Official Blog

Social Media for Events

As a Dad I can’t remember how many birthday party invitations my kids received or handed out over the years but I know it was a lot.  Some of them were written by the parents and others in that famous kid penmanship that even makes pharmacist’s take a double look.My wife is a big Save the Date kind of gal and yet it seems that the days of paper invites and RSVP’s are becoming relics of the past.  The web and specifically Web 2.0 has change the way people plan events and get the word out.

Social Media is making it easier then ever before to plan, promote, and reach the masses or just your family and friends.  Social Media allows individuals to communicate information rapidly and adjust this for any unforeseen issues.  You do not need stamps, envelopes or smoke signals to get the word out anymore.

Social Media also allows you to engage and involve those who can not make the event and also allow them to still share and participate.  You can share photos and videos of the event as it is happening and share stories online after the event.

Social media can make the planning process smoother by leveraging digital word-of-mouth. Here are some tips for best results.

Establish Your Event-Related Channels

The months and weeks before your event is a critical promotional period. Use every social media channel at your disposal to get the word out about your event.  If it is a private event make a group and keep it exclusive or if it open to the public encourage them to share the event.

You can encourage people to share information on the event in return for small rewards. For example: “Share this event with 20 friends for 10% off your admission.”

If you have your own social community or use third party applications the process is very similar.  One thing you should know about adding events to your own site is the SEO reward that comes with events.  Search Engine Crawlers love relevant and timely information and events are almost always indexed higher then blogs.  If you have your own social community or website we recommend using this this as the hub for the event.  If you do not, consider Facebook and Twitter as your next best solution.

Start by creating an event page on Facebook and an event hashtag on Twitter, then create an event blog where you’ll post updates about it (new speakers, registration discounts, etc.). Make sure your Twitter hashtag is specific to your event or organization, without being too long.

Once you have your channels established you have to begin to feed them.  Populate them with content.  Make sure your event content is relevant to the event.  One common mistake is if you have a Mixed Martial Arts event populating the channel with MMA specific content is a road for failure.  The content is not original, is not relevant to your event, and will detract from it.  If it’s a social event, post video or music clips, create a pre-event contest, or connect event-goers through interaction and games.

For a social or community event the content should be engaging, fun, and shareable in order to drive word-of-mouth interest. If the event is more corporate in nature, offer fans and followers sneak peeks at topics to be discussed, or special pre-conference articles and presentations.  Keep the content about your event and what you are promoting.

Provide Incentives for Viral Marketing

Participation is key to your success.  The social community sites we build come with a built in “Event” tool.  This allows you to RSVP, share, promote and comment.  Make sure you are being responsive and relevant with your postings.  We can then push the event to any number of Social aggregators like Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon and many more.

No matter the platform or approach if you are a corporation or public event that is trying to attract eyeballs and attention to your event offer fans and followers special discounts or content. Incentivize people to register for the event, offer them early-bird discounts, invites to pre-event parties, or other rewards.

Make Registration Social

In the social communities we built Event sharing, inviting and RSVP’ing is all built in.  If you do not have a site that has this built in you can use a social registration service like EventBrite, which not only makes registration easier and more streamlined, but allows attendees to share their event activity with their friends. Other popular social event invitation platforms include Plancast and Twtvite. Most of these services are highly integrated with social networking platforms and can be configured with user caps and privacy options.

Use Location-Based Services and Check-in Rewards

Geo-location sites let you set up a page with rewards including badges, coupons, specials, or gifts. These location based services are easily integrated with other social networks such as Facebook, FourSquare and Twitter, so check ins will be shared with larger networks. When attendees come to your event, you can reward them for checking in at different stations, panels, or activities. Rewards such as free tee shirts, a gift card, or other small incentives can be redeemed after the show.

This helps you and those around you find you.  They may not be interested in attending the trade show you are at but if they know you are their and interacting they might just stop or check in.  This gives you a great chance to convert non-event attendees to visitors.

Bring your Event to Life With Social Media

This is one of those areas that is often missed.  Why are you at the event?  The answer should be it is for a good person, cause or business.  Any of those are worth promoting.  We live in a digital world and there is no reason to limit the event to the attendees.  One of the best ways to have more people at your next event is to have them talking about your event.

Why not capture your event as it unfolds and share it on your social community and push it out to sites like Twitter and Facebook.  If you do not have your own community contact us and in the mean time start using Twitter and Facebook for these feeds.

You can also encourage your attendees to share the events happenings as they unfold.  It is important that you encourage them to use your hashtag.  You can bet they will be Tweeting if it is a failure so encourage them to share it if they are enjoying themselves.  make sure you have someone from the host side on their Social Media Channels Tweeting and reading tweets.  Respond to problems.

Example: We were in Vegas for a fan meet and greet.  My client had to make a flight so eventually we have to cut the line off so we could get to everyone that was in line.  One of the clients fans was upset and in tears about missing out on meeting the client.  They Tweeted and because we were monitoring the channel  I was able to see we had an upset fan and sent someone to find them.  We were able to connect the fan and client and issue resolved.  I am not saying we would have lost that fan but I am saying we were able to make a meaningful engagement because we were monitoring the event.

Use a photographer and let your attendees know they can get the pictures from your social community or your social channels.  This will encourage them to come to your site and view the picture.  It will also increase the likelyhood of them sharing your event and the photos.

An active Twitter stream during your event not only engages participants in real time but also allows people who could not attend to get a feel for the sessions and topics being discussed. Some event organizers set up a huge screen behind speakers to display hashtagged tweets in real time. But again, this can backfire if the tweets become negative or go off-topic. All that interaction can derail speakers as they try to respond in real-time to all the “interference.”

This is why it is critical to have your team monitor the channels and interact or even lead the charge on interaction.  The @UFC channel on Twitter does a great job of engaging the fans and promoting the events beforehand, during and post event.

Include Non-Attendees

The goal of every event is to have happy attendees and hopefully be able to do the event over and over again.  The best way to “grow” the event is to include those not in attendance.  This is where your future growth will come from.  Plus there is absolutely no reason to share the event as it happens.  As mentioned above the majority of your attendees will be connected to one or more Social Media Platforms during your event.  You can and should try to own and direct this interaction.

There are some great tools that will allow you to livestream during the event using Facebook or UStream so fans can follow along online. Facebook enables you to store this stream so that people can watch it after the event proper. You can also create a YouTube channel for the event to post videos before, during, and after. Encourage non-attendees to ask questions through Twitter or Facebook during the event and answer them live.

The communities we build are fully integrated with all of these platforms and can support or host a livestream.

Extend the Shelf Life of Your Event, Even When it is Over

Your event doesn’t have to end the day it’s over. Social media can keep the momentum going for many weeks and months afterwards. On your blog, post a “wrap up” of all the key highlights. You can add links to presentations, key learnings, and other downloadable documents. Of course, you’ll want to post photos on the blog and on Facebook, and continue tweeting about the event even after it’s over. You can post thoughts, ideas, or links to longer articles that might be of interest to those who attended.

Another great way to keep your event from fading fast from people’s memories is to create ways for attendees and other interested parties to continue socializing, discussing, or debating topics covered there. Do whatever you can to keep the conversation alive.

I am sure a lot of you have been to fundraisers where they have the step and repeat and a house photographer that gives you a card for redemption of the photo later on in the evening.  Give that person your Social Channels address’s and let them know where they can find the videos, pictures and share stories from the event.

Post event contest are great too.  you can do contest like share your favorite story and the best commented or most shared content gets a prize.  Just be creative and let the attendees know that you are capturing the memories and where they can find them.

Use Social Media Metrics to Measure Success

Consider using online surveys to ask attendees for feedback on panels, venue, speakers, topics, and other facets of the event. Facebook polls are fun, easy ways to get quick responses and feedback from attendees.

Be prepared for honesty. If someone has a negative comment to share, make sure to address their comment or concern and store the information to improve next year’s event. Lastly, pull total social media stats from sites like Search.Twitter.com and Social Mention, or set up Google Alerts ahead of time. If the results are positive, don’t be shy about publicizing some of these metrics to highlight the reach and impact your event had.

This is another area where your hashtag or using third party social platforms like UbberTwitter or Hootsuite give you easy tools to track tweets and mentions.  Many of them are offering Social Media Analytics too.

HASHTAG

This is not a game that your hippie parents played while attending Woodstock.  This is an easy way to make your event come up on searches.  It is essentially Twitters answer to tags like you see on Flickr.  A hashtag can be any word or combination of words.  As an example #UFC would help my tweet show under searches for “UFC”.

Be Real and in Real-Time

Social media is your ability to be the source.  Your target audience is likely using social media right now.  You just have to engage with them and be real.  We have addressed this in some of our other blogs.

Make sure that you are posting in the real-time.  If you are hosting or attending an event make sure you post your opinions and experiences.  As you see things happen comment and share.  This will increase interest int he event and in you.

Jason Genet
http://www.ingrainedmedia.com

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