Integrated Mobile and Social Apps Engage 1.3mm

OC Fair Visitors

 

Communications Director Robin Wachner shares her insight.

"The bottom line is to strategically use our social media, to keep people thinking and talking about it. And to create a full mobile and social experience for attendees, which keeps everyone connected."

With a history dating back to 1890, the OC Fair has grown into an enormously popular annual event in southern California. The fun and sun draw huge crowds from all over the world for five weeks every summer.

Today’s tech savvy audience expect a mobile/social tool to enhance their experience at the Fair. In 2010, Robin Wachner, Communications Director for the OC Fair and Event Center, developed the first OC Fair app for iPhone. Since then, it’s become a key communications tool for fair goers, vendors and the OC Fair management staff.

Robin Wachner recently sat down with Studio Tiga to discuss the value of having mobile and social tools to enhance the Fair experience, an event that draws 1.3 million visitors over a 23 day period.


What are the motivating factors for the OC Fair and Events Center to offer a mobile app to Fairgoers? 

"I think the number one thing is to stay relevant. Fairgoers, especially in their thirties or younger, expect to be able to download an app to tell them where everything is, what’s happening, who has coupons or giveaways, and so on. It’s an extension of their social media. And, while we still print programs and daily updates, our printing costs have been cut dramatically. So, thanks to our app, the OC Fair is now ‘greener’ than ever before."

You have developed an OC Fair app for four years running. As an early adopter of technology, what trends have you noticed?

"As more people have smart phones, usage of the app is consistently scaling upwards each year. In 2010, the first year we published an app, we had roughly 6,000 downloads for iPhones. We just wrapped up our 2013 event and we’re up to more than 38,000 downloads for iOS and Android. I think what also helps us is that each year we are constantly adapting our navigation and features based on consumer feedback from the previous year."

How much time and labor is involved in getting the app coordinated and put together? 

"A lot!  (Robin laughs.) When you consider all of our departments, external and internal, which need to have their assets integrated into the app, the initial deployment does take time. For our venue, we have a Concessions group to handle all the food vendors, and our Events and Entertainment groups which coordinate the live bands and performers. We also interface with the Culinary Department for all the cooking demos, the Farm/Livestock departments and, of course, the Carnival group for the rides. We have done this four years running so we have definitely smoothed out the process. Fortunately, the CRM included with the Studio Tiga app for data entry and organizing the various entities makes our job a lot easier. Being able to make changes on the fly is critical for an event as large as the OC Fair."

What would you recommend to venues considering creating an app for their next event?

"Map out your operation first. Get the basics down. Make sure a mobile app makes sense. Then find an app vendor who has the experience to help you pull it all together. Not all of them will do that. They should be quick to grasp what your needs are and the kinds of features necessary to properly build out the app. Studio Tiga made the system easy to interact with, not only for our customers, but for our internal team. There is a large amount of groundwork necessary, but it does get easier after the first event."

As Director of Communications, your group uses Foursquare, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to communicate and share with the OC Fair goers. Can you explain how you use each one to support the OC Fair? 

"Absolutely. Foursquare is a great vehicle for the attendees themselves to “check in” at various venues. Of course we use Foursquare for check-in at the Fair itself. We also provide additional check-in points with events that happen in different months, such as our weekly Food Truck Fare, and announcements for events outside the immediate Fair. But Foursquare, by its nature, basically takes on a life of its own, and that’s fine by us!

check out the OC Fair's Social Media links below

As for Pinterest, we don’t get the response from guests that we do from a platform such as Instagram. So it might be a bit redundant in that regard. We get a lot more activity on Instagram, and use it to share photos of events as they unfold, contest winners, and so on. 

Twitter is a great tool to instantly communicate and spread information. We use it for all kinds of announcements such as discounted tickets, concert giveaways, and to try to push people towards visiting a particular venue. The immediacy of Twitter makes it useful for quick alerts of just about any kind. We currently have about 10,000 twitter followers.

I’d say out of all the social platforms, Facebook gets the most traction with our audience. To date, we have about 66,000 followers. We typically get a huge reaction when we post photos. Depending on the post, we can easily get 1,000 or more likes and comments. Facebook allows us to create a fluid, conversational tone with our guests. We use it to provide more detailed information as well as photos. That’s why, unlike many organizations which post to Facebook and let the post also go to Twitter, we keep the messaging separate."

How do you promote your social media? 

"Well, when we first got started, we had to work hard to promote our social presence. Now people find us! We list all our social platforms and our app on our collateral materials, and regular e-mail blasts help drive people to our social sites. Our social, mobile, and web platforms are tightly integrated, so we can promote the event across all of them. We have the social and mobile tagged on our ads, and have banners at our information booths promoting the downloadable app with trained volunteers available to help. One of our app features is a ‘car finder’ to help people leaving the fair locate their cars. We place sandwich boards in the parking lots promoting the car finder feature in the app. Lots of on-the-spot downloads, as you can imagine."

How do you coordinate the messaging across all the social platforms? Is there  special software you use?

"We use Hootsuite.  The scheduling feature allows us to coordinate messaging effectively between the different social platforms. I’d say that about 60% of our scheduling is impromptu and 40% is scheduled. That’s a nice balance to keep information flowing across all media that is steady and geared to make the greatest impact. "

Are there any up and coming social media platforms you find of interest for next year?

"Yes. We are looking at Vine, since the Fair lends itself so well to video. Snapchat is another possibility as it is really catching on, especially with younger visitors. The important thing is to keep current with all the major social platform trends and be ready to utilize what our target audience is most comfortable using.

As for next year, the bottom line is to strategically use our social media before, during, and after the Fair, to keep people thinking and talking about it. And during the event, we want to create a full mobile and social experience for attendees, which keeps everyone connected to each other and to the Fair venues and events. If we can do that, we’ll keep people at the Fair longer, get their friends and families to come, and make sure they all come back again next year."

 

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About Robin:

Robin Wachner is the Communications Director for the OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa, California.  She oversees all public relations and communications efforts for the OC Fair & Event Center, including the annual Fair, year-round events and employee communications.  Robin also spearheads their social media program  including Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, QR Code strategy and app development.

 

A native New Yorker, Robin graduated from New York University with a Bachelor of Science degree.  While living in New York, she was introduced to the world of PR while working for companies such as VH1 and CNN. Prior to joining the OC Fair team, Robin worked for buy.com, Western Growers, The Queen Mary and Disney Channel.  Robin resides in Orange County, California.


About Studio Tiga
Founded in 2004, Southern California-based Studio Tiga develops and delivers advanced cost-effective, cross-platform apps for mobile devices and provides interactive media services for professional sports teams and corporate entities.

Contact: Dan Williams
Phone: 714-349-3790
Email: clients@studiotiga.com

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