For the past 10 years, First Night Alexandria has been producing a family-friendly, “walkable” New Year’s Eve event—a festival of performances including music, dance, magic shows, face painting, and more held at different venues throughout the Old Town district of Alexandria.

The event has seen sporadic growth during the past decade and its annual success is highly weather-dependent with potential attendees waiting to see the weather forecast for New Year’s Eve before purchasing tickets. Since the majority of ticket sales occur during the 2 days before the event, extreme cold or precipitation can prove disastrous to entire event’s ticket sales. This creates a challenge for First Night to sell tickets earlier in the season and insulate their budget from inclement weather. Another challenge has been how to continue to provide ticket sales online, through the night of the event, given some of First Night’s logistics with “badge” or ticket pick-up and the dozens of pick-up locations. First Night continually looks for ways to face these two major challenges.

New Target proposed an aggressive web marketing and social media campaign, together with offering online ticket sales on mobile devices as well as through the night of the event, as strategies to face these challenges.

The Goal

The immediate goal of the web marketing campaign was to increase overall ticket sales as well as earlier ticket sales. Our long terms goals were to increase exposure to First Night as a New Year’s Eve option for people in the Washington, DC metro area, improve First Night’s organic position in the search engines, build a following of “fans” to help promote the event in subsequent years, and encourage local residents to “Buy Alexandria.” To address the second challenge, New Target allowed online and mobile ticket sales all the way up to and during the event.

Tactics

To accomplish these goals, we focused our efforts on generating traffic to the FNA website, presenting First Night to audiences multiple times from different online sources, and using social media to leverage the community aspect of their audiences.

To support easy, on-the-spot ticket sales, we developed QR codes and a mobile app to allow impulse buys by linking to the site with a simple point and scan. We developed the app for both iPhone and Android smart phones.

Next, we optimized the FNA site for search engines and created a series of banner ads to “follow” First Night site visitors when they left the site without making a purchase, keeping First Night top of mind for those prospective buyers. Using Google AdWords, we ran a hyper-localized campaign of high volume keywords used by people looking for New Year’s Eve entertainment.

For the core tactic of this campaign, we turned our sights to Facebook. We began by reviewing and improving the First Night Facebook page, including embedding ticket sales within the page, feeding Twitter and News updates into the page, and interacting with many in the local community. Then we created and launched two local Facebook ad campaigns. The first campaign improved awareness within the nearby community and the second targeted the family and friends of the “fans” brought in by the first campaign. Our efforts from there focused on starting conversations and interacting with the First Night audience.

Finally, we launched a First Night Alexandria channel on YouTube, using video to help promote the highly visual and experiential nature of the First Night event.

Results

The results are in! We are pleased – but not surprised – to see the difference our efforts have made. Highlights include:

  • Best year ever for ticket sales
  • Increase of 35% in tickets purchased online, with 45% of all tickets purchased online
  • 138% increase in ticket sales by December 19th
  • Mobile purchases accounted for 5% of tickets purchased, up from 0% in 2010
  • Facebook ‘likes’ up by 1,046; in 2010 First Night had only 138 likes
  • Organic traffic up by 44% from 2010, accounting for more than 40% of all web traffic during the campaign
  • First-page organic search results in Google and other leading search engines for many top key phrases
  • Facebook ads were viewed by 42,164 individuals and total daily impressions were more than 7 million

Did we sell more tickets? YES!

Did we sell more tickets online? YES!
Supported by First Night allowing ticket sales up to the night of the event, combined with easier access to tickets via the website, mobile app and Facebook, online ticket sales made perhaps the most notable leap forward of all statistics.

Did we sell earlier in the season? YES!
With help from a Living Social deal, the marketing and promotion of First Night sparked a 138% increase from 2010 in sales by December 19th, when prices go up to $20.

Did we sell tickets online right up to the end? YES!

Conclusion

The concentrated efforts of New Target’s web marketing and social media campaigns together with a clear weather forecast and extended online ticket sales all came together to make 2011 a banner year for First Night Alexandria!

The data and statistics available from Google and Facebook give us a head start on our marketing efforts for First Night Alexandria 2012. With a strong grasp on our target market and the most effective methods for reaching them, a large base of fans on Facebook, and online ticket sales enabled through the website, mobile app, and Facebook page, we hope to break records again in 2012 and beyond.

With offices in Washington, D.C. and Los Angeles, Ca., New Target provides digital strategy, digital marketing, web design, web development, branding, website hosting, and creative services for prominent nonprofits, companies, and government.