Before I get down to business, I want to introduce myself. Hi, I'm Charlotte, a digital media aficionado by day and a wine taster by night, nice to virtually meet you all. If you're interested with what I have to say below, keep up to date with my random bouts of advice on Twitter or some travel shots on my Instagram. Okay, now we've exchanged pleasantries, let's talk about what's really important, social media and how you're going to use it at your next event. Let's go.
Social media has become an intrinsic part of event engagement. It’s a hub to build a community of like-minded individuals who gather to create and engage in conversations. While this is all happening offline, you have to think about how you are going to engage with the visitors online.
Online efforts shouldn’t be ignored or left to the last minute. There’s a lot you can do before your event to make sure engagement before, during and after is on target. Just the thought of juggling social media within a event plan is enough to get your stress levels to boiling point.
You probably already have a digital presence, but you need to make sure it’s the right one. You know the saying “too many cooks spoil the broth”? That stands true with having too many social media accounts. By stretching yourself thin the content gets diluted and engagement opportunities fall through the gap. Only use the channels where your target audience are listening and conversing.
When it comes to using social media during an event, 66% of people attending a live event engage in online activities during the event. To ignore this little golden nugget of information provided by Bizzaboo would be criminal.
Here are a few ideas that will spark the engagement at your next event.
Pre-show Show Plan
It might not sound important, but trust me it will eliminate a lot of stress. A couple weeks leading up to the show you should create a pre-show social media plan, it doesn’t have to be intricate, but it needs to outline the topics, influencers, hashtags, etc.
A pre-show plan might include:
- Twitter lists of people who are attending, the speakers, or the entertainment/ influencers
- Branded graphics with event information
- A “how-to” infographic/ guide on how attendees can use social media at the event
- A stream of posts that mimic the main events on the show timeline.
- Promotional videos or sneak peek videos
- Carefully worded CTA’s for the event as the caption for branded event images/ social media ads
Since Twitter is a large part of the live social streaming world, MCI have a great article on how to use Twitter to work for your events.
Hire / advocate event ambassadors
It’s more than likely you have no time to think on the day of your event, your brain is being pulled in different directions, executing a social media plan is the last thing you’d want to do. To make it easier use the people around you (co-workers, students, speakers, exhibitors, etc) and ask them to be ambassadors for your event.
A good example of this is a trade show I went to earlier this year in Frankfurt, Germany. I was asked to help interact with over 3,000 exhibitors and 9,000 visitors for a live social media campaign.
It would’ve been impossible for one person to do it all, so the company hired me and three others to walk around the event to micro-blog the trade show. We created a fun social story compiled with pictures and short videos, either tagged with exhibitors or event hashtags to increase engagement and exposure.
We used a divide and conquer method. There was one person with a laptop monitoring all the social activity and sending the rest of us on ‘missions’ around the venue dressed in event branded t-shirts. This made us targets. Visitors and exhibitors were approaching us and asking questions, tweeting and tagging us.
Make sure all your content has an essence of your brand embedded in it somewhere. Whether it’s an event hashtag or a watermark on the images, make sure when attendees share content from the show, they have an option to tie it back to the event like with a hashtag or a social media handle.
Another good example: at the trade show mentioned above, they had a giant life-size foam hashtag where attendees could take pictures with it, pick it up and make fun memories from the show.
Make the event Instagrammable
By nature, humans are wired to share information with their online community. If you make it easy for your attendees to snap a pretty picture, then they’re more likely to share what’s going on. There’s no right way to do this, you can get as creative as you like, but I suggest you think beyond the decor.
A couple of ideas I’ve seen work are: a life-sized cutout of the event's hashtag with the host city as a backdrop; Live performances and interactive activities (virtual reality, video games, scavenger hunt, etc); A wall covered in white paper with pens hanging from the ceiling, attendees were urged to leave a handwritten message. By the end of the show, it turned into a mural that was photographed all evening.
All the content created during the show by the attendees can be repurposed at a different time for your social media needs. There are countless third party tools to help capture data and listen to social conversation. It will save you time and grey hairs to use a tool to collect and analyse all conversation around your event.
Live Engagement: AMA's (ask me anything)
All the information above is to help prepare you for the actual event, but it’s nothing new, it’s all been done before. With live engagement there’s an opportunity to combine creativity, technology and taking the event to people, providing them with the best possible overall experience.
Here are some live social media engagement apps/ tools you can use to leverage the engagement for your target audience:
A live video streaming app owned by Twitter that allows you to broadcast to your followers on Periscope and Twitter. Viewers can comment, ask questions and react to the content in real time.
Like above, Facebook Live is live streaming platform, but it’s embedded into your Facebook profile or page. Like Periscope, you can share live video with your followers and friends, and engage in real-time with your viewers. You can encourage viewers to participate, ask questions and get involved in your event without them being there, Eventbrite wrote a great article on how event planners can use Facebook Live for their event.
If you’ve ever been to a conference, they usually have live Q&A’s with influential people within the industry. Well how about making that session, or similar sessions (interviews/ sneak peeks) and stream it live to your audience who didn’t get the chance to attend your event. This can be done with either tool mentioned above. Viewers can ask questions and interact with the content being streamed, creating a “virtual event experience”.
Earlier this year Instagram rolled out a new feature allowing users to post a video for up to a minute (which is longer than the old 6 seconds). This is a great way to show snippets of your event, upcoming acts, preview of interviews, etc. To add more excitement to the mix, last year Instagram acquired a video app called Boomerang. The app let’s you take a burst of pictures, stitches them together to make a hyperlapse, looped piece of content for your viewers.
Virtual Reality & Augmented Reality
Taking your audience to another digital level has become the new craze in the events industry. Instead of someone giving you every adjective under the sun to sell you a holiday, hotel, excursion, product etc, events can now immerse attendees into another world where they can see, hear and “touch” the product. Virtual reality is a trend that’s rapidly increasing and has no intention of slowing down. It’s probably worth researching how you can incorporate aspects of virtual reality in to your next event, whether it’s a tour around an exotic beach, front row at a rock concert or battling it out in another galaxy, it’s engaging and gets the audience talking.
Don’t worry if your social efforts are not as successful as you thought it would be the first time. It takes practice, time and constant tweaking. One event might set up the social media framework for the next event.
The constant factor here is making sure you are constantly paying attention to your target audience. Do not aim your content to talk at them, talk with them by engaging in conversations and asking questions. When used correctly, social media can become an important moving part of your event as a whole.