Universal Orlando Resort’s Halloween Horror Nights 29
Halloween Horror Nights is an annual multi-night event that occurs at Universal Studios theme parks in Orlando, Hollywood, Singapore, and Japan. 2019 marked the 29th annual Halloween Horror Nights event in Orlando. In preparation for the nighttime events, Universal Orlando Resort’s social media pages — as well as designated Halloween Horror Nights accounts — advertised, teased, entertained, and scared guests and horror fans alike throughout the year. Because the 2019 event officially ran from September 6, 2019, through November 2, 2019, the social media campaign began early in the year as a way to gain interest and continued through the duration of the event to hold audiences’ attention even after the event was finished.
The Halloween Horror Nights 29 social media campaign spoke to fans and potential customers across multiple platforms. Most advertising and communication came directly from Halloween Horror Nights accounts with sporadic posts, shares, or replies from the official Universal Orlando pages. The primary goal of the campaign is to raise awareness of the event and excite guests returning for another year.
Halloween Horror Nights primarily used Twitter (@HorrorNightsORL), Instagram (@horrornightsorl), and Facebook (@HalloweenHorrorNightsOrlando) for the majority of their social media campaign and content sharing. A mix of videos, photos, and text were used on all platforms to convey feelings of excitement, fear, and intrigue into the happenings of Halloween Horror Nights 29.
Across all platforms, posts, and content shared, Halloween Horror Nights kept a consistent voice and tone. Remaining sarcastic, dark, conversational, and even a bit creepy throughout social media posts helps audiences to identify the tone of that the event. The characteristics of the posts relate to that of the in-person event itself and allow for the event’s overarching brand to be cohesive (Clarke, 2019).
Twitter content typically consisted of Horror Nights themed memes and current trends, replies to other Twitter users, and special announcements or event details. Videos and photos were used frequently in posts, as well as the utilization of relevant emojis or other Twitter lingo popular at the time. Tweets were often crafted as a way to engage in conversation with HHN fans and attendees, and often discussed offerings and highlights from previous events, like iconic haunted houses or fan-favorite snacks. Tweets also addressed topics that may have be relevant to what fans were discussing as a result of social listening and monitoring (Clarke, 2019). Once the event began in September, the Halloween Horror Night Twitter account retweeted tweets, videos, and photos from attendees of the events each night.
Instagram posts were comprised of haunted house and scare zone reveals and other announcements before the event, and once Horror Nights began, event photos were posted daily to highlight the offerings and entertainment. While the promotional videos posted did include sound, the audio was not necessary to understand the message, as is typical for many Instagram video posts. After the conclusion of Halloween Horror Nights 29, the Instagram page shared photos from attendees that fit in well with the overall appearance of the account. Posting user-generated content is important to include during and after the event to show online audiences what in-person audiences get to see and experience first-hand.
Much like the other channels used, Facebook posts were created mostly for general event and offering announcements. Most of the Facebook posts — images, videos, and copy — were comparable to that of the Instagram posts. Similarly, because many users watch videos without sound, audio is not necessary to convey the messages of the videos posted. However, the Halloween Horror Nights posts on Facebook typically include more links and appear in a more advertisement-based way than those on the other platforms, especially before the event’s starting dates.
Each of the Halloween Horror Nights social media pages has its own theme or aesthetic that is encompassing of the event’s overall voice and tone, while also matching up with the tone of the platform on which it is presented. Visuals used are highly engaging and feature unique and often event-specific graphics (York, 2017).
Target audience of each platform
Twitter’s target audience is much more casual and conversational than that of the other two platforms used. Twitter is used to engage one-on-one with users to ultimately build a community of similar minded fear-seekers. Alternately, Instagram and Facebook’s primary audiences are interested in the event but may not necessarily be tuning into the Halloween Horror Night accounts for updates as frequently or wanting to engage in conversation with the accounts as much as Horror Nights fans and followers on Twitter.
Target audience of posts
Posts on Instagram and Facebook favored the aesthetics and the general sharing of information to prepare guests for what they may see or experience at Halloween Horror Nights 29. More visual-based posts are effective for the audiences on these platforms, as they provide quick bursts of information in clear and concise ways. Facebook and Instagram also include more user-generated visual content and share images posted by attendees. While tweets were aesthetic and informational, they were used more as a way to connect individually and communicate with audiences on a more relatable, funny, and “in-the-know” type of way. Posts on Twitter take fans into consideration and encourage them to respond in photos, gifs, and other relatable ways and open up conversation and Twitter threads to allow for such replies.
Campaign and Post Highlights
While Universal Orlando’s Halloween Horror Nights is a recurring event, each year hosts different haunted houses, entertainment, and new offerings. It is important for each new year to be marketed in a different than the previous campaign as to maintain the unique theme and feel to each year’s events.
Leading up to the start of the event, most of the posts across all platforms consisted of announcements and information to prepare for Halloween Horror Nights 29. The Horror Nights Twitter account posted more than the other social media accounts, however almost all of the tweets teased announcements or major information being revealed soon thereafter.
Reach & engagement
Facebook reached the most individual people, as the Facebook page currently boasts 652K likes, whereas the Instagram has 215K followers and Twitter has 108.9K followers. With Facebook’s high follower count and sharing feature, posts on that platform are likely to have received more reach, as Facebook followers alone counted for nearly 50 thousand shares of Horror Nights content. With such a large audience, posts shared on Facebook received the most engagement, accounting for more than 36 thousand comments and 54 thousand reactions to Horror Nights announcements and posts.
Instagram holds the second most followers of the platforms, and similarly ends up with the second most interactions on posts. On haunted house and entertainment announcements similar to those posted on Facebook, Horror Nights Instagram followers commented over 8,000 times and make up more than 195,000 likes. Twitter is the platform with the smallest Halloween Horror Nights audience, however posts on Twitter occur more frequently and the HHN account interacts more directly with the audience and followers. Replies to haunted house announcements on Twitter are not as plentiful as those on other platforms, however replies are more frequent on non-announcement tweets, or tweets that ask followers direct questions.
Across all three platforms, the post with the most engagement is the announcement of the Us house. The house is based off of Jordan Peele’s 2019 film by the same name that was released earlier in the year, most likely the cause for the excitement, commenting, and sharing of the announcement. Other popular posts across all platforms include announcements for the Stranger Things, Ghostbusters, and Universal Monsters haunted houses.
Though most of the values and engagement that we see after the completion of the campaign and from an outside perspective may be considered vanity metrics, they do provide insight into how widely viewed, shared, or positively received a post was to a particular audience. Comparing engagement, likes, and shares to those of previous years’ campaigns will additionally aid in measuring the success of the campaign’s goals, especially if success is measured by raising awareness or engagement.
Data & examples
The tables below highlight the haunted house reveal posts found across all three platforms. Wording and content may alter slightly between posts, though the theme’s reveal remains the same.
The following examples of the Us haunted house announcement on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram showcase the differences in the same message posted in different ways across the three platforms.
The social media campaign for Halloween Horror Nights 29 can be considered successful as the social media posts received increased engagement and heightened awareness of the event. Social media offered a platform for the official Halloween Horror Nights pages and fans alike to discuss plans and excitement for the upcoming event.
Using social media as a way to announce elements of the event one by one was beneficial in encouraging audiences to check the pages again and again or to share news and announcements with their own followers. Publishing similar content and news across all platforms got the message across, however each Horror Nights account customized the message slightly to make it more appropriate for the respective social media platform. They understand that each platform is different and audiences receive information in different ways, whether it be more visual or text based.
What didn’t work
Though there was differentiation between platforms, there was a stark contrast between the announcement-only posts Facebook and Instagram and the community building and actively interacting Twitter account. While it is true that the audience on Twitter is different than that on the other platforms, it may have benefited the more visual-based platforms like Facebook and Instagram to have interacted one-on-one more with followers and involve them in an open conversation, like on Twitter.
Facebook definitely received the most engagement, mostly due to its much larger user base. As mentioned previously, Twitter had more communication back and forth between the Halloween Horror Nights account and its fans and followers.
On Facebook and Instagram, announcement postings received the most engagement. Twitter, on the other hand, received more replies when asked a direct question or presented with a poll that did not make event specific announcements. However, Twitter has a smaller audience and, therefore, had lower engagement overall.
Discussion and Conclusion
At the completion of any campaign, all elements of the campaign must be assessed and measured to determine the overall failure or success. The success of the Halloween Horror Nights 29’s campaign cannot be fully measured from an outside perspective. However, it appears as though the campaign and promoted event were successful in raising awareness, piquing interest, and sharing news and announcements with a wide, yet targeted, audience.
Annual and recurring events, even those with large and excited fanbases, should still create new and unique social media and marketing campaigns each time the event occurs. Crafting a campaign around a particular aspect of the event or creating a specific theme for each year allows for audiences to have something new to discover, even if they’ve attended the event before or have followed the social media pages for years. Keep each event’s promotional campaigns fresh and exciting to hold audiences’ intrigue and interest when looking forward to new offerings.
Understanding the difference in platforms, their audiences, and how they correspond with a brand’s audience base is also important in creating a campaign for an event. Though messages may be the same across all platforms, the ways in which they are presented must acknowledge that the target audiences differ from one social media to the next.
Halloween Horror Nights’ 29th year included fan-favorite traditions but with new or updated themes. It was up to the marketing of and social media campaign to reintroduce attendees to the similar-yet-different event that they know and love, but in a way as to not bore them with the same information they’ve received in the years before. Staying true to the tone of Halloween Horror Nights via content and the most fitting social media posts is important to the success of the campaign and, ultimately, the event as a whole.
Clarke, T. (2019, February 21). How to establish your brand ‘voice’ on social media. Hootsuite. https://blog.hootsuite.com/how-to-build-an-authentic-voice-on-social/.
Halloween Horror Nights. (n.d.). Home [Facebook page]. Facebook. Retrieved June 18, 2021, from https://www.facebook.com/halloweenhorrornightsorlando
Halloween Horror Nights [@horrornightsorl]. (n.d.). Posts [Instagram profile]. Instagram. Retrieved June 18, 2021, from https://www.instagram.com/horrornightsorl
Halloween Horror Nights [@HorrorNightsORL]. (n.d.). Tweets [Twitter profile]. Twitter. Retrieved June 18, 2021, from https://twitter.com/HorrorNightsORL
York, A. (2017, April 24). 5 social media best practices every marketer must follow. Sprout Social. https://sproutsocial.com/insights/social-media-best-practices/.