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Bonnaroo Was A Tweet Fest For Marketers

USA Today, June 19, 2012

By Anita Wadwani

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Bonnaroo and CMA Music Festival fans left behind a vast trail of clues that will help guide city officials, festival organizers, recording artists, corporate sponsors and advertisers.

Nearly 95% of all social media conversations for the CMA Music Festival here was 140-character tweets. At Bonnaroo in Manchester, Tenn, Twitter accounted for 91% of all mentions. Facebook? 4% at Bonnaroo and less than 3% for CMA.

Both four-day festivals ended Sunday and played host to an estimated 150,000 fans.

"This information represents real dollars, real returns on investment — this data can paint a compelling picture of who these attendees are and how you cater to them," said Jim Cheney, on staff with corporate communications in the Nashville office of Zehnder Communications. Zehnder tracked social media data for The Tennessean.

Among merchandise that interested fans, baby wipes and sunscreen ranked high at Bonnaroo; cowboy boots, cowboy hats and Daisy Dukes were tops at CMA.

American Idol contestant Lauren Alaina earned more mentions than country stars Miranda Lambert, Carrie Underwood and Jason Aldean at CMA.

The social media habits of concertgoers are of particular importance to corporate sponsors of live music events. They spent $1.17 billion to advertise at festivals and concerts last year, said William Chipps of IEG Sponsorship Report, which tracks corporate sponsorships.

"I speak with sponsors on a regular basis, and … in the last week, nine of 10 times it (has) come up in conversation that they're placing much more attention on social media when it comes to sponsorships," Chipps said.

But while social media chatter can attract the interest of corporations and advertisers, where dollars are spent in the future takes a bit of analysis.

For automaker Chevrolet, which sponsored the CMA Fest's Chevrolet Riverfront Stage, the fact that name was mentioned 213 times in social media during the course of the weekend can be a plus, Chipps said.

But company executives may wonder whether they should attach their brand name next year to a more popular category. Fan Fair Hall earned 869 mentions over the four-day festival.

In contrast, Bonnaroo with a Manchester venue about 60 miles southeast of Nashville inspired a lot of conversation about driving.

"Road trip," which got 1,258 mentions, was one of a wealth of tweets, posts and pictures shared about the art of travel, which also included mentions of motor homes, vans, buses, hybrids and Volkswagens.

Debra Smith, vice president of digital marketing for the Nashville Convention and Visitors Bureau, said she expects measuring social media to become easier and as routine as tracking hotel booking data to determine the popularity of tourism here.

For Nashville-based country music cable network CMT, social media tracking at this year's CMT Music Awards broadcast the day before the festivals could prove to be a big boon to recruiting advertisers for next year's show.

For the first time, the hashtag #CMTAwards trended worldwide. Last year, the hashtag peaked at 325 tweets per minute. This year the hashtag peaked at 2,178 Tweets per minute at 9:01 p.m., when country singer Luke Bryan won in the Male Video of the Year category.

"Advertisers like being involved in shows that fans … talk about socially, so it's a natural pairing," said Chris Nelson, CMT's director of social media.

The social media experience also can serve as an extra link to keep fans engaged in the show, driving ratings that, in turn, attract advertisers.

Twitter was dominant for two reasons, said Blake Killian, director of social media at Zehnder. Either it's a big event such as the Super Bowl, or it's a situation where people are out and about with only their mobile phones. At music festivals, both factors are in play.

Tracking social media at the two events can reveal some quirky trends, but those shouldn't be dismissed. They provide real intelligence, Killian said.

Take Bonnaroo's most mentioned subjects, for instance: crowd, hippies, shower, sleep, beer, camping, mud. Top fashion-related mentions: nude, followed by bathing suit, costume, tie dye, fanny pack, bandana, sandals and body art.

Top slang: awesome, dude, sick, killer and dope.

Compare that to the CMA Music Festival. Top slang there: y'all, ain't, honey, ma'am, sugar, yonder and fixin'.

"This data can paint a picture for you and tell you something about an event you might otherwise not have known," Killian said.