Hosting or planning meetings, conferences, festivals, or any other number of happenings provide a terrific opportunity to incorporate social media into your event plan and create a community where attendees become part of a shared experience long before and after the actual event is over.
I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve attended an event in the last year where I’ve asked, “What’s the hashtag for this event, please?” and was met with blank stares. Dear brands and businesses, please remember, social media isn’t just something you do. It has to be what you are. What that means is fully embracing social media and technology to lessen the distance between you and your customer or audience. Use social media to draw your customers in closer where you then have their undivided attention to interact with them—and what better way than at a signature event with your branding and messaging all over it.
I know many organizers are operating under the idea that slapping up a Facebook event page constitutes their social media and event planning all wrapped up in a pretty little bow. “There! I’ve now completed my social media marketing for this event!” To this, I say, “Whoa! Hold on, there’s so much more.” There are so many layers of opportunity to connect, engage, and convert this captive audience and I see many brands and businesses missing out in a big way.
Here are a 5 simple ways to create a signature social media aspect to any event that will encourage your attendees, exhibitors, and delegates to not only be at your event, but to *share* in the event through connecting, networking, and taking the conversations, and ultimately, conversions offline and into the real world.
- Start with Social
Creating your event with Eventbrite (also available as an app or widget for your WordPress site) allows attendees to register online and share the event with their networks as they register. Eventbrite also has settings where admins can let attendees view who else has registered to the event. Many event creation sites or widgets (either stand alone or made available via an email marketing program such as cvent or mailchimp) offer “Forward this event” buttons or “share your registration” buttons for social networking sites. This shared anticipation can create some terrific pre-event buzz and encourage pre-event networking which will enhance your event’s overall attendee experience.
- Hashtags are part of your branding strategy
Branding your event with an endorsed hashtag can really help market your event and encourage influencers to promote and talk about your event. A hashtag dedicated to your event make is easier to follow conversations, measure reach, and start a dialogue with your attendees, sponsors, exhibitors, and partners long before your actual event. All of these provide great added value for anyone connected to your signature event.
- Foursquare it
Invite attendees to check in using Foursquare once they arrive at the event. Prior to the event date, you would ideally work with local area businesses and sponsors to enhance attendees’ venue experience by creating discounts, special offers and other incentives for attendees. Once attendees check-in they can immediately connect with others who are checked in and share their check-in details via Twitter or Facebook for further event promotion.
- Live Streaming or Tweeting
While your core audience will be onsite, there can also be a large contingent who were not able to be in attendance but would still like to participate and be part of the experience. The great thing about social media is that this is now possible thanks to companies such as Livestream which combines live video with real-time photos, text, and video clip updates. Other live-streaming options include Google+ hangout, YouTube, or even Facebook video streaming depending on your needs and audience. Along with having TV screens dedicated to the event hashtag using tools such as Storify can collect tweets, videos and photos and embed them in your website or share them through social media. Any technology or tool that brings you closer to your audience will help keep them engaged, sharing, and conversing long after the event is over.
- Keep the conversation going
Just because the event is over does not mean the conversation and sharing have to be over too. Use social media to share presentations online (Slideshare), post blogposts related to the event from attendees (Blissdom & Blissdom Canada do this), recruit sponsors, collect feedback and insight, encourage preparation for the next event, and to follow attendees who were particularly active and engaged during the event.
The possibilities are endless when it comes to how to integrate social with your next event. Taking charge of the social component from the get-go can help create a terrific event strategy that takes into account what the audience needs and wants from the event, how to best leverage sponsorship dollars for added value, and creates a signature event that can stand on its own.
What are some of the best ways you have seen a social strategy integrated into an event strategy? Have you been pleasantly surprised by an event’s social strategy? Have you been underwhelmed by what should have been a killer social strategy for a brand that promoted itself as socially savvy?