Nine Lessons That Doors Open Can Teach Organizations About Social Media

Over 150 businesses and buildings in Toronto threw their doors wide open and invited the public to explore as part of the annual Doors Open event this past weekend.

Curious residents were able to learn what it was like behind the scenes at historic venues, exclusive social clubs, sporting venues and other interesting sites around the city. The event has been growing for years and it’s not uncommon to experience hour-long wait times just to step foot in some of the locations.

Needless to say, if your organization’s events were as popular as Doors Open Toronto, it would be a dream come true. There are certain elements of the initiative that your organization can learn a thing or two (or nine) from, especially when it comes to your social media strategy. Here are a few of the lessons we picked up from a weekend of adventuring:

People Want To Hear From The Expert

Doors Open gives people the opportunity to explore some of the buildings on your own, which can be fun, but some of the best locations offered guided tours by someone with knowledge of the site. These guides know all the interesting history, the building’s bizarre quirks, stories about each room and how the whole operation works. The do-it-yourself exploration lacks the guided tours expert knowledge.

Integrating some expert knowledge into your social media strategy is always a good way to go. For example, if you want to write a blog about a fashion trend for your retail store or a new law that effects your association’s members, try reaching out to a fashion blogger or specialized lawyer to contribute a guest post. Your audience will appreciate both the fresh voice and the expert perspective that you may not be able to provide.

Going Behind The Scenes Is Cool

There are many Torontonians who have attended an MLS soccer game at BMO Field without knowing what it takes to put on such a sporting event. Doors Open allows people to explore what its like behind the scenes at some of their favourite places, which adds knowledge, excitement and value to their next trip.

Similarly, your audience may be familiar with your operation, but unsure about the inner workings and day-to-day activities that make the organization run. Social media gives you the chance to change all this. Creating a video that shows the day in the life of the business highlights your staff, your initiatives and all the interesting activities your do on a daily basis, but behind the scenes. Your audience will have more knowledge of how your operation works and will feel more engaged with the organization.

A Little Content Goes A Long Way

Doors Open Toronto is a one-day event and that means residents flock to the locations in big crowds. Crowds mean lines and lines mean waiting around. The best sites are the ones that offer a little something while you wait, like a video explaining the origin of the building or signs at various point along the line with snippets of historical facts. They are engaging and help pass the time.

There will always come a time when you have a “social media lineup” of sorts. Your video still needs editing or your big blog post needs polishing off or your Twitter contest is still in the planning stages. In these situations, a little can go a long way for your audience. Post a short blog post or video and make sure to tweet on a regular basis, even if it deviates from your plan. It will keep your audience engaged. Note: always make sure the content is relevant and high-quality even if it’s short!

Shareable Moments Are The Best Moments

There were no shortage of cameras flashing and selfie-takers at any Doors Open venue. The lure of sharing your experience was too powerful and the opportunities were too hard to pass up. The smartest guides would point out an interesting feature of the site and a crowd of photographers would scramble to take a picture with it to share online.

The lesson here is, people want to share experiences, but not just any experience, an interesting and engaging one. Make sure that you provide these moments on your organization’s social media accounts. Encourage people to share their experience with your product with a hashtag or create moments at your event when attendees are encouraged to share their experience.

Learning Is Never Overrated

One of the pillars of Doors Open is access to information. Crowds turn out to dozens of buildings because they want to know more about them, from the way they operate to how they reflect the city’s culture and identity. People are hungry for information and Doors Open serves it up on a silver platter.

Give the people what they want by creating learning opportunities on social media. Make your Pinterest posts infographics that make learning visual, fun and shareable. Create how-to videos and blog posts. Tweet content that provides value to your audience through the sharing of relevant information. Stay up to date on the latest news and relate the relevant pieces to your audience in a way that provides value to their lives or careers.

Variety Is The Spice Of Life

The variety during Doors Open Toronto is one of its biggest draws. Visitors can explore everything from historical sites to sporting arenas to government buildings. The venues stretch from one side of the city to the other and all points in between. There are guided tours and explore-it-yourself sites. The point is, there is something for everyone, which is why everyone shows up!

It’s always wise to integrate this approach in social media as well. Don’t just stick to a single platform; experiment with multiple platforms and sources of content. They might not all work out perfectly, but it’s the only way to realize which ones will. Provide a multitude of different style of content to keep things fresh. For example, blogs can come in all shapes and sizes, including lists, infographics, editorials, videos, chronologies and interviews. Utilize them all!

Provide People With A Road Map

Having lots of options during Doors Open is great, but it can get a little confusing if the organizers didn’t provide one key component; a map. There are several maps on the official website and maps on independent blogs that list the best places to go in each area of the city. This makes it easier for people to plan their day and take part in the best activity for them.

Your organization can provide its own road maps using social media. If your company is doing a big sale or your association is putting on a big conference, write a blog post about the best products/seminars to pay attention to if you’re looking for X, Y or Z. Tweet or post on Facebook with details for events or initiatives. Show people how to best utilize your organization’s services by drawing it on a ‘road map’ and pinning it to your Pinterest board or posting it on Instagram.

Interest Follows The Crowd

When standing in line at a Doors Open event this past weekend, there was one persistent question being asked by people passing by; “What is this for?” These people saw the line, figured it must be for something good and asked about it. Not only do these people know about the event for next time, they might have even gotten in line themselves.

If you want people to talk about your organization online, you need to assemble a crowd first. The key is providing a platform to draw this crowd and, in turn, increased interest. If you’re putting on an event, create a hashtag, live-tweet the event and use the hashtag. By providing the platform for the crowd (a hashtag), people will be more willing to engage and when Twitter users see their friends engaging, they’ll ask, “What is this for?” and we all know where that leads.

Unmask Value Without The Hard Sell

We’ve already talked about the guided tour during Doors Open and their high engagement factor, but what we didn’t say was that some of the guides had a vested interest in the venues. For example, the GM of the National Club led the tour of the site. He could have used the opportunity to hawk membership, but he simply put on an engaging, interesting tour. At the end of the presentation, there were at least two or three people out of a group of 30 who asked about membership.

Marketing your organization on social media operates much the same way as the guided tour of the National Club; highlight the value without coming right out and trying to sell the product or service. Educate your audience, engage them with interesting content, provide a chance to network and share exciting pieces of information or experiences. All these things will uncover the value of your organization to the lives of your audience and will sell your organization to them without the risk of alienating people with a hard sell.

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