I regularly have the privilege of getting up on stage to inspire event planners about the use of Social Media with regard to events. However, the time is often too short to be of practical use. That’s why I am attempting to elaborate on it here.
Wait a minute, what does Social Media actually deliver again?
Social Media and events are made for each other! The open nature of social Media makes it possible to discover new content and people before, during and after the event. But for the skeptics among us, here are the benefits at a glance:
- More intensive contact with your target audience before, during and after the event so you are better informed about what's going on. By being attuned to the needs of your attendees, you increase the satisfaction of participants.
- More feedback to evaluate and learn from and 'quotes' to use in your reports.
- A huge increase in your reach and exposure: every message displayed on Social Media platforms about your event can be read by all the followers of just that one person in your target group.
- Complying with the expectations of your target audience: it has now become fairly common for an event organization to be accessible via Social Media.
- Involvement in what is being said about your event: in 2012 you will always find people talking about your event on Social Media.
- Contributing to your discoverability: if your Social Media accounts are well designed with good content, you will rank high up in Google when people search for your event.
But should I always use Social Media? Certainly not!
Before you decide to make use of Social Media, you should answer the following 3 questions in the positive:
- Is at least 10% of my (potential) target group active in Social Media? (Easy to determine! Send me a Tweet and I'll explain how.)
- Will my event benefit from the visibility of an audience that is much larger than just the visitors at my event?
- Do I sincerely believe that the use of Social Media can contribute to the objectives of the event?
3 x 'yes' - bring on the checklist!
In order to make use of Social Media correctly in relation to the event, you should consider the following:
- (Wireless) Internet: if you want participants to share the event, you must give them access to the Internet. Especially when you are working with an international target group. A practical tip: make sure there is no password, or if there is, that the password is the same as the hash tag. Then you only need to communicate a single code. By the way, use wireless, otherwise if you’re going to be working with TV screens to display Twitter posts, you'll have to connect them to the Internet with a fixed cable (the probability of Wi-Fi overload is still a real possibility, which will inevitably result in blank screens).
- (TV) screens & laptops: displaying the Tweets and photos of visitors has several advantages: (1) It connects the online and offline community to each other, causing each to strengthen from the bond (2) It's a fun and interactive format and (3) it is possible to offer your sponsor(s) more exposure.
- Devices that can be used: check the distribution of smartphones, tablets and laptops among your target audience. If people on the go do not have access to the Internet, it can be difficult to share their experiences during the event. According to marketingfacts.nl, the overall penetration rate is currently at 52% for smartphones and 25% for tablets. However, this can vary by target group.
- Social Media accounts: it is not necessary for an organization to talk about yourself, but it is useful. Especially if visitors have practical or substantive questions. You can then deliver a direct one-stop service. Don’t make the mistake of putting the year in your username because then you will not be able to use it the following year (although you can quite easily change it).
- Apps to view, monitor and share: for example, "What's On?" to view Twitter screens, Tweetdeck or Hootsuite to monitor, and Bufferapp to share.
- Hash tag: just as you would choose a physical location, you should tell your participants where the conversation is taking place online. You will therefore have to choose a hashtag and make it known among your target audience. Tips for a clever hash tag: as short as possible, recognizable, and not already in use by someone else (You can always submit a hash tag to me if you are in doubt!).
- Design: You probably have already paid a great deal of attention to your branding. To achieve a professional look, you should cleverly design the Social Media accounts and 'Avatar'. They should be recognizable, bright and attractive.
- Integration: the use of Social Media is only really successful if it is completely integrated with all your other forms of communication. That includes the hash tag on invitations, banners, tickets etc. This especially relates to 'why' people visit certain Social Media sites: for example, to share photos, experiences, feedback or to ask questions?
- Social Reporters: to encourage the use of Social Media and to make it more interesting, you will have to rely on people to capture the event and share it in real-time. Try to ensure that these people are easily recognizable at the event and always have access to the Internet (possibly with a data subscription plan as a backup for the Wi-Fi).
- Moderators: When you encourage people to ask questions, it is important to have someone available to answer those questions. This person can also monitor inappropriate messages and ensure they are not displayed on the TV screens.
- Tuning in: use someone who is skilled at using Social Media if you are not. You’ll also have to determine how to respond to certain messages or questions. Who are the contact persons within the organization who can be referred to?
- Training & Coaching: you can hire very good Social Reporters and moderators externally. But you can also train and coach the people in your own organization. This can often be much more fun because they have more of an affinity with your target audience and your subject.
- Sharing photos, videos and links: If you have digested all the above points, then it is time to start thinking about content. It is important to have ready content that can be easily be shared by your target market. For example, photos and short videos of LIVE events, or the background stories of speakers/meetings. Try to get as much of this ready in advance as possible.
- Sharable occasions: think about offline moments or places that give you the opportunity to create experiences that participants would like to share with their network. For example, a picture of a famous person, a special emotion or meeting. Make sure to remind your participants when the time comes to bring their phone and share it!
- Sharable stories: you can give your Social Reporters your own story in advance. Think of a particular perspective of the event that they can highlight. For example, all the different foods, the clothing of other participants, or just the content covering the backgrounds to meetings.
Is that all? Will that guarantee success?
No, this is certainly not the whole story. I would love to read about your own experiences and tips in addition to the comments below. But if you have ticked off all of the above points, you are well on your way and can complete the final ‘finishing touches’ by yourself. Then it will also be authentic and it will be about you.
Freelance Project Manager, Entrepreneur and networker with a passion for events and Social Media. Gerrit is partner of How Can I Be Social (HCIBS), co-founder of Triqle Event Intelligence, board member of the Green Meetings Industry Council (GMIC) in the Netherlands and professional speaker.