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Event Wall at Sweetwater’ GearFest

“The Wall Added to the Excitement and Made People More Engaged During the Day.”

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gearfest music festival

GearFest is an annual music gear festival organised by Sweetwater, the largest online retailer of musical instruments and pro audio equipment in the United States. The festival is all about introducing the newest gear, interspersed with workshops and performances from a variety of artists.

The 2019 festival took place in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and saw more than 17,000 visitors. Sweetwater also implemented a social media event wall, including some nifty modifications using our Walls.io API.

We had a chat with Heather Herron, VP of Sweetwater’s Corporate Communications, to find out more about how the social wall enhanced GearFest.

RHeather Herron

Heather Herron

VP of Sweetwater’s Corporate Communications

What did you hope to achieve with your social wall at GearFest?

Our goal was to increase real-time engagement with the 17,000+ people in attendance at GearFest. It’s such a unique event that we also wanted attendees to be able to share their experiences with others and perhaps spark interest in the events happening over those two days. Hopefully, it will prompt even more people to want to attend next year.

Where did you show the social wall, and how did you motivate people to use the hashtag?

The wall was on display in our dining area, where there was heavy foot traffic at all times. People could glance at it as they walked through or also spend time looking at it while they ate.

Empty dining hall with Sweetwater’s GearFest social media wall displayed prominently on a large screen at the front of the hall.
The #GearFest social wall was displayed throughout the festival in the dining area.

One thing we did to bring more attention to the hashtag was to ask all of the workshop emcees to explain the giveaway to people. At the beginning of the workshop/seminar, the emcee would display the guitar we were giving away and explained that if people shared their GearFest photos on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #GearFest, they’d be entered to win that guitar, among other prizes.

We’d love to know more about all the technical tweaks you came up with for your social wall and how it was to work with the Walls.io API.

We moved the header to the sidebar, partially to keep it consistent with the previous year’s layout, but also to ensure we had enough room for customized messages about how to interact with the wall.

We did attempt to create a bit of javascript that would enlarge the highlighted posts, but it ultimately conflicted too much with the original code, so it was not used. Having a way to zoom in to the “highlighted” posts might be a great suggestion for improvement. In general, we actually did less customization this year and used more of the Walls.io default settings, which seemed to work well.

One additional thing we did was add a careers section on the sidebar where we rotated a message about recruiting, using the hashtag #FullTimeDream.

We also focused on making the board more readable, especially from a distance. The font was bigger, and we sacrificed the number of posts on the board to make it easier to see.

We especially like the integration of video that allowed customers’ videos to play on a loop. We noticed right away that it drew people in because there was more to watch, and it wasn’t just static posts.

Why did you choose Walls.io for your social wall?

Many years ago, we evaluated several platforms to try to find one that fit our model and gave us the flexibility to make it look and feel like us and our brand. Walls.io felt like the right platform for us. It meets our needs in terms of integration and cost.

Was the social wall at GearFest a success?

Yes! The wall was a huge success, and we will most likely use one again next year. People seemed to really enjoy it and watched it frequently to see their photo being displayed. It definitely added to the excitement and made people more engaged during the day.

More space for custom messages with a sidebar

The biggest change Sweetwater made to our standard social wall setup is the customised header-turned-sidebar. They used the Walls.io API to implement the tweak that turned the one-line social wall header into a wide sidebar, creating a lot of space for text.

Screenshot of the GearFest social wall. On the right hand side, about 1/4 of the screen is taken up by the sidebar, which sports a blue background and the white-and-red Sweetwater logo at the bottom. The hashtag #GearFest is displayed at the top in yellow and red. The info text on the sidebar reads: Share your GearFest experiences through Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat!

By turning the header into a sidebar, Sweetwater created more room for customised messages and displayed them more prominently than a header would have allowed them to. Various informative messages were rotated on the social wall’s sidebar throughout the GearFest event.

The social wall was a great place to publish information pertinent to the festival. But it was also a chance to introduce people to the social wall, explain the hashtag to use and alert attendees to the big prize draw. If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know how much I love it when people properly explain how their social wall and hashtag work.

Screenshot of the GearFest social wall. On the right hand side, about 1/4 of the screen is taken up by the sidebar, which sports a blue background and the white-and-red Sweetwater logo at the bottom. The hashtag #GearFest is displayed at the top in yellow and red. The sidebar text reads: Look for your #GearFest tweets and Instagram posts here on our social media wall. Use the hashtag to be entered to win some great prices - including guitars, recording gear, amps, and more!

Hiring via social wall

Sweetwater also used the sidebar to advertise the company’s open positions, turning the social wall into a tool for their own hiring process.

Screenshot of the GearFest social wall. On the right hand side, about 1/4 of the screen is taken up by the sidebar, which sports a blue background and the white-and-red Sweetwater logo at the bottom. The hashtag #GearFest is displayed at the top in yellow and red. The text reads: Having fun at GearFest? Live your #FullTimeDream …Work at Sweetwater! Apply Now

We think that’s an excellent example of how a social wall can fulfil various different roles for a company. You can create a social wall for a fun event and use it to engage people with a prize draw. But you can also just as well use the same social wall for the secondary goal of alerting parties that are already interested in your company to the fact that you’re hiring.

Engage attendees wherever whenever

In addition to explaining the whole hashtag and prize draw process on the social wall itself, Sweetwater used other avenues to promote the hashtag campaign as well.

By asking workshop emcees to draw attention to the hashtag and explain the giveaway, Sweetwater made sure that as many people as possible heard about it. Word of mouth as a way to tell people about a social wall and campaign should definitely not be underestimated. 

We hope this showcase gave you a bit of insight into the many things you could implement using Walls.io. While the API gives you pretty much endless customisation options, our built-in customisation options are usually more than enough for most customers. There are many ways to adapt and customise your social wall to your needs.

Try it out now