Now, I’m not normally the type of blogger that attends (or gets invited to) media briefings for consumer events like AFA, but I was pretty stokked to attend this one since I am a huge anime fan. The press conference was more or less as I expected, and frankly, I’m pretty excited about AFA this year.
But I’m not here today to write about how AFA09 will have double the number of musical artistes compared to last year, with Yoshiki Fukuyama and Shoko Nakagawa joining AFA incumbents May’n and Ichirou Mizuki in concert.
Nor am I interested in writing about how the AFA09 venue will include a maid cafe featuring a group of seven “maids” that were handpicked through a closed-door audition process and which seems to be marketed more as an all-Japanese idol group but in reality the group consists of all Singaporean girls.
Lastly, I’m also not going to write about the pleasant yet not-so-surprising development that the powers that be are positioning Singapore as the next anime marketing and creativity hub – and as a first step in the right direction – are holding a one-day business conference (Animation Asia Conference 2009) together with AFA09.
Instead, and three run-on sentences later, I would like to highlight something I realized recently:
Nowadays you will hardly find any announcements or build-up for big events without some kind of social media component to it.
This is actually a good thing, particularly if the social media piece is executed well. And executing it well does not mean only coming up with an event #hashtag or liberally creating multiple Twitter accounts.
In AFA’s case, I believe that they integrated the social media aspect into their event build-up very nicely, and one way to understand it is to compare AFA09 with AFA08.
AFA08 was held on Nov 22/23 of 2008. According to DarkMirage’s blog post, the press conference was held on Sep 3, 2008, or two months before the event. Before then, not many people (if any at all) knew about the event – especially not casual anime fans like myself who were not tuned into the local online anime community. In fact, I didn’t even know about AFA08 until someone told me near the end of October, or only one month prior to the event. And many of my colleagues and friends didn’t know about AFA until I told them basically the week before.
Information flow for AFA08 was also pretty one-directional. Besides an email address listed on the AFA08 website for general inquiries and the option for users to befriend the AFA mascot (AFA-kun) on Facebook, I believe there really wasn’t much interaction between the fans and the event organizers.
AFA09 will also be held on Nov 22/23 of this year. This time around, the Facebook page and Twitter account for AFA09 was created as early as May 29, or a good six months before the event when the event build-up started (1st thing I like). Furthermore, if you scan through the Facebook and Twitter content streams, you will realize that it’s not a one-directional flow of information, but actual conversations are going on between the event organizers and the fans (2nd thing I like).
And what’s more – oftentimes the original content that is being posted has nothing to do with the event itself, but are anime-related news or tidbits that fans will enjoy (3rd thing I like). That helps position AFA’s social media channels to be not only a temporary thing just for this year, but actually an useful resource with a community that will come back and survive post-event. And of course, that could be very useful when you want to talk about AFA10, or market other products and services to the community.
(Interestingly, the AFA09 Facebook page has close to 10x more Fans than the AFA09 Twitter account has followers. Yet another validation that teens don’t really use Twitter?)
The thing is – as the handful of people reading this would probably know – nothing I described above is rocket science. However, as easy as it is to create a Facebook page, start a WordPress blog or register for a new Twitter account, sustaining and running these social media channels well is an entirely different ballgame.
I think some social media blogger once said (it could be Ben; I don’t remember) – that it’s his hope that one day there will be no need for social media specialists anymore, but instead social media becomes an invaluable tool that all PR, marketing, and event professionals will know how to leverage.
And companies agree with this view as well. Based on this IPR report (PDF), close to 80% of companies today think that social media skill sets are important for new PR and marketing hires.
Anyway, successful social media case studies like AFA and Resorts World make me hopeful that the day that we don’t need a separate social media specialist anymore may actually come a lot sooner than we think.