When it comes to social media and events the question has never been “Whether or not?” but “How to?”. So don’t worry, that’s not going to be another useless article explaining why you should incorporate social media into your event management & marketing strategy because I doubt there is a respected event manager who doesn’t realize that. Instead, we will present the three basic steps for an effective social media strategy for events.
Step 1: Choose the Right Social Media Networks for Your Event
The first thing to decide when creating the social media strategy for your event is which social networks to choose. To do that, you have to answer the question: “Where is your target audience?”. It’s a no-brainer that you need to be where the greatest part of your target group is. So do a thorough research to find out which social networks your target audience is using the most.
You could find lots of statistics and data about the users of any social network in terms of gender, countries, age, interests etc. and match them with your attendee persona.
Moreover, just by defining the exact type of your event and having some basic knowledge about the different social media networks, you already have a good starting point to guide you in your decision-making process. To help you with that, we’ve made a short list of the most common social networks used for events and the different types of events they match best with:
Twitter: an invaluable social network for any type of event. The whole concept of Twitter as a micro-blogging platform is almost tailored-made to the needs of the event industry. Here is the main statement on Twitter’s page itself: “…And watch events unfold, in real time, from every angle.” How could you not love it and use it for your events?!
Tips: Always have a specific hashtag for your event (better be a short and memorable one) that you include not only in your tweets but also in all your marketing communications (in newsletters, e-mail signatures, at a noticeable place on your event website etc.) as well as in your branding and on visible places at your live event (on photo walls, screens, printed materials, etc). Last but not least: encourage your audience to use it too!
Facebook: Also a kind of universal type of social network when it comes to events. Moreover, one of the latest Facebook features, namely Facebook Live Video and Facebook Stadium as well as the never-out-of-fashion feature Facebook Events, are clear signs that Facebook is more and more targeting the event industry. Facebook is a must-have, especially for entertainment events (like festivals, concerts, fairs, B2C expos, sport events etc.) as well as for brand engagement events (such as experiential events and product launches).
Tips: Don’t post too often or in a spammy way. Emphasize visual content (photos, videos, gifs etc). Even if you have a Facebook organization page, it’s always a good idea to create a Facebook Event, especially for annual or cycle events.
Linkedin: As the largest professional network, Linkedin is indispensable for any business-related or professional event such as conferences, association meetings, trade shows, seminars and all kinds of B2B events.
Tip: Be active not only on your own Linkedin page and/or Linkedin group, but also in other groups related to your event. That’s the best way for you and your event to be noticed.
YouTube: Videos are among the most viewed and shared content online so video sharing networks like YouTube are again pretty universal as far as the different types of events are concerned.
Tips: Make short videos of your speakers or a retrospective video of your last event to serve as teasers for your coming event. They don’t need to be professional but try to make them viewable (avoiding additional noises, bad lightning or shaky camera).
Instagram: As a photo and short video sharing social network, Instagram is great for entertainment events, all type of brand engagement events (experientials and product launches) and different type of B2C events.
Tips: Be creative! Post interesting and engaging images/videos such as behind-the-scenes photos, pictures of decoration details, photos/videos of the preparation stage of the event and so on. And use hashtags, lots of them!
Periscope: Periscope (Twitter owned live-streaming app) is another social network as if created specifically for events. It’s appropriate for almost all type of events especially the ones including speakers’ sessions.
Tips: Encourage your audience and speakers to broadcast your event as well (if appropriate for your event type, of course). That guarantees not only more buzz around your event but also allows for your event to be seen through different angles and perspectives.
Pinterest: The pinboard-styled platform, dominated by women users is widely used by the wedding industry. If a wedding planner, that’s your definite winner among the social networks.
Conferize: Now, that’s a social network specifically created, designed and tailored to the needs of the event industry. Conferize is the world’s biggest social platform for events, connecting speakers, people and media from any industry and helping event organizers build communities. Conferize is especially suitable for conferences, corporate events, associations events, trade shows and exhibitions.
Google+: despite being a Google product and all their efforts, Google+ is far away from its expected success. Google+ might be explored mainly in correlation with SEO. You could host a Google+ event allowing you to instantly invite people, keep track of RSVPs, synchronize the event with your attendees’ Google Calendars and create a shared photo album. Moreover, Google Hangouts are a nice tool that could be used to connect with your audience in a more intimate and authentic fashion. However, I wouldn’t recommend Google+ as your first choice of social network (please, Google, don’t punish us for saying so).
SlideShare: A Linkedin product, SlideShare is a professionally-oriented social network. In short, it’s a platform for sharing presentations, infographics, documents or videos on professional topics, targeting professional audiences. Needless to say, it’s a great match for all type of events that Linkedin is suitable for.
Tip: You could use it to look up information, topics and speakers or as a platform to raise interest toward your event (through posting some teasers for your speakers’ sessions) and publish your speakers’ presentations during or after the event.
Foursquare and Swarm: Foursquare app is meant to be used as a location discovery tool and Swarm app is all about being social (see where your friends are, let them know where you are, and plan to meet up at a specific location). In the context of events, Swarm could be used as a tool to connect with peers at events, especially suitable for younger audiences at entertainment and outdoor events such as expos, festivals, fests, parades etc.
To Take Away: Don’t be everywhere just for the sake of it. Be where you need to be!
Step 2: Learn How to Use Social Media for Your Event
Now that you’ve chosen your social networks, you need to learn how to use them best to your event’s advantage.
- Build an active community: your ultimate goal is not just having a big number of followers but an engaged community of active individuals that could become attendees, partners, sponsors, speakers or any kind of collaborators.
- Engage with your audience: social media is about conversations and building relationships. Never use it merely as a broadcasting or advertising platform. Post lots of visual content that has much higher engagement and click-through rate (such as videos, photos, gifs, memes, infographics etc.).
- Give your audience what it needs: be generous in providing useful and interesting information to your audience. To do so, you need to know your audience inside-out. If in doubt or lacking inspiration what to post, just ask them directly (in a poll or a message/post).
- Dare to be different and creative: there is so much clutter in the online world. Being creative, innovative and unique is the only way to stand out from the crowd!
- Be consistent: don’t even bother making an account if you’re not consistent and active on it. It’s better to be active on one social network (if you don’t have enough human resources for more) rather than being everywhere and acting as a dead soul.
Main Uses of Social Media for Events
Before the event:
- Event marketing and PR
Social networks are invaluable for promoting and creating a buzz around your event (there are free and paid options to do that on each network).
- Event ticket sales
Social media are great platforms for special offers and discounts allowing you to convert followers to attendees.
You could make all kinds of research concerning your event via social media. You could, for instance, research topics or hot trends for your business event on SlideShare or Linkedin, find out what your audience is curious about on Quora, look for speakers on Linkedin or Twitter and so much more.
- Customer Service
Social media is the fastest and easiest way to respond promptly to the questions and demands of your audience. Facebook and Twitter are great for these purposes.
- Contacting potential sponsors or exhibitors
When it comes to sponsors and exhibitors, personal contact is always the best approach. Social media could help you make the first step. Best use Linkedin for that purpose.
- Finding new speakers
Social media is a great source for finding influencers in certain areas or rising stars in public speaking that could be the perfect match for your event. Try Linkedin, Twitter and SlideShare.
During the event:
- Boosting attendees’ engagement and participation
Social networks like Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Vine could help you with that. You could even use Twitter to facilitate audience participation if you don’t have a special event app (which is the better option but it’s not free).
- Fostering connections among attendees, speakers, sponsors
Again, having your own customized event app will do a better job but social media could be a free way to replace it. Social media also provides the opportunity to keep and develop these connections into relationships. For example, you could use Twitter for creating public list(s) of attendees and speakers; Facebook and Instagram for posting photos where people could tag themselves and thus being found by other attendees, or Google+ with its Google+ Event features or Google+ Communities.
- Creating a buzz around the event
At the event itself is the best time to create some buzz around it since it’s not only you but all attendees that could take part in the process. And social media is, of course, the nonpareil tool to do that. So don’t forget to encourage your audience to actively post info about the event on their social accounts (not forgetting to hashtag or tag the event).
- Live Streaming
That’s one of the hottest trends in the event industry that is here to stay! It’s also another way to create a buzz around the event. You could use Facebook Live Video or Periscope.
After the event:
- Event Feedback
Feedback usually comes naturally via social media. However, it’s good to encourage it through polls or just by asking your audience directly.
- Event Follow-up
Social networks are great platforms to do the follow-up of your event. Post photos, data, reviews, press-releases, speakers’ presentations etc. for your audience to enjoy after the event.
- PR/Reputation Management
The worst thing to do is to forget about your social networks once the event is over (especially for annual or cycle events). After the event is actually the best time to show off and build/foster your brand image, and social media gives you the opportunity to do that in an efficient and consistent manner.
Step 3: Monitor and Measure Results
Last but not least, one of the best things about social media is that it allows you to monitor and measure results. Thus, you could determine what works best for your event. Never ignore that step if you want to be successful on social media! Our best advice is:
Test new things and learn from your own experience.
Events and social media are pretty much like salsa dancing: you need to know the basic steps but you also need to find your own style, rhythm and moves. We’re craving to find out about your “unique dance moves” , so comment away.