Written by Alyssa Curran and Katie Zupancic
The events industry is all about moments. Unique, shared experiences between participants, volunteers, staff members, and spectators are what will make your event hit #1 on the charts, and why participants want to return year after year. These moments build loyalty, and whether your ultimate goal is fundraising or experiential marketing-related, they have a lifetime far longer than the event itself. Social media is the perfect way to amplify those moments. You can extend the passion and excitement surrounding an event for those who were present, and you can even bring in people virtually via social media channels. When done strategically, sharing these moments via social media can bring together your individual constituents into an engaged online community.
Tip 1. Before the event, pump up the volume on your social media presence. So now you’re sold on why social media is great for events. Awesome! Your on-event social media will be even more engaging if you make sure your participants know you’ll be “getting social” beforehand. At least two weeks before the event, create posts about what social media platforms you’ll be utilizing. Include key information such as which hashtags to use. Your emails and website should also have links to your social media pages. Even better, automatic share buttons built into your website are a one-click spot for visitors to share your event on their social media pages – while simultaneously linking to your social pages and website. Cross promoting your pages on your other social media networks is also key. You may introduce an avid-Facebook fan to your new Twitter page.
Tip 2. Make sure your post’s structure works in harmony with the social media outlet. Artsy, individual photos may perform best on your Instagram page, while candid group photos drive higher engagement numbers on your Facebook page. Twitter might be great for in-the-moment updates that overwhelm your Facebook followers. Take a look at the analytics (or online articles if you’re just starting) to see what type of content each outlet’s fans want to see, and structure your posts to capitalize on trends.
Tip 3. Rehearse your on-event strategy before you’re on event. Now that you’ve got everything set up to spread the word about your on-event presence, it’s a good time to quickly chat with your colleagues or management team about the types of things you’ll be posting. Find out if there are things you should stay away from posting (maybe you shouldn’t hint at a new product launching next month), or maybe there are specifics you definitely should play up (like a relationship with a sponsor). While a full-fledged approval system is usually far too much for the instantaneous nature of social media, making sure to stakeholder an idea of what you plan to post can help ensure things run smoothly.
Tip 4. Give fans backstage access. Don’t lie, you’d JUMP at the chance to go backstage at your favorite band’s concert or watch a taping of your favorite television show. Social media gives you the opportunity to provide your event participants with that same experience, minus the logistics and time of behind-the-scenes tours. Give your social media followers VIP treatment, showcasing the site build, green room access, or even a sneak peek at the goody bags.
Tip 5. Empower your fan club. Do you have passionate participants who “like” every post you make? Empower these people, known as your influencers, to help you spread the word. You can ask these brand advocates to retweet significant tweets leading up to the event or to share your informational Facebook posts during the event. To go above and beyond, we recommend finding them at your event to thank them in person or even sending them a handwritten post-event thank you note. Loyalty is a wonderful gift given to social media managers.
Tip 6. Harmonize in real-time with your followers and fans. Was a great photo shared at the event? Retweet or comment to show that you appreciate the support. Even a “like” can go a long way with constituents. Unlike other marketing avenues, social media is supposed to be a real-time conversation…the key word being conversation.
Tip 7. Be prepared for real-time questions from the crowd. Anticipate that your participants will have questions and that they’ll come to social media looking for answers. Check in on your event platforms and moderate for questions and concerns. Have a point person to step in and advise when you’re not sure how to answer specific concerns.
Tip 8. If something goes out of tune, have a plan for crisis communication. While we never want anything to go wrong on event, unfortunately, accidents and crises do happen. Establish a crisis communication team that can help you handle informing your participants and answer sticky subjects online should an emergency arise.
Tip 9. Don’t be afraid to ask questions from your audience. Instead of waiting for the post-event survey, why not ask participants about their experience while it’s happening? Passion and enthusiasm are clearly conveyed via real-time quotes on social media, often in a way that feels more genuine than what is shared in a formal review or survey. By actively asking the questions while the excitement is still there, you can obtain passionate responses to use in your future marketing materials.
Tip 10. Play it again! Don’t forget to engage after the event. You had an amazing event, and social media was rockin’. However, your work isn’t done yet. Engaging after an event is important, because the excitement is still running high. Encourage people to share photos, ask questions about your participants’ favorite moments, and be sure to “like”, retweet and comment on anything participants take the time to post. Through social media engagement, a participant who had a special memory from an event might become one of your influencers.
As mentioned at the beginning, your event creates moments for your participants, and a strong on-event social media strategy is a powerful, personal way to spread the energy and passion surrounding these moments with your greater community. As far as ROI (you’ve been waiting, we know!), the marketing benefits for an on-event social strategy are tangible. You’ve showcased your brand, made current participants feel the recognition that they deserve, built a means to gather and harness that excitement, and engaged a totally different audience from afar. You’ve also simultaneously started marketing for next year’s event to all of your audience’s social networks. ROCK ON.
Katie works on marketing and sponsorship for MuckFest® MS, a fun mud and obstacle 5K in support of a world free of multiple sclerosis. She also enjoys exploring the city of Chicago with her tiny puppy, Annie. Connect with her here: LinkedIn, Twitter.
Alyssa works on social media for the Susan G. Komen 3-Day®, a 60-mile walk to end breast cancer. When she’s not tweeting, “Liking”, or blogging, she’s crafting recipes in the kitchen, hiking, or buying more nail polish she doesn’t need. Tweet her on Twitter or link up with her on LinkedIn.