Originally posted here for Little Tokyo Two.
It’s no secret that social media has almost endless possibilities for marketing before a purchase decision, but how about during and afterwards? One of the easiest areas for using social tech to improve customer experience is in events management, and here’s a stack of practical ways to do it before, during and after the event.
Monitor and research
Before spreading the love, you need to know who you’re targeting and how they’re likely to respond to your offerings. Spend some time researching the event topic industry, influencers, news, issues, jargon, humour and more.
Insider tip: follow the hashtag #eventprofs, where you’ll find numerous Twitter chats, links and resources for event managers. While a lot of the points specify expos and large conferences, even the smallest events can improve using similar techniques.
Stick to one hashtag
Hashtags are their most useful during widespread conversations around one event, and it’s vital for both engagement and aggregation purposes that you communicate this before the event. For instance, the #WorldCup is huge on Twitter, but does that hashtag refer to FIFA’s football world cup, the cricket or something else..? For the FIFA World Cup, Twitter created customised search pages for ‘hashflags’ which matched the team codes, and these pages had live scores as they happened. Outlining which tags to use is vital, and much easier when value is shown on the official tags.
It can be embarrassing when your audience runs the conversation online without you too, especially if the event is about professional topics like marketing. Another reason for using just one hashtag for general use is that you might want to use a different one for a competition, or allow a sponsor to use theirs alongside your own. All these hashtags can certainly get crowded, so choose wisely, keep it simple and make sure it’s known by everyone involved.
Media from previous events
Social is very often about storytelling, so do consider showing off where your event has come since its earlier days. Historical posts are an excellent content choice for tight-knit communities, with photos of attendees who can tag each other for pleasant nostalgia. (Are we still doing #TBT, Throwback Thursday? A lot of users do, but brands might label it something else, and choose another occasion for sharing.)
Even if your event is running for the first time, there’s always space for content from activities already held. Include activation events and promotions, launches, milestones and testimonials, particularly if they blend into this next category.
Behind the scenes content
Get exclusive! Often this type of content is shown by event team members on their personal accounts (say, a stage assistant’s selfie with their manager), however if it suits your event in an official capacity, behind the scene posts are a sociable way to include your audience in the event before it has even happened. One great app for this is Snapchat which is even giving numerous big brands the opportunity to share Live Stories content - Oscars anyone?
Consider what your audience would love to hear about before official announcements, but also remember other stakeholders in your event. I can’t imagine a sponsor would be happy if you announced their new product before they got the chance!
Guest speakers’, ambassadors’ and team achievements
Don’t forget your guests, speakers, sponsors and staff when it comes to adding value to an event. Depending on your event, this could be anything monumental from an international award, right down to the smaller achievements such as a birthday or anniversary.
Recently my team ran social media for the inaugural Brisbane Coot-tha Burn cycling event, and some of the most popular content in the event’s lead-up was profiles on the professional riders entering. Whenever they reached a new personal best on Strava, conquered another racing event and celebrated a career milestone, we announced it to the community - and we did this during the event as well (see below).
Encouraging your team to promote themselves can be a challenge for most managers, and this starts from having a winning corporate culture - something which Little Tokyo Two's crew (with Jock Fairweather at the helm) can certainly attest to being the strength of the community.
At the Event
Encourage social media use in housekeeping speeches, and ensure staff know the on-site social media manager. You want to use every opportunity (without appearing slimy) to promote the event's online content so that social media can do what it does best in amplifying your messages.
Interviews and highlights
One of the best reasons to hold an event is to network with wonderful people, and this extends to your viewers through social media. A neat trick (if you’re careful!) is to schedule standard messages to go out during the day about pre-planned special activities, such as a photo opportunity, panel or autograph signing. These posts can encourage viewers to reply with their questions and comments so that key speakers or guests can answer the right questions and connect with their fans.
You can also encourage actual attendance numbers with interviews and media with early punters in the ticket line - think ‘awards night red carpet’ moments and excitement. Photos from the event earlier on can do wonders if you’re relying on audience participation or dress-ups!
A lot of competitions are run before events or for product giveaways, such as a photography competition in the lead up to boost user engagement, but some bigger events and their sponsors are using social media competitions to grow engagement during the event itself.
At TEDxSouthBank 2016, sponsors Flight Centre Australia held a Twitter competition with the hashtag #flightcentrexted, for attendees to mention a location they’d visit, for the chance to win return flights there. Turned out that the winner chose one of the most isolated places on earth, Diego Garcia. Flight Centre said they’d ‘find a way’ despite the island not having a commercial airline! This not only gave everyone a laugh at the TEDxSouthBank speeches but also fit right in with the event theme ‘Challenge Accepted.’
Live video coverage with Periscope, or YouTube
Periscope is the darling app of social media savvy small businesses at the moment, and it’s a no-brainer as to why. Live streaming video apps expand your audience beyond only those who can attend, and do so in a way which is easy and resourceful for small events.
The suitability of live streaming technology will not only depend on your events’ budget, but also in the form of content. Is the activity formal in nature, like a gala dinner speech, or casual such as a one-on-one interview with a guest speaker after their presentation? Match the formality of content to be filmed with either YouTube, Periscope, Snapchat or another live-streaming technology. You’ll save a lot of panic on the day, and you’ll end up with media which suits the subject and audience a lot better.
Teasers and announcements
You did it! The gig is done! No doubt you’re tired, but your marketing efforts aren’t done yet. Now’s your chance to ride the high that everyone’s on and start teasing content for your next event or show. Even in the closing hour of your event you should work towards the next step; treat it as an overlap to get the word out to loyal stakeholders and attendees while they’re still experiencing the value you’ve provided. Such an easier sell than trying to revive that loving feeling weeks after the most vital touch point!
If you’re not doing another event, have a think about what you want attendees to do next. Where does the community go from here? How can you encourage attendees to get more out of the event, whether in networking, learning, purchasing, or doing something they’d said they’d do to follow up? Here’s your chance to keep your audience accountable to their objectives, as well as a chance to ensure your speakers and sponsors can grow their followings from the event too.
Reporting and statistics
All those surveys and feedback forms aren’t just wanted by management, your attendees and sponsors might want to see them as well. If reaching more sponsors next year, or attracting a diverse crowd is important to your event, definitely consider getting as much information on attendees and their feedback during the event. Sponsors for exhibitions and festivals certainly want to know demographic data and other criteria which influence buying behaviours, so this in itself should be reason enough to share statistics and information learned from the event. In any case, the number nerds in your audience will always appreciate a substantial, well-designed infographic, so show off what you’ve learned and who’s in your community.
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And that’s your event social media sorted! Did I miss anything? What awesome examples of social media for events have you seen lately?