Spring brings in more than warm weather. It ushers in the beginning of music festival season, with events taking place almost every weekend from April to August. These range in size from a few hundred revelers to hundreds of thousands of concert-goers. As young people prepare for a weekend of music and fun, festival organizers work hard to bring in bigger crowds and big-name musical artists.

In a social media era, it's no surprise that festival organizers are emphasizing social in the ongoing effort to reach and keep younger consumers. Through what some organizers call "Instagram Takeovers," both artists and festival organizers are connecting with Instagram's built-in younger demographic to boost attendance and ignite interest in festivals across the country.

Bridging the Gap

Dave Graham, CEO of BottleRock Napa Valley, a large music festival in Northern California's wine country, says social media takeovers are a great way to bridge the gap between event attendees and their favorite artists. Participating artists take over the festival's account for the day, snapping and uploading photos and giving a behind-the-scenes glimpse into rehearsals and preparations. Imagine Dragons, No Doubt, Snoop Dogg, Robert Plant and Capital Cities are among the well-known artists attending the festival.

"It allows for artists to bring fans closer," Graham says. "Think about Instagram. It's one thing to see someone talking on Twitter, but on Instagram you can see what they're up to. You can see pictures of their scars, so to speak. We're big fans of takeovers. It's anti-corporate. It's about that given artist. We're allowing that artist to have a platform with our audience."

An Analytic Approach

BottleRock Napa Valley also allows artists to give tickets away to their loyal fans. Through this program, festival organizers can collect information on fans that they can analyze later. The festival is also giving away tickets on its Snapchat account. All of this data can also be put to use when putting together future festivals, in an effort to create new or repeat customers.

"Once we can know what kind of bands they are inclined to like, we can offer that to them," Graham says. "This all starts and stems from a social media approach."

Celebrities as Influencers

Brands are only beginning to learn the many ways they can leverage celebrity influence to reach customers. Public figures come with a built-in audience, giving marketers a head start in reaching out to audiences. This is true whether an organizer is promoting a multi-artist festival or a charity event.

Nick Cicero is CEO and founder of Delmondo, a talent agency that connects businesses with influencers. Brands, he acknowledges, are lacking when it comes to promoting their own events. This has led event organizers to seek inventive ways to incorporate influencers into their event promotion efforts through social media.

"So if I'm a promoter I may offer a top artist $10,000 to come play at a music festival," Cicero says. "Two or three years ago I may have just offered them their show and maybe asked them to do press. Now I'm like, 'Well we'd love for you to create X number of posts on Instagram and X number of tweets that talk about your participation at the festival, in addition to being a part of the event.' This is to try and really port some of those audiences over to wherever that event is."

Takeaways: Extending the Conversation

Many customers who approach people like Cicero for assistance are essentially interested in extending an existing story. Brands usually already have an existing audience for an event. But through working directly with the performers or influencers who are already participating, marketers can extend the conversation to reach a type of audience that wouldn't otherwise have known about the event.

"These audiences are generally going to waste," Cicero says. "Or the teams themselves, like on the musician or the influencer side, are sometimes not sure how to activate their participation in an event. So it benefits everybody."

In addition to extending the conversation using the artists who are involved in an event, brands are finding new ways to monetize. Once the online conversation is in full swing, event organizers find that businesses are eager to sign brand deals to be involved in something that is generating so much buzz.

Social media and content creation is changing the marketing landscape fundamentally. By finding new, innovative ways to reach customers through event participants, festival organizers are gaining increased exposure and more success with today's young crowds. These festivals have an advantage over traditional brands, since participating artists usually have huge built-in audiences they can leverage to spread the word.

For most regular brands though, it falls to marketing teams or consultants to search out appropriate influencers who might be a match. There are many services that can help you find people who may be willing to augment your existing marketing efforts. At the end of the day however, stick to the basics. Know that cornerstones to building your social presence (and meeting influencers) include staying active online, interacting with as many folks as appropriate, creating original content, and speaking with an authentic voice.

Published on: Apr 28, 2015
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.