How to Generate Buzz and Attract Millennials to Your Event (Case Study: Hennepin History Museum)

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Museum Resources November 19, 2019 How to Generate Buzz and Attract Millennials to Your Event (Case Study: Hennepin History Museum)

Are you looking to increase the “buzz” around your next event?  Have you considered using Facebook advertising?

Hennepin History Museum is an awesome institution celebrating the history of Minneapolis in unique, engaging ways.  The museum is also experiencing massive growth, having doubled their attendance and bottom line within one year.  We recently worked with Hennepin History Museum to brainstorm new ways of attracting millennials, and they were so happy with the results that they engaged us to help market their July event, After Hours at the Museum: Bees!

On average, Hennepin’s events attract about thirty attendees.  The audience development team  wanted to increase attendance at their event, using this buzzing good time to engage new guests with their awesome collections.  Hennepin was also celebrating their newest residents: bees!  Perched on the roof of the Hennepin History Museum, the beehives were the perfect opportunity to introduce the museum to new audiences.

Hennepin History Museum called Museum Hack to help increase attendance, and we knew the perfect solution.  Working with the museum staff, we utilized hyper-targeted Facebook advertising to reach millennials in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area and make their event a success.  Read on to find out how our Audience Development Agency made After Hours at the Museum: Bees a buzzing success!

Step One: Create a Plan

To kick things off, we met with Hennepin History Museum Director Cedar Phillips to discuss the event and the type of audience they wanted to attract.  We knew this would be the perfect event for attracting millennial audiences because it featured live bands, bee-inspired food and drinks, fun activities, and an emphasis on supporting local vendors and celebrating an animal vital to our ecosystem – all things that millennials crave.  Hennepin History Museum also provided us with pictures of people engaging with their spaces and the bees, as well as insights from past events.

Hennepin History Museum was already utilizing Facebook Events and their Facebook Page to post about the event, but they weren’t conducting any targeted paid outreach to help attract new audiences.  Hennepin agreed to grant our Agency staff permission to post to their event and page as Hennepin History Museum.  By acting as a native staff member, we ensured that all of our posts and paid ads would direct Facebook users to Hennepin’s page and increase their reach rather than our own.

We also developed a plan for free advertising that Hennepin History Museum staff could use on their own.  This plan included recommendations on local event calendars and press opportunities, area influencers whom the museum could personally invite to attend the event, and suggested language for posting about the event on their other social media channels.

Step Two: Get Facebook Ready

Though Hennepin History Museum had already set up a Facebook Event page for their event, we wanted to take things up a notch.  Our best practices show that in order to attract millennial audiences, museums need to get fun and funky with their language.  We worked with Hennepin History Museum to change their standard language into an engaging, adventure-filled lure.

We took the bee theme as our inspiration, using strategic keywords like “buzzing” and “buzz-worthy” to tap into millennials’ desire for events that are share-worthy, social, and fun.  We also linked directly to the Facebook pages of vendors who would be at the event, highlighting how the museum supports local businesses and bands.  By using fun language, Hennepin History Museum positioned their event as a museum adventure – something different from traditional expectations.

In addition, we utilized some of our best practices to ensure that our social marketing would be a success.  Hennepin History Museum created the hashtag #BeeNight to encourage social sharing of the event, enabling audiences to easily generate buzz.  We also encouraged potential attendees to pre-purchase tickets, noting that they would receive a discount off the standard admission price.  By using custom hashtags and special discounts, we ensured that we could start converting people “interested” in the event into attendees long before the event took place.

Finally, no Facebook Event page is complete without regular postings.  We drafted and implemented a plan for strategic posts to Hennepin’s Event page as well as their main Facebook page.  These posts encourage Hennepin’s main audience, as well those who have responded “Interested,” to pre-purchase tickets through fun sneak peeks, tagging vendors who would attend, and reminders on special discounts.

Step Three: Buzz It Up with Facebook Ads

While Facebook posts and Events publicize events, these methods don’t work very well for generating social buzz and attracting new audiences.  We knew that the best way to increase attendance and attract the coveted millennial audience was hyper-targeted Facebook advertising.

Using our best practices, we developed and implemented a series of Facebook ads that would use fun language and images to appeal to millennials in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.  Working with Hennepin History Museum, we used the details of their event to identify specific Interests and Facebook Pages that were relevant to the event.  We crafted specific geographic and interest-based targets that would deliver our ads specifically to millennials in Minneapolis who were looking for a fun night out featuring bee-inspired drinks and fun.

We ran ad campaigns during the three weeks prior to After Hours at the Museum: Bees!  Our first set of ads tested our audience targeting, using different languages with the same image.  These tests revealed our targets were working – garnering over 50 event responses within the first week, with 70% of those responses being from millennials!  We also noted that paid ads helped to increase the event’s organic reach by vastly increasing the amount of likes and shares as people who saw our ads shared the event organically with friends.

In our next set of ads, we added additional Interest-based targeting to expand our reach.  We also used new language, testing out an image we created specifically for the event.

Our custom image for Hennepin History Museum’s After Hours event.
Our custom image for Hennepin History Museum’s After Hours event.

This second set of ads garnered 60 event responses!  By the end of our second ad sets, our paid and organic efforts had increased the event responses from paid and organic efforts to nearly 500 – doubling the event’s reach from the week before.

Through our efforts, we reached over 25,000 people and garnered over 640 event responses.  Over 75% of those we reached were millennials between 18 and 34 – right on target for Hennepin History Museum’s goals.  And all for just $400.

A Buzz-Worthy Success!

The true test of our efforts happened during After Hours at the Museum: Bees!  And we passed!  Our Agency marketing services helped Hennepin History Museum triple their average event attendance from 30 to over 90 – and many of the people who attended stated that they had heard about the event through Facebook.

Cedar Phillips, Executive Director of the Hennepin History Museum, stated:

“It was such a great event! And honestly, also such a relief not to be the one who was handling the Facebook marketing. (And also so easy just to be able to use the tweets and the email text you’d already generated!)  We had 90 people there, and based on conversations, almost all were new to the museum. Most were drawn in by the theme (bees are HOT), but many also were interested in the rest of what we offer. The vast majority of people seemed to be in their 20s and 30s.

I’ve also had multiple people mention to me that they couldn’t make the bee night event, but that it sounded like fun. I’m hoping that this successful event will jumpstart our larger program, and start to build a base that will expand exponentially in the future. And now, thanks to your work and report, we have a much better understanding of how to approach this audience and how to get them through the door.

Oh, and I got to hear Nick Gray talk at the AMM conference last week; what a great presentation!  I was sorry that I didn’t get a chance to talk to him in person, but Museum Hack was an awesome addition to the lineup.  And because he called out HHM at one point, people kept coming up to me afterwards asking me about my experience.  (I told them all the best things!)

I’m thrilled with the attention the event received and the numbers of people who showed up. We definitely reached the audience we were targeting, and I hope we can continue to bring them back in the future.

The responses to our paid ads and at the event itself demonstrate how beneficial hyper-targeted Facebook advertising can be for museums seeking to reach new audiences and increase attendance.  Even better, these ads also helped Hennepin History Museum gain new page likes, which means new potential patrons!

Have an upcoming event you’d like to market to new audiences? Contact us to learn more about how our Audience Development Agency can make your event a buzzing success!


written with 💖 by Museum Hack

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