One Week Until Dragon Con: Featuring The Dragon Con Social Media Director!
Today marks one week until the first day of Dragon Con 2014, and like many fans I’m both crazy excited, and yet wondering how I’ll get everything done with so little time. Packing for this five-day extravaganza is one heck of a job even if you’re not a cosplayer, am I right?
In order to procrastinate a little more, I’m bringing you an interview with Sean Magee, Dragon Con’s Social Media Director. I myself follow Dragon Con on several platforms, Facebook and Twitter included, and those – along with the Dragon Con subreddit – are where I get the fastest updates and, in the case of the subreddit, the most helpful information.
Sean has some great things to say about the hard work the social media team puts into Dragon Con’s online presence, so I’ll go ahead and jump right in!
T: Do you have a specific promotion strategy, or is Dragon Con too big to need one?
S: A promotion strategy is essential to effective social media! Our strategy is very simple: Inform, Engage, and Enjoy.
Dragon Con’s social media is a primary source of information for Dragon Con fans. We strive to ensure that all information is 100% accurate and gets to the fans as fast as we can get it to them. The communication inside Dragon Con can get a little daunting with how many people it takes to create this enormous event every year, but everyone is after the same goal: creating an event that is amazing for the fans.
The bigger focus of our time is engaging with the fans. The power of social media is the two-way communication. We listen to everyone’s feedback, comments, suggestions, and complaints so that we can forward it to the party that needs to hear it; this way we can improve the experience for every fan. In addition, we also love to have conversations with the fans whenever we can, and this is going to increase exponentially as we get more and more involved with the doings of the event. This year was a transitional period for the social media department, growing from a team of three to a team of six. Because of this, we are allowed to spend even more time communicating with Dragon Con fans via all the platforms.
While my team is a team inside Dragon Con, we are also fans who attend each year. We want to carry the enjoyment of Dragon Con to each and every person who may or may not know of the event. In the end, the team is still volunteer based and one of the few Dragon Con volunteer teams that works year round. I am a strong advocate of having my team enjoy what they are doing so it carries over to their message. We definitely make sure we remember the Dragon Con motto of “For the fans, by the Fans.”
T:Is there a schedule in terms of social media updates for Dragon Con, particularly when you start ramping them up as the convention approaches? I assume that guest announcements can happen at any time, but other than posting reminders about ticket price changes on certain dates, I’m curious to know what – if any – sort of schedule you keep in terms of your updates.
S: As said, guest announcements are very random. I work very closely with Rachel Reeves and announcements can hit my mailbox a day before the announcement go lives to a few minutes! It really depends on what time it is when I receive it. Due to the Facebook algorithm and how it shows our updates in people’s news feeds, we have to be very strategic with announcements so that the message actually gets to the fans.
All the other announcements can vary in scheduled periods. We normally tend to stay within the time frames of the week (Mon-Fri), and at a reasonable time during the day – between 12-4 PM and then 6-9 PM are the peak times for audience viewing.
Scheduling is a big game of looking at analytics, scheduling for peak times, and then not over-scheduling on any given day, in order to avoid negatively effecting your outgoing message. In addition, you also have to keep in mind the conversational level of the content going out. Do we need to monitor it to answer questions? Will it generate big buzz and drown out any other messages? There are a lot of variables.
T: The official list of Dragon Con social media outlets is pretty long – are you involved in all of them (including LinkedIn and LiveJournal), or are some of them run by fans/volunteers? (If the latter is the case, as a Redditor I’m curious as to why the Dragon Con subreddit, which is as active, if not more so, than the LJ group, isn’t listed as a social media outlet.)
S: The social media sphere of Dragon Con is gigantic. Massive. Enormous. I can’t sit down to do some work without finding 2-3 new pages, groups, blogs, channels, or usernames to link up with in the Dragon Con world. Because of how fan-driven Dragon Con is as an event, there are equally large efforts for fans to get involved with the community. This is encouraged and loved by my team. We’re always reading or listening to the plethora of sources floating around in social media.
My team handles all of the official Dragon Con platforms, while offering our services to the fan-driven platforms whenever we can or are approached. We encourage fan-driven communities to get in touch and communicate with us as much as they can. We love to boost the voice of groups to foster the Dragon Con community. The platforms Dragon Con is official involved with at this time are Facebook, Google+, Twitter, LinkedIn, Livejournal, and Reddit.
Social media is, for a majority of the world, still a relatively new concept for businesses to start using it at its maximum potential. When I was brought on with Dragon Con last year, they were just starting to use social media as a two-way road for communication; a story similar to most businesses nowadays. It has been a large transition period for Dragon Con, as a company, this past year. We are making a lot of changes on the social media front going into the event and after the event.
Reddit is definitely at the top of the list of outlets with which Dragon Con wants to become more involved from a communication standpoint. We already listen very closely to everything said on it, and there are quite a few Dragon Con volunteers who are very active on the subreddit.
T: Because Dragon Con has made so many big changes in the past couple of years, do you find it difficult making sure that the information put out there is accurate and up to date?
S:It can be trying at times because of the amount of information from so many different sources (each track, each event, etc.) but Dragon Con internal communication has really mastered the ability to get what information needs to be heard to the people who need to hear it. Thankfully, with our team, a lot of information gets funneled to us and we get it to the fans as fast as possible. Changes will always be a challenge, regardless if it’s for a company or a person, but it’s really all about how you handle everything that occurs after the changes. I think Dragon Con has nailed their transition over the past couple of years and continues to grow as the best convention there is.
T: Do you find that some social media outlets are more useful than others, or more problematic than others? What would you say is your most popular utilized outlet?
S: This is where you will have anyone who works in any form of digital communications start debating fiercely. I am a firm believer that a brand/company should stick to where their audience is. When I came onto the Dragon Con team, I spent a month or so investigating where the chatter was occuring. This information was taken very seriously and really made up where we decided to pool our efforts. Each platform is useful in its own right because an audience resides on it. Each platform has its benefits and negatives but they all serve the ultimate purpose of getting the Dragon Con message out, while taking in as many of the excellent ideas from fans as possible. Even pictures provide useful information for bettering Dragon Con!
I think the most popular platform would be a tie between Facebook and Twitter. Facebook is home to 100k+ of our fans, while Twitter is where a never-ending conversation about Dragon Con goes on at all hours of the day and night.
T: As Social Media Director, do you liaise with the heads of specific tracks in terms of their track social media pages/accounts?
S:This is something that I do. I try to work with the directors from each track as much as I can to help boost their message and get them more fans who will enjoy what they have to offer. In addition, the more involved each track gets in engaging with those interested in their track, the more relevant information becomes available to the fans so that there are no questions come time for the event to be enjoyed. The directors of each track really put a ton of time into their tracks, delving into every aspect of what happens with unparalleled care. My mouth tends to hit the floor whenever I get to talk to a director about what they have coordinated/set up for the fans who attend their tracks. Directors are volunteer based and therefore do the vast majority of this work because they love Dragon Con just as much as the fans (if not more)!
T: Social media usage has been growing in general for years now, but most especially in the past few years – and Dragon Con seems, as a convention, to be on a similar growth track. What have been the best and most difficult things about keeping up with this growth – because as Social Media Director, I would assume you’re experiencing it from both ends?
S: I completely agree; the growth is exponential on both sides of this question. The most difficult aspect of keeping up is, and always will be, time. Even with a team of six, it is still almost impossible to keep up with every conversation that occurs with Dragon Con. As more and more fans get involved with social media, we get to enjoy an equally growing pool of conversations. Keeping in mind that our department is volunteer based (and we all have jobs/lives outside of doing the social media efforts), we are always sad that we can’t spend more time engaging with the Dragon Con fans who are just a hoot. I am constantly amazed by my team and their dedication to making Dragon Con the best convention. As a volunteer, you are expected to give 25 hours of your time to to get volunteer status. My team works year round and, I know, puts well over that 25 hour mark because of how much we adore Dragon Con. And it’s still never enough time!
I am very excited about the changes that will be occurring with the social media team in the coming year. This event will mark the first time we had a full team specialized in digital communications, including experts in many different aspects of communicating who will be focused on creating an even better experience for Dragon Con fans. Contests, tweet-ups, engaging conversations, a picture platform, and even blogs where senior directors will update fans so that EVERYONE is in the know for Dragon Con news!
Thanks for the opportunity, Tara! See you at Dragon Con!
Well, my interest is definitely piqued in terms of these new social media programs that will be happening at and after this year’s convention! Good luck with your preparations, fellow Dragon Con fans, and like Sean said…see you there!
Author: Tara Lynne
Tara Lynne is an author, fandom and geek culture expert, and public speaker. She founded Ice & Fire Con, the first ever Game of Thrones convention in the US, and now runs its parent company Saga Event Planning.
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