When I wrote recently about monetizing Wi-Fi at events, the focus was very much on generating cash to cover the costs of providing a Wi-Fi service that would enable event visitors to access the Internet in order that they could check emails, liaise with colleagues, access information and so forth. Wi-Fi is seen as an essential and expected service for the comfort and convenience of visitors, much like the café and toilets that you’d also expect to find at an event.
Whilst this is still a primary objective for many of the Wi-Fi installations we provide, change is in the air and increasingly we are being asked to provide connectivity less for the purpose of enabling the audience to meet their own individual and isolated needs but more to enable them to actively participate in and contribute to the event and its noise through social media activity.
Time was, clients wanted to know how fast the download speed on their connection would be, but things are changing – up is rapidly becoming the new down! Suddenly I am being asked how much upload the line has, and how many tweets can be sent on a 10Mb line? Clients are keen to understand more about the bandwidth taken up by posting photos, sending tweets and putting videos live rather than reading emails, opening a web browser or checking train times.
The One Direction film premier is a good case in point – we provided WiFi through a satellite broadband system on top of the Empire in Leicester Square, to enable a crowd of 4000 excited fans to tweet about the band and the movie and share their excitement. The results were phenomenal, and whilst we can’t claim to have carried all of the 3.6m tweets that the event hashtag generated that evening, it was clear from the network usage that the vast majority of traffic was upload, from the fans and press in attendance.
This trend is also borne out by the stats we see on our systems – upload used to be no more than 25 per cent of the download usage, but it is now getting close to being an even spread. Event organisers are clearly embracing the opportunity to have their audience actively participating in the event and, double bonus, in the process generate additional marketing noise and hype around the event – what’s not to like about that!?
With this sea-change, it’s vital that organisers think about the scale of their event, its audience and the likely usage of upload bandwidth, particularly if they plan to make heavy use of social media during the event. Mobile networks would never have coped with the volume of activity surrounding The One Direction premiere and while it was a fairly extreme example of high density usage during an event, if you are planning to engage in marketing activities which encourage your audience to simultaneously tweet or send a picture or video, we recommend you look at providing additional bandwidth to underpin this – after all, if you don’t get it right, the potential for immediate and visible backlash through the social networks is very real!
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