The UK festival season has kicked in. Everyone’s talking about summer and, if you’re that way inclined, you’ll be wanting tickets to your favourite field party. So how are festival organisers making the most of the sudden surge in interest? I looked at ten of the UK’s top independent events to see who had the best content ideas.

Top of the festival pops

I used Brandwatch to track festival mentions and hashtags on social media. There’s been a healthy conversation around music festivals in April and May – nearly 6000 mentions so far The topic is driven by news and features in mainstream media, with a lot of interest from local newspapers online.

Kendal Calling and Festival No 6 come out top of the comparison, with volume of mentions roughly in proportion with their social media following. Secret Garden Party does less well – despite having nearly the same number of Twitter fans as Kendall Calling (around 50,000), it generates less than half as many mentions.

Share of voice - UK music festivals
Fig.i: UK boutique festivals share of voice April – May 2016 (graphic courtesy of Brandwatch)

With photogenic people, lush surroundings and celebrity-led entertainment, music festivals should be a social media marketer’s dream. But it takes a bit of knowhow to maximise engagement.

Here are the five content ideas that caused the biggest spikes in mentions:

1. Line-up announcements

Unsurprisingly, these create the most excitement among fans. For festivals with more than one stage, announcements are staggered in the run-up period for maximum impact. Festival no 6’s programme announcement on 27 April led to a massive surge in retweets and mentions. The festival team capitalised on this by using Twitter cards with an embedded link to drive traffic direct to their website.

2. Pre-festival events

Some festival organisers like to host something wacky (like a giant water fight at a secret location) in the weeks before the main event. Secret Garden Party got some media interest when it announced its water fight on 1 May. And more coverage when the event was forced to “postpone” due to bad weather. No doubt they’d have gained plenty more mentions had they been able to go ahead with the fight.

3. Competitions

Kendal Calling gained more than 2000 retweets when they launched their “Win Two Tickets” competition on 14 April. End of The Road Festival also gained traction by announcing the winners of their “Play End of The Road” competition on 4 May. Both events might have done even better with a dedicated #tag.

4. Mentions in mainstream media

Festival Number 6 had some great publicity from Visit Wales’ #FindYourEpic campaign (screenshot at top of this post). Collaboration with local media is a win-win (they get free content, you get PR). And the good thing about social is that you can celebrate not just your own media coverage, but those of partners and collaborators (using @names to amplify). Truck Festival upped engagement with fans by tweeting Spring King Band’s late night appearance on 10 May.

5. Countdowns

Count down the days – your fans will be as excited as you are! Brownstock Festival announced two months to go on 8 May – and gained 135 interactions. With around 7,000 fans, that’s not bad engagement for the local Essex festival. Sometimes, there’s nothing so good as keeping it simple.

For more content ideas, see Artisan wins social media at the London Coffee Festival

Photo: Visit Wales’ #FindYourEpic campaign