It used to be you spent five minutes registering for an event and then showed up on the big day, went to a few workshops, drank two free Coronas, and went home.
Social media changes all of that, enabling events and their planners to have long-term, nuanced, shifting interactions with attendees.
I gave a speech in suburban Cincinnati to the Mid-American chapter of Meeting Planners International, titled “7 Ways to Use Social Media to Create Buzz-Worthy Events.” My recommendations are based on my work with MarketingProfs and Salesforce to add social frosting to their already fabulous events, and my experiences speaking at several dozen conferences annually. There’s a total of 39 specific suggestions in the slides, but here are the highlights.
Get your potential attendees interacting with you early on by enabling some measure of feedback or crowdsourcing on the conference programming. South by Southwest has always led in this area, with its “panel picker” process that turns over 30 percent of the programming selection to potential attendees.
Another way you could simplify getting feedback from your audience is use tools like Twtpoll or PollDaddy (as I did when I asked you for feedback on potential new designs for this blog back in the day).
Almost all events have an official website. But very few (except for the geek events) take full advantage of all the free event listing and event management opportunities. At a minimum, you should create event pages on:
- Facebook Events
- Eventbrite (where you can also sell tickets if you’re so inclined)
- Linkedin (if it’s a business event)
Make sure to select the platform or registration software that fits with your audience.
Sure, its a bit of a hassle to oversee all of these event pages, but your attendees swim in different ponds. Plus, every conference has the same MVP attendee: some guy named Google. Why would you pass up a chance to double, triple, or quadruple your search engine listings?
These tools also serve as a way to message your attendees leading up to the event reminding them to invite their friends or what they can look forward to.
As the event draws closer, you have to pull potential attendees off of the fence with content hors-d’oeuvres.
Social Media Examiner does this well by consistently sharing what attendees can expect at their annual Social Media Marketing World conference leading up to the event. They share what speakers will be presenting and fun events to look forward to.
Collaborate with your speakers to produce teaser content. Most speakers are already creating short videos and content they are promoting to their audience. This can be a great opportunity to partner with them to align promotional calendars
Actively promote the event hashtag and invite users to share their content on Twitter and Instagram. Begin interacting with attendees before the event begins to build buzz and personal relationships with attendees. Social Media Marketing World has a healthy mix of attendees and speakers consistently adding content before and during their event using the hashtag #SMMW.
Use Pitchengine to create multi-media enabled press releases, and send the URL for the release to any and all “maybes” on your list. You should also gather social information from all registrants. Create a Twitter list of all attendees, and update it each time a new person registers.
Now we’re talking about the on-site experience, which is where social media can really add impact and get people talking.
Pick a hashtag for your event, so attendees and remote watchers can monitor the event on Twitter. The shorter the better, please! Depending on the size of the event, host multiple meetups for attendees to gather for dinner and hold meet-and-greets.
When attendees register for the event, ask them specific questions about their industry or job title. This information can help pair them in a meetup group that is beneficial to them.
I’m not a big fan of the geek conference staple of having a live streaming Twitter wall behind speakers while they speak. It’s too distracting. But I love having a big Twitter wall in a central conference location. This requires very little effort now, using something like Tweetwally.
Create an event within the event by running contests on Twitter during the conference. You can use metricool to show how many people are using the event hashtag and identify top contributors during the event. Share the leaderboard throughout the event and award prizes to top contributors.
During the event, invite attendees to share their feedback about the sessions for real-time insights. You can use an app called Yapp, which allows attendees to take a poll in the app for the event. This is also a great tool for informing attendees about updates and contests throughout the event.
This is a far better approach than sending a survey a few days after the event asking them what they thought about the session. This way, attendees can vote right after their session ends right on their phone.
Create your own media during the event. Use Facebook Live and Periscope to capture key moments during the event to engage people who couldn’t make it and create content you can repurpose later to promote future events.
As attendees create and share content using the event hashtag, compile their content and share it later to re-engage attendees after the event.
Take the conference content and spread it as widely as possible. Your goal is to get the doubters that didn’t come this year to view that content and decide to go the next year.
Take every conference presentation, and instead of just putting them on your website or emailing links to attendees, release them on SlideShare (one per day for maximum impact). Create content from key moments that happened during the event to share small pieces of content on social.
Reward good content. Invite attendees to share their best quote or photo from the conference for a chance to win a software subscription from a sponsor or free registration to the next event. This also is a great way to promote sponsors and encourage them to partner in upcoming events.
Here’s an example of Social Media Examiner awarding a year’s subscription to a sponsor’s service.
Why couldn’t you do that? Why can’t you do all of this?