How to Boost Social Participation by 4.6x with On-site Activation

A Lesson in social anthropology from #FNLROM

Social media may make it easy to spread the word, but much like peanut butter, spread too thin it may not satisfy your hungry audience. These days, cooking up a batch of great photos and expecting people to line up at your window sill just isn’t enough, no matter how scrumptious your content. Seeing social content as a lattice-crust pie on a checkerboard tablecloth may have a heartening nostalgia, but if you want to move product, it should be more like hors d’oeuvres at a cocktail party: fully prepared, well-presented and never out of arm’s reach.

As it turns out, the same factors that make us scarf down gougere puffs can help you increase the efficacy of your social efforts. In both cases, consumption is driven by supply and social instincts. It’s no shock that we consume more when there is more around to consume, but interestingly, we also consume more when we’re among others. Our primeval association of resource abundance with status, and our tendency to copy behaviors to assimilate can make for both a belly full of crab cakes and a database full of registered users. This may all seem a little bit Attenborough, but it’s useful insight: marginal consumption increases in groups.


David Attenborough” by mikedixson is licensed under CC-BY-SA-3.0

In the spirit of Sir David, let’s observe the social animal in its natural habitat. As an utterly serendipitous (*wink*) intersection of natural history, social strategy and canapés, the Royal Ontario Museum acts as a perfect case study.

Through its uber-popular Friday Night Live party series, the ROM is generating a ton of new interest, especially among the au courant youth set, and reshaping the perception of the Toronto landmark from a museum to an event space. With strong attendance figures and healthy media buzz, #FNLROM presents an incredible opportunity for the ROM to substantially increase its online presence. Social is a central component of the FNL initiative, and with reminders of the behavior-shaping power of groups literally painted on its walls, the ROM knew it needed to capitalize on the Friday night crowds.

Applying the hunter-gatherer-gastric bloat corollary mentioned above, the FNL team set out to make social photos impossible to miss, running live slideshows of #FNLROM-tagged photos on projector screens above the dance floor, at the entrance to the featured exhibits, and on wall-mounted monitors behind the bar and around the space.


2014-10-10 18.40.56Slideshow on monitors behind the bar
2014-11-07 22.43.20
Slideshow on a projection screen over the dance floor

To gauge the effect of the slideshows, we can take the social numbers from the past two FNL events (the weekends of Oct. 31 and Nov. 7) and compare them to the activity levels for the equivalent weekends in 2013, which featured no on-site activations.

According to our naturalist hypothesis, the abundance of images from the slideshows and the natural influence of group dynamics should make people take and post more photos. The results speak for themselves:

FNL Blog Stats - White BGII

The numbers are impressive across the board, but the increase in unique users is particularly significant. 4.6x unique users means almost five times as many people are taking direct action to interact with your brand. Impressions, and to an extent, engagement, are useful to gauge awareness, but unique user count is a stronger indicator of potential to consume.

Beyond the fun lesson in modern anthropology, the FNL slideshows show that how you use your content can be as impactful as its quality. To achieve these dramatic increases in social activity, the ROM didn’t have to create additional content, alter the campaign, or expend any extra energy – all it had to do was plug in a few monitors.