Every event needs social media, whether you like it or not. Many event professionals have embraced social media from the get go, others are yet to realise its potential; either from a lack of knowledge or a lack of time.
Social media is not only a great way to talk to attendees and engage with them, but to also promote your event or your conference message and create an event ‘community’. If done well, social media has many benefits. If done badly, it could be disastrous. Before you even contemplate pressing ‘send’ or ‘share’, make sure you have a social media strategy in place for your conference or event to help you get it right.
What do you want to achieve?
First things first. Decide what it is you want to gain from using social media. Do you want to promote your event to increase attendance numbers, engage attendees, boost brand awareness or do you have a corporate message you want to promote? You can’t create an effective social media strategy unless you know what it is you are aiming to achieve. Otherwise your strategy will have no direction and ultimately be a fail.
Who is your audience
You need to ask yourself, “who do you want to target?” It could be attendees, sponsors or clients. Determine their industry, if they have a common interest, their age or cultural background; as this will affect how you use social media to target them and what platforms you use. If your event audience is a thousand Chinese delegates, then you would have to use an alternative social media platform like Weibo! Where your audience live will also decide what time of day is best to post, so think about your audience as much as you can.
Decide what social media will work for you
Once you know who you are targeting and why, it is easier to decide how to target them. Instagram is great for visual events and is one of the fastest growing platforms. If you’re targeting a younger audience, Instagram could be for you as more than half of adults aged 18-29 have an account. Twitter is one of the largest social media platforms, and is great for realtime updates throughout the event. But whatever social media platform you choose, make sure that it is the right one for you and your audience.
When to start posting
This is an important point to consider. The overall success of your social media campaign could depend on when you start ‘a conversation’ on social media. If you begin too early, it could peak too soon and people could lose interest very quickly. People don’t want to engage with an event when it is two years away and they are not yet thinking about it! Similarly, leaving it until the last minute could also be disastrous. You risk not targeting the audience you want to in good time and failing to make to an impact. You need to decide when you will begin to post, taking into consideration how long it may take to reach a wide enough target audience and get them interacting.
Who will post?
Event professionals are an overworked, over-stressed bunch a times. But someone will have to make time to execute your social media strategy to ensure success. Will you do it yourself? Perhaps you and your team will share the responsibility. If there are several people sharing the task, make sure that you have one ‘voice’. You don’t want your efforts to be disjointed if lots of people are posting on your behalf.
Encouraging attendees to get ‘social’
You need to get your audience interacting with you and your event or conference from the start. There are plenty of ways to encourage attendees to take to social media to help you promote your conference or increase ‘buzz’ around the event. Creating an event hashtag is one way to get started. Giving the event a hashtag or a simple slogan will not only make posts easier to find, but encourage people to get talking on social media. What about introducing a competition for the best event photo etc to get people involved and excited? Make sure that any social media interaction continues throughout the event by checking to see that the venue has wifi! Plus, give them plenty of fun things to tweet about and lots of selfie opportunities! By getting your event community to post and share after the event or conference, you are also extending the life of your event.
You want to create a conversation and engage your audience, not put them off by selling to them. Post meaningful content that relates to your event or conference and the attendees’ industry, association or interests. You don’t have to create all the content yourself. Feel free to share other people’s blogs, posts and best practise and this will also help to increase your social interaction further and your overall audience.
Yes, we know event planners are busy people, but you will need to invest some time to make sure you get your social media campaign right. So well before the event you need to make time to draw up a strategy of how and when you will execute your social media campaign, or decide who will do it and delegate.