Since 2008, Kassie Epstein has managed social media accounts for Boston’s Gillette Stadium — home of the New England Patriots, and the site of countless other sporting events and concerts. After more than eight years in her role, she’s a pro at generating hype, filling seats, and delivering unforgettable, large-scale experiences.
In fact, she just scored the stadium a #1 social media ranking on Venues Today.
Read our interview with Kassie to find out how one of the biggest event spaces in the country uses social media to build intimate connections with millions of fans.
Can you give us a little detail around what you do?
I manage the social media accounts for Gillette Stadium, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Periscope, Snapchat, Tumblr, and Pinterest. I also help manage and promote the external events we bring to the venue: summer concerts, NCAA events, UMass football, Monster Jam, and everything in between.
Do you promote the same events that you organize? How do you juggle both responsibilities?
There’s a mix of both – some events we promote, others we don’t. Whether or not we are technically the promoters for the show, I will still post and cover it on our social channels. Our fans are always looking for – and expecting – content about all our events at the venue.
Because I’m also involved in coordinating these events, it becomes increasingly challenging to handle event elements and social media on the event day itself. I’ll create detailed calendars and scheduled reminders for myself to ensure I have everything mapped out for the day – however, as anyone in events knows, things rarely stick to an exact schedule – resulting in things changing on the fly more often than not.
What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in how Gillette Stadium events are hosted/promoted since you started coordinating events there in 2008?
When I started our social channels eight years ago, it was almost an afterthought. Now, it is an absolute must. There were few – if any – social media accounts for venues when we started, and now it’s difficult to find any venue without some level of social media presence.
There was no real roadmap when we began. I just worked slowly but surely on engaging with fans and building our fan base. Today, I’m always looking to other venues and organizations to see how they’re promoting events and engaging with fans — to ensure we’re not only keeping up with what other accounts are doing, but staying at the forefront.
Social media is also now expected to be part of every event we host. I work with social media staff for each event that comes through this venue — on everything from coming up with joint promotional plans ahead of event day, to capturing/sharing content while the event is taking place. Social media is still growing exponentially and is becoming more and more important, especially for younger artists/athletes who have now grown up with this technology as a part of their brand.
What are your biggest challenges, considering the wide range of event types you plan and promote?
Targeting the different fan bases and demographics is always my main challenge. Unlike the New England Patriots/Revolution, who have demographics that all fall under one interest/fan group, [Gillette Stadium] followers are incredibly diverse: from Swifties and Directioners to football fans and Guns N’ Roses followers.
It’s crucial to keep each fan group engaged, while also not posting too much as to turn off the other fan bases. A 55-year-old Patriots fan doesn’t want to see 10 tweets a day about Taylor Swift, but a 16-year-old Swiftie doesn’t to see endless posts about football trades and draft predictions. The closer I get to each event, the more I’ll target my content to ensure I’m touching base with each fan group – I want each of our fan bases to feel like they’re the most important. As long as each fan group feels like their event is the biggest focus here, I’m doing my job well.
What do you love most about your job?
I love everything about my job – it’s truly an ongoing challenge, because of each year’s new events, and the ever-changing social media landscape.
For example, I’m constantly on the lookout for the newest social platforms our fans are using, and how they expect us to interact with them. Unlike our team accounts, I depend on our fans to help us to push our message and keep me in the loop as to what’s working (or not working).
Because of this, I’ve developed great relationships with many of our fans. There are fans I remember from our first year on social media, when we only had a few hundred followers — people who were supportive and helped grow our base. The chance to share in the excitement and engage with our fans ahead of an event is something makes this industry so special. For certain events, I’ve worked with local bloggers and fan accounts to help promote and disseminate information to fans we may not be reaching from just @GilletteStadium.
A lot of accounts have to be more restrained in their engagement with the fans, so I’m lucky to handle an account where I can communicate directly with our followers. I obviously have a voice and some sort of personality that comes through via our social channels (whether I try to or not) and I think our fans appreciate that we aren’t just a static account posting news bulletins and press releases. Our followers feel a connection to us, our events, and our voice – and because of that, become more invested in our brand.
How do you keep people engaged all year round for annual events?
As an open-air venue (in a cold region!), we have a limited season where we’re able to host concerts and external events. So it’s important to find ways to engage with fan bases during the long off-season.
Our younger fans are always interested in content related to the artists they love, so I do my best to find ways to keep them engaged even when there isn’t event in the near future. I’ll share in their excitement when an artist we’ve had here wins an award, and create countdowns to foster excitement for upcoming events. We celebrate artist birthdays, milestones, and highlight flashback moments from years past. I’ll share images from previous tours and ask fans to share with us their favorite memories if they were there; this creates more of a discussion between the fans, and helps remind them why our venue is so special.
What are your favorite social channels for promoting events in the stadium? Why?
It’s not our most-followed platform, but Twitter is my absolute favorite. As I mentioned, successfully targeting our audiences is the main challenge for an account with such a varied fan base, and Twitter makes it incredibly easy to accomplish this feat. For instance, we’ll post a myriad of tweets ahead of a concert day, but target each one so that fans who aren’t interested will never see them. I could post 20 tweets about Luke Bryan and respond to 100 fans each day leading up to a show… and our soccer fans that follow us for Revolution updates won’t have their timelines taken over by so much artist-specific content.
Twitter is also the channel where I can communicate with our fans in the easiest and most direct manner (without bombarding other fans with posts in the process). My hope is that fans will come to our social media pages to not only share in their excitement for an upcoming event, but know that we’re here to answer questions and provide the information they are looking for. Our Twitter feed is the first thing I review when I wake up in the morning and the last thing I check at the end of the work day (whenever that is… ;).
What types of content do you post before, during, and after an event?
Our content offerings tends to differ, depending on timing:
- Prior to the event: content more directed towards ticket-holders/buyers to build excitement, disseminate information (i.e. countdowns, load-in photos, infographics), and promote ticket sales if needed.
- During the event: content directed towards those not here for the event, who are looking to get an in-venue glimpse into what they aren’t able to see in person.
- After the event: content geared towards all groups – provide memories/throwbacks for those who were here, while also providing content to connect with those who were not.
When a show is announced, we’ll typically conduct “Retweet to enter” giveaways to ensure our messaging is disseminated to as many people as possible, as quickly as possible. Whether it’s the on-sale date or a concert update, we always try to get fans to help spread our message to all their followers to help us inform more fans ahead of time.
What are you biggest learnings from your years of experience?
Things you think may work on paper don’t always work on social. Not everything is going to be a home-run success, and sometimes the posts you think up as almost an afterthought become some of the most successful pieces of content. One of my most successful posts ever was of a quick photo I took of an ice formation inside the stadium after our worst winter ever in 2014/2015. It looked like something out of a Game of Thrones episode, so I posted it as almost an afterthought. Before I knew it – it had ended up on USA Today, Sports Illustrated, and a myriad of other national sites.
I have a generic calendar that I can build out months in advance, but I am always looking to our fans and other accounts on a daily basis to see what’s currently trending in the social media universe.
It’s so easy for people to use social media to engage with artists and brands – so it’s important to keep things as simple as possible. The majority of our giveaways are simple “Retweet to enter” sweepstakes so that it only takes one – maybe two – clicks for someone to engage. We once promoted an amazing concert package that patrons could enter to win simply by uploading a video of them singing their favorite song by the artist. The entry rates for this were the lowest we’ve ever had and helped reinforce the notion that fans are interested in giveaways… when they’re easy. Fans engage far more often when it takes little time and effort.
And when in doubt, people love cool-looking weather photos. A storm, hurricane, or snowfall – always a big hit.
Want to become a social media pro like Kassie? Check out this definitive guide, “9 Simple Steps to Master Social Media for Events.”