Long gone are the days when event marketing consisted of advertising in local papers and PR. You would designate for your event a person to act as a media contact and they would work on your press releases. Next you would get in touch with newspapers and industry publications and then sit back and hope for the best.
That’s not to say that the above techniques have completely fallen by the wayside, but their significance in the realm of event marketing has diminished drastically. People no longer rely on magazines and newspapers to gain information, instead turning to Google, Twitter, Facebook and their ilk. Not only does this give them access to the event itself, but also gives them the chance to listen to and join in with conversations and opinions about it.
This means that event planners need to learn how to leverage this technology to their advantage. Whether, you are organising a small conference for a hundred people, or a massive festival for thousands, social media is a powerful tool for getting you message out and helping you to connect with your target audience on a personal level.
This is not a simple matter of setting up an event on Facebook and hitting the invite button, or firing off a quick tweet, however. You need a solid social media strategy that is bespoke and relevant to your event and target audience. That is where we at markITwrite come in as we present our guide on how to use social media in event marketing.
The first thing to do is to consider what the objectives of your event are. This should not be in regards to social media yet, but rather the overarching thing that you wish to accomplish. It could be that you want to draw in new potential customers, it could be to educate people, or it could be just to give everybody a great party and increase your attendance from the previous event. By doing this, you will ensure that you strategy is always focused on the bigger picture.
Without a solid objective, you will spend a lot of time and effort on using social media to promote your event, but you won’t know if it worked. With clear and well defined objectives you can look back on your event after the fact (more on this later) and establish whether or not you achieved it. Not necessarily in a black and white, it worked or it did not fashion, but more in the way that you’ll be able to establish the impact that each component had on the success of the plan overall.
After you have identified what you want to achieve, a good place to begin is with a memorable hashtag for your event. A hashtag can help you track all of the information and interactions related to your event with ease. You want to make sure that is short, unique and easy to spell and remember. Make sure that it cannot be misspelled easily or misread (nobody wants another Susan Boyle album party situation). Once you have come up with something good, be sure to include it every time you talk about your event in any way, both through online and physical media.
Next you want to sort out how you plan to promote through social media. This involves deciding which networks are going to be your primary channels, which will more often than not be Facebook and/or Twitter. Whichever you decide, you need to release all information through these channels first. Any secondary networks (Instagram for example) will have a slight delay in when they publish information, but can compensate with richer media, such as photos and/or videos.
Creating a Buzz
The best thing that you should be using social media for prior to the actual event is for creating a buzz. The main way you will likely be achieving this is by promoting the guests who will be attending. Whether they are key speakers or performers, the principle is the same. Post links to their websites, Facebook pages or Twitter feeds. Share their blog posts or ask them to write a short piece about how much they are looking forward to the event. This doesn’t have to be an essay, just a few sentences will suffice.
Schedule some Tweets for the day itself that contain essential information that is unlikely to change. This will be handy for anyone who needs some information such as time and location, or the event’s website. Also run some competitions for free tickets to the event (possibly not relevant for a business conference but you get the idea). Competitions on social media normally ask that people share the post as part of the win conditions and so will draw more people to your pages and spread the reach of your campaign further.
The social media campaign does not end when your event begins I’m afraid. Nope, instead prepare to keep up with everything going on online throughout and to be distributing live information and updates to your guests. There are several social platforms such as Hootsuite that make this a breeze. By acting as a simultaneous dashboard for all of networks, they will prevent you from having to juggle several different applications or pages.
You can be using social media during the event to tackle all manner of tasks. You can field questions from guest who require up-to-date information. You could maybe even set up a separate hashtag or Twitter feed for this. This will likely include complaints, so make sure that you have people on hand who can deal with these directly, as the last thing you want is an unsatisfied customer who doesn’t feel like their complaint has been taken seriously posting it all over your media.
Post Engaging Content
Be sure to post interesting things going on at the event as well. These can range from pictures to videos, to recordings and anecdotes. Set up screens around the venue that can display any Tweets that use your special hashtag, and make sure that guests know that they can live Tweet the event. You can also offer promotions such as competitions for the best or funniest photos in front of the event poster for example.
All of these things will help your guests to feel like you are constantly engaging with them throughout the event. It will prevent them feeling like you are some disembodied spectre that arranged the event, took their money and then faded into the night. It also means that you can deal with any issues that arise quickly and efficiently, which should hopefully result in more positive feedback about the event.
Storify is a really great website. It connects to all of your social media sites and allows you to embed any posts into a story by simply dragging and dropping. This is another great reason to encourage your guests to discuss the event on social media. What better way to show-off the success of your event that with a collage of your guest own Tweets, posts and pictures, arranged into a narrative type format. In my opinion that has to be better than you simply Tweeting or posting that the event was a success, doesn’t it?
Feedback is Important
Using websites like Survey Monkey, you can quickly and effortlessly (and for free) create a customer feedback questionnaire for your guests that you can then disseminate through your social media channels. Don’t make the survey too long (about five to ten well thought out questions should suffice) and try to stick to multiple choice/scale answering as much as possible. Consider offering an incentive, such as a chance to win free tickets to the next even, for those who fill out the survey.
You may want to include a free-writing box at the end, in case your guests want to say something specific, but having to write a prose answer to every question will put people off. Once the surveys have all (there’s no way you’ll get all of them returned but you get my point) been returned you can easily analyse the data to get an idea of averages and other patterns.
Post Event Analysis
The final thing you want to do is to sit down and really think about how your social media strategy performed throughout the lifetime of the event. Get the plan that you set up at the beginning out and go through it carefully. Did each network perform as you intended? Most of the social networks have built in analytics tools that can help you take an objective look at how each of them performed individually.
Make sure that your guest feedback survey includes some questions about the social media campaign. Ask how much they engaged with it and how much of it they were aware of. You could even ask if they had any suggestions to improve things for the next time. Asking your guests for advice will show them that you actually care about their experiences and may make them more likely to attend future events.
Well, there is our whistle-stop tour of how to use social media to increase the attendance and enjoyment of your next big event. Is there anything you would like to add however? Maybe you have a story of something that happened at an event that you attended that couldn’t have happened without social media? Or maybe you witnessed a disaster at an event that could have been easily avoided if only there had been a social media strategy in place? Please let us know in the comments.
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