nmc social media tentSocial media enables those that already know and love your brand to get involved in spreading the word about it. They become loyal members of your team… ambassadors that encourage their own social media followers to engage with your brand, too. From a user perspective, social media is a fun way to connect with others that have interests similar to your own.

The Marshall Communications (Marshall Communications) team has also found that social media is a great tool in building up excitement about special events. We’ve had great success in using it to boost attendance at our Social Media Boot Camps and have launched highly successful event-driven social media campaigns for many of our clients. Most recently, we teamed up with the American Lung Association (ALA) of the Northeast to use social media to raise awareness of its annual Trek Across Maine cycling event and to begin building anticipation for next year’s milestone, the 30th anniversary of the Trek.

The three-day Trek, held Father’s Day weekend, starts at mountain resort Sunday River in Newry and concludes roughly 180 miles later in the coastal town of Belfast. With more than 2,000 people biking it each year, the Trek is the largest ALA cycling event in the country. And it supports a great cause, raising approximately $2 million annually for the fight for healthy lungs and air. As the Presenting Communications Sponsor for 2014, Marshall Communications hopes to help the ALA of the Northeast make the 30th anniversary the most successful Trek ever.

As those of you who are familiar with the Trek know, people are intensely passionate about this ride. Some have Trek tattoos, and a significant number of cyclists have participated for 10 or more years. There will even be a handful of riders in 2014 that will have ridden all 30 years of the Trek. Pretty amazing!

It was this tremendously strong “Trekker” passion in the Trek that gave our agency the idea to assemble the Marshall Communications “Social Media Squad.” We thought, “Why not tap into that amazing enthusiasm to help motivate even more people to become part of this inspiring event, whether they ride, donate or volunteer?” The squad set up at Colby College in Waterville, the second-day stop over, amidst “Tent City,” where Trek teams and sponsors set up festive areas to gather together and celebrate. Picture a tailgate party without the cars.

greg glynn why they rideThroughout the event, cyclists were encouraged to use the #TrekMe hashtag and @lungNE Twitter handle to promote their experience to their social media followers. My co-worker Greg Glynn interviewed cyclists throughout the afternoon, and the video was streamed live on a special website. Other members of the Marshall Communications team – Erika Bush, Kevin Gove, Jen Libby, Whitney Moreau, Matt Rideout, Juli Settlemire, and Charlene Williams – took images of cyclists holding their own personal “Why I Ride” messages and then helped the cyclists post those images to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Nancy Marshall and I rode in the Trek. This was Nancy’s third Trek and my first. Throughout the event, I posted images from the route to my Instagram account using the #TrekMe hashtag while Nancy used Facebook to communicate her experience. Thanks to the hashtag, other Trekkers were able to easily find my photos, like them and leave comments. It made me feel like a real Trekker!! In doing my own #TrekMe search, I loved seeing the many different perspectives of the event captured by different cyclists and volunteers.

kevin gove with trekkerOnce the social media results were tallied, we were really impressed with the impact of this first-year initiative. More than 800 Tweets were made about the Trek, with the majority using the #TrekMe hashtag. We estimated those Tweets helped the ALA of the Northeast reach more than 135,000 Twitter followers. In addition, more than 400 Trek photos were posted on Instagram, reaching an estimated 13,500 Instagram users. Posts to the Trek’s Facebook page resulted in exposure to more than 18,200 potential riders, supporters and volunteers. The live video stream was also a big success, with more than 300 hits recorded. Most importantly, the Trek already has 800 cyclists registered for the 30th Anniversary ride. We know the event has a huge following, but we hope the additional excitement generated through social media contributed to this impressive number of advance registrations.

Now that the Social Media Squad concept has been introduced and Trekkers are familiar with it, we look forward to seeing it implemented in an even bigger way at the 30th Anniversary Trek! The ALA of the Northeast will also be working to implement one of our branded Marshall PlansTM, a strategic marketing blueprint designed to maximize the impact of the 30th Anniversary through an arsenal of communications tools including social media.

Going forward, I think the social media results generated in 2013 will be a great tool in encouraging even more people to support the Trek because those often poignant words and images serve as a testament to what a truly great event the Trek is from the perspective of those who have experienced it firsthand. Be sure to follow the Trek via social media for the latest. Stay tuned!

Twitter: @TrekAcrossMaine, @LungNE
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MaineTrek
Instagram: #TrekME