable ROI. 

What you’ll learn… 

  • Advanced Instagram strategies to drive ticket sales 
  • The overlooked elements of Instagram’s interface that your team should use 
  • How your team can create advertising and influencer campaigns

The basics

800 800 million monthly users and is growing quickly
100M 100 million new users added in just a month
18-35 Skews toward millennials but is growing in popularity among every age group

The potential for brands

2M 2 million advertisers take advantage of Instagram’s Facebook-powered ad options
14% 14% of millennials say they would buy a product from someone they follow on Instagram

And perhaps, most importantly

30% of Instagram users have made a purchase that they first saw on Instagram

01. Profile

Build the foundation of your Instagram strategy 

Your event’s profile is the anchor for your Instagram marketing. It’s a snapshot of your brand, a glimpse at your “post portfolio,” and a high-level visual and textual description of who you are. Users navigate to your profile when they want to learn what your event is – or commit to attending. Yet this valuable space in your event’s profile has room for just one URL and a measly 150-character bio. And there’s another wrinkle: To maximise your reach, your profile needs to be discoverable by people searching on Instagram. 

Want to verify that your account is managed by your event? 

The blue checkmark verification icon next to your Instagram username is elusive. Instagram doesn’t publicly reveal how verification is assigned – you can’t request it or pay for it. The most direct route to becoming a verified Instagram account is to simply grow your followers – bigger accounts tend to become verified.

For creators with multiple events and lots to say, it’s vital your team distills the information here down to its essentials: 

  • Concise, engaging copy 
  • A clear image 
  • Correct URL 
  • Searchable keywords 
  • Relevant hashtags 
“People are moving fast on Instagram, and if you make it too hard, you’ll lose them.”
— Christy Huggins, Director of Digital Marketing at Eventbrite

Use your one URL wisely 

The link in your profile is your best chance at driving sales through Instagram. Some creators create a specific landing page for Instagram traffic to orient visitors whose interest was piqued by different Instagram posts. If you’re promoting multiple events, you can tease them all here, with deeper links to send people where they want to go. 

Or, if you use a ticketing platform like Eventbrite, you can send users straight to your Eventbrite organiser profile page, where they’ll see all your events and other links in your bio. Just be sure that wherever your team points them, the site is built to be viewed on phones, where the vast majority of Instagram users are. 

Event spotlight: Sweet Expo

Sweet Expo accomplishes a lot in a little space with their Instagram profile.

  •  The what: “Everything cake decorating, baking, and celebrating”
  • The where: Moore Park, Sydney
  • The when: July 27-28
  • The how:

02. Posts

Bring your event to life 

The most unique aspect of Instagram is that it’s a visual-first platform. Capturing attention through visual assets will be part of any event’s major success. Publishing consistent, quality social media content throughout the year can be challenging for event creators. You know to announce lineups and onsale dates, but on a daily basis, your team needs to  tell a much bigger story. 

“Your account should be of value to your users, not just a platform to push ticket sales. You have to earn the right to make that sale.”
— Christy Huggins, Director of Digital Marketing at Eventbrite

Posts are a place to build ongoing engagement that leads to ticket sales. And posts that include geolocation tags get 79% more engagement. Your team should take advantage of all the ways Instagram lets you express your event with organic content, including: 

  • Posting photo albums on a theme (up to 10 photos at once) 
  • Sharing videos (video views are up over 80% since last year on Instagram) 
  • Using custom hashtags and geolocation tags to expand your reach 
  • Tagging influencers associated with your event, such as artists, speakers, sponsors, or vendors 

Seven out of 10 hashtags on Instagram were made by a brand. If your brand team engages users for the months leading up to your on-sale date, followers will be primed to buy. To inspire your team, show them the following two examples of creators that have mastered Instagram posts. 

Event Spotlight: The SF Ballet

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then an IG post is certainly worth more than a tweet. Just ask the SF Ballet! Ballet is a visual medium, and San Francisco Ballet’s creative Instagram posts mirror the aesthetic precision of this dance form. 

@sfballet often posts series of photos that, when viewed in the default grid format on the company’s profile page, create a mosaic. These stunning visuals help tell the SF Ballet story in a unique way. The takeaway for your brand? Don’t be afraid to think outside the box about how you can tie posts together to tell users  a bigger story about your events. The SF Ballet isn’t the only event using Instagram to create engagement…

Event Spotlight: Newport Folk Festival

For nearly sixty years, the Newport Folk Festival has lit up seaside Rhode Island every summer. To stay on fan minds the rest of the year, the festival’s social media team gets creative.

They don’t just rehash old clips and snapshots or tease next year’s fest to their 36,000 followers. Because Newport Folk Festival is heavily involved with the local music community year-round, @newportfolkfest is always full of live music ideas for fans, as well as tributes and acknowledgements to musical icons and legends within the greater folk community. 

Inspired? Try sharing practical tips, inspirational quotes, or industry interviews on your Instagram page. 

03 Stories

Drive instant engagement – and sales

If posts showcase the best of your event, stories record what’s happening right now. String together snapshots and short (10-second) videos, and you create an ephemeral story that lasts for only 24 hours. 

With more than 300 million daily active users, Instagram Stories are the future of the platform. As an event creator, this ephemeral posting method has strategic applications: 

  • Testing content: Stories are ideal for testing new tactics and types of content in a temporary environment. 
  • Teasing announcements: Before artist or speaker announcements, tease the reveal with hints, such as the speaker’s initials or a blurred picture that your followers have to decipher. 
  • Inspiring FOMO: Because the posts disappear, showcasing insider info, behind the scenes content, or flash sale promotions here will incite FOMO (fear of missing out). 

Best of all, as an event creator, you can convert viewers into attendees by: 

  • Adding links to your ticketing page: Once you have 10,000 followers, your team can add clickable links to your stories (something you can’t do with traditional Instagram posts). Your team shouldn’t miss this opportunity to link to your ticketing page – once a week at minimum. 
  • Converting your most successful stories into sponsored ads: If your Instagram account is a business account (more on this below), you can use Stories ads to connect directly to your ticketing page. 

The Stories feature is a darling of Instagram, and the platform is putting more and more emphasis on it, including the addition of an inline story promotion in user feeds and the ability for creators to feature story highlights on profile pages. As an event creator, if your team doesn’t start taking advantage of this feature soon, you’ll miss out. 

Why it pays to be a business on Instagram 

Instagram began to offer creators the ability to update to business profile status for free in 2016. Now, there are 25M active business profiles on Instagram and a third of the most viewed stories come from businesses.

More importantly, two-thirds of visitors to business profiles come from users who don’t yet follow that profile. That’s a lot of potential event-goers being exposed to your brand. And business profiles have other advantages, too: 

  • Metrics: Business profiles have access to metrics that general users don’t, including insight on both posts and stories, so you can see the numbers on your reach, impressions, replies, and exits. 
  • Contact: Business profiles get a “Contact” button on the bio, making it easier for followers to get in touch.
  • Easy ad creation: Businesses can convert posts and stories into ads or create ads from scratch with built-in tools that used to only be available via Facebook. 
  • Tagability: Business can tag their products in a post once they create a product through Facebook. For events, this means you can tag your merch, vendors, or other event swag in Instagram posts for a direct line to revenue. 

04. Advertising

 Double down on ticket sales

Instagram’s advertising M.O. is to keep the experience inline and authentic. From sponsored posts in user feeds to immersive, full-screen ads within stories, the user’s viewing experience is consistent and fluid. 

“Any event that has great visual content and narratives to share should be advertising on Instagram, especially if their core audience is present on Facebook and Instagram – i.e., millennials and younger crowds.”
— Linda Chen, Performance Marketing Manager at Eventbrite

With the power of Facebook’s advanced targeting algorithms behind Instagram advertising, your team can hone in on specific micro-audiences and prospect for followers who’ve displayed specific behaviours – like following other events. 

Aside from your profile, an ad is the only place you can embed a link straight to your ticketing page. This makes it a crucial tool for converting fans into ticket buyers. To optimise your strategy, have your team read this post on the anatomy of an ideal event ad. 

Create Instagram ads that work 

To get serious about Instagram advertising, consider a tool like Paid Social Ads powered by ToneDen that helps you get the most from your Instagram (and Facebook) ad dollars with automation and optimisation guidance. 

Paid Social Ads places the ads for you, pinpoints a target audience, and automates AB testing to hone and refine your ads for best results. If you’re an Eventbrite customer, you can manage this entire process right from your Eventbrite dashboard for quicker onboarding and a more integrated experience. 

Learn more: Grow Your Business with Paid Social Ads on Facebook and Instagram

“If you want to get your content in front of the right people, it’s a pay-to-play environment.”
— Ali Shakeri, CMO and Co-Founder of ToneDen

Creator spotlight: Museum of Ice Cream

Trendy pop-up exhibit Museum of Ice Cream was made for Instagram. The brand’s mouth-watering aesthetic promotes events all over the United States in a rainbow of delicious hues and whimsical visuals. The posts pop, and Museum of Ice Cream utilises Instagram Stories in savvy ways as well. 

A recent campaign promoted a partnership with Amex offering cardholders advanced tickets. @museumofcecream kept to the lush graphical theme without distracting from the ad message at hand. The call to action was swift and easy: The pop-up invites viewers to simply swipe up to sign up.

05. Influencers

Enlist brand ambassadors and local tastemakers 

Instagram is a marketing ecosystem, and influencers are at the top of the food chain. They range from paid brand ambassadors with enormous social clout to micro-influencers – your everyday fans who just happen to have a dedicated base of followers. And that base could soon be following your event as well. 

But establishing a relationship with an influencer is not just another way to broaden your reach. All Instagram roads should ultimately lead to ticket sales. Your team should work with influencers whose followers match your target market in terms of subject matter, demographics, and geographical location. 

Here are some ideas for influencer campaigns: 

  • Launch influencer campaigns around your ticket on-sale dates.
  • Offer influencers free tickets to your event to share their experience online. 
  • Let an influencer do an “Instagram takeover” of your account on Instagram Stories, during which they’ll encourage their fans to follow your account to follow along. 
  • Arm influencers with promo codes they can share with their fanbase (this is an especially effective tool to use with local tastemakers or micro influencers, who’ll love to reward fans with the perk). 

Just be sure your team has made the terms of your relationship clear before the promotion begins – they can learn more in this post.

Tools for building an influencer campaign 

Managing an entire influencer marketing campaign can be overwhelming for even the most savvy events team. To make their efforts more efficient, have a member of your team investigate these tech tools to find and manage your influencer program: 

  • SocialRank identifies potential influential Instagram accounts within your existing audience based on things like location, follower numbers, and engagement.
  • Scrunch helps your team find influencers based on topics and keywords, then connects you to these people. 
  • SocialLadder builds a team of brand ambassadors from within your event’s fan base and arms them with vanity promo codes. 
  • Verve motivates fans to sell tickets for you with an automated reward system and coaching. 

Event spotlight: Wanderlust Festival

Wanderlust may have started as a yoga-focused festival, but this global event is now so much more: wellness events all over the world, “mindful triathlons,” year-round yoga centres, streaming Wanderlust TV, and products to wear to all of the above. With such an abundant panoply of offerings, Instagram is a key marketing tool, helping Wanderlust tell stories year-round that string experiences together into a unified brand. 

@wanderlustfest also has a generous roster of built-in influencers among the thousands of yoga teachers, wellness advocates, and product makers hitching their star to the event’s industry cred. 

It’s no wonder that Wanderlust has a full-time community and influencer coordinator on staff. A symbiotic relationship with entrepreneurial social influencers gives Wanderlust a grassroots marketing advantage.

06. Giveaways

Motivate peer-to-peer engagement 

Instagram algorithms dictate where and when posts show up in feeds. Those that get the most engagement – likes, comments, video views, direct message (DM) shares, saved story views, and live video views – rise higher. You’ll often see creators use language like this: “Tag a friend for a chance to win tickets to our event.” 

Social media giveaways work because they’re engaging. With every new user tagged, you get an extra set of eyeballs on your post. 

“There’s a direct relationship between brand affinity and barrier to entry. If a giveaway is simply about liking your post, that’s a relatively low barrier to entry. User-generated content, on the other hand, attracts your highest engagers, your brand loyalists.”
— Linda Chen, Performance Marketing Manager at Eventbrite

But it’s worth repeating: Your ultimate goal with Instagram can and should be ticket sales. The law of attraction works well with Instagram giveaways. Enchant your followers with a chance to win tickets, VIP upgrades, sponsor products, or other types of unique, event-related experiences. They, in turn, invite others to participate. Entice them with your giveaways; convert them with your content. 

07. Sales

Make it as easy as possible for Instagram users to buy 

You’re doing the work to drive your Instagram followers to your website – now you need to convert them into ticket buyers. The vast majority of Instagram users are on their mobile app, which means that most users you attract are clicking through to your site and ticketing page on their phones. 

Making your ticketing site look good on phones isn’t just about design. Studies have shown a 160% increase in purchase completion with mobile-optimised payments. Don’t frustrate your Instagram audience with a website that’s hard to view and use on a small screen. Make sure: 

  • Your website displays well and can be navigated without a keyboard, mouse, or trackpad. 
  • Attendees don’t have to pinch and zoom to buy a ticket on your site, or scroll sideways to see all the fields in a form. 
  • You use a ticketing partner with a responsive site built to make it as easy as possible for Instagram users to purchase tickets.

Change the game with Instagram

Instagram has changed the game in the social media world for event creators. The visual platform is a perfect opportunity to attract potential attendees and drive engagement with your event. Whether you’re pushing out ads, creating visual concepts, or working with influencers, Instagram is a powerful tool to make sure the right attendees show up for your event and become raving fans. 

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