Using Social Media for Event Promotion? If not, you should. You can promote your event and improve the attendee experience using Social Media. The Attendees can feel it, and you can You can feel the difference when you go to an event that doesn’t get it, versus one that does. The community of attendees is that much tighter at an event promoted on Social Media, people just seem to be more “in the know”, and Sponsors already have a budding relationship with scheduled meetings or promos, as they and attendees have already been introducing themselves to each other, leading up to the event online, they recognize each other from those conversations prior to the event.
At Head of Lettuce Media we have been involved with a lot of events, for over 5 years, from Wine, Beer, Bourbon Food, Music and Film Festivals to Technology, Health and Financial conferences and we have noticed there are some definite similarities with the Dos and Don’ts when it comes to working Social Media into events.
First you need to understand that there are 3 segments to an event’s social media campaign, and each one is important. Like the legs on a 3 legged stool, fall short on any one of them and you are in trouble, doing a disservice to yourself and your attendees.
Every event’s social media plan needs to contain: pre-event, event and post-event, not to mention a great #hashtag. Choose a hashtags that is short and simple, and not in use ( a simple search on Twitter will let you know if it is being used) Keep in mind people need to be able to remember and use it on the fly.
Pre-Event is the time leading up to your event, typically the goal of pre-event is sales, driving traffic to the website to purchase tickets. What many fail to realize is that the pre-event campaign is an ideal time to promote and bring in more sponsors, because it is an added value buzz about the sponsors who are on board. You can see an example of this on the Sunscreen Film Festival’s Twitter account @sunscreenff. We make it a point to thank the sponsors using their Twitter handles so that they know they are being thanked publicly, regularly. This builds a great relationship with your sponsors, because you are demonstrating that you place value on their involvement, and they are getting more than a logo on event materials. Besides sponsors, you can also mention speakers or “star attractions” who are coming to your event, again mention them by their Twitter handles so they know you are talking about them. The nice thing about mentioning your speakers and sponsors on Twitter, is there is a good chance they will re-tweet your post, sharing it with all their followers which means a free commercial on your event to their audience, who most likely contains your audience.
Pre-event is a great time to feel out your audience to see what is important to them, allowing you to make some course corrections on the focus of your materials promoting the event and the event itself. Schedule a regular hashtag chat before the event to start conversation that you plan on adding to at the event. This allows participants to start connecting with each other, creating bonds before they even meet face to face. As someone who has gone to a lot of events as an attendee, I always had more fun when I knew other people who were going, than the times when I knew no one. Social media gives your attendees a chance to “know people at the event” you also have the opportunity to have those who already committed to coming to help you promote to their followers, consider offering discount codes via some posts, and there is a good chance those will get passed along. Between Sponsors, Speakers and Attendees, you are laying the groundwork for a serious promotion engine that will cost you less than most other forms of event promotion.
At the Event, don’t make it a challenge to find the conversation, put your hashtag everywhere and on everything. Make sure you listen to the conversation as much as you promote it, this is an opportunity to listen to the experience that the attendees are having and troubleshoot small issues before they become big headaches. Encourage your speakers and sponsors to participate in the online conversation, as this is an opportunity for them to expand their brand awareness at the event. Continue with “thank-you” plugs for the sponsors and speakers, continue using their Twitter handles so they know you’re talking about them, and they can catch when attendees are talking about them. You might want to consider having a Tweetup one night to reinforce the benefits of social media to attendees, maybe get a sponsor to buy the first round, or some appetizers. Having attendees posting their questions to the speakers on Twitter is a great way to give those not attending an idea of what they are missing, setting the groundwork for future event sales.
Post-Event, keep the conversation going, ask what people loved, ask them to share pictures and what they walked away with. All these interactions will begin selling the next event. Continue to thank sponsors and speakers encouraging attendees to interact with them and thank them. Your sponsors will remember a great experience with more interaction than the token thank-you from the stage or included booth. The best events are the ones that make an experience for everyone involved from attendees to sponsors and speakers. I have events that I love to be involved in as a sponsor, because they make me feel special, they make sure that people know about my involvement and how much they benefited from it. Other events have made me glad that I lowered or dropped my speaking fee, because the experience they provided me with exceeded any financial gain I might have made off a simple fee.
Just because I’m focusing on Twitter, don’t forget Facebook and Google+, create event pages in both as you never know where you may draw more attendees in from, not to mention these event pages will be great for facilitating the conversation for those not on Twitter. With Google+ you can set it up so that attendees can go into “Party Mode,” sharing their pictures of the event, which again is a great way to promote the event to those who missed out this time, pre-selling your next event.
A major mistake that I see many events make, is putting inexperienced people in charge of their social media, often interns (not all interns are bad, but taking someone with little experience and making them your spokesperson for your event without proper coaching is a huge risk.) At Head of Lettuce Media we are often called in to assist in coaching and training the event social media team, teaching them the elements of successful engagement, while helping them monitor the metrics around their social media to assist with marketing decisions. We offer solutions from minimal involvement with our proprietary social media dashboard to full event social media management and promotion, contact us for help with your event.