This past February, I had the honor of participating in a panel at an industry event where the topic was how to host a successful event, and I was the panelist representing digital marketing. I focused on best practices in social media for promoting and hosting an event. Based on my experience and audience feedback, I felt it would be helpful for those who missed the panel to benefit from our insights.
Although I do not consider myself an expert on event marketing, I have hosted or supported a variety of events and related marketing activities over the years that have informed my perspective. Since 1999, I’ve hosted a monthly business networking event in Portland, which has given me the opportunity to refine social media promotion of recurring industry events. I’ve also co-founded or concepted annual search engine marketing events like SearchFest. My experience has informed the following best practices for hosting a successful real-world event.
A successful event requires a good deal of planning. Social media is no exception. Throughout the event planning process, marketing must be a key consideration. I’ve developed the 3 Ps of pre-event preparation to simplify the process, outlined below:
- Planning. Any successful social media campaign requires an objective and an audience. Once you’ve defined both, conduct research to identify where your target audience lives on social media. Understand which platforms they prefer, how they use them, content they value, and attention-grabbing calls-to-action that generate attendance.
- Profile/account creation. Once you’ve identified the relevant platforms, immediately create accounts as appropriate (whether they be under your dealer name or the name of your recurring event). As a default, I recommend creating profiles on the following social platforms: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and Google+. Be sure to “optimize” your profiles with your dealer/event name, description, logo/name, and associated imagery. Cross-reference the various profiles to ensure optimum visibility by potential attendees and search engines.
- Preliminary promotion. It is never too early to promote an event, so start creating “teaser” content immediately for the new (or existing) social profiles. Ideally, content will be 80 percent unique to each platform, although it is not uncommon for 80 percent of your posts or updates to be identical initially. The objective is to put a stake in the ground and get the word out. With months to go until the event, take your time to create compelling content, and identify and engage “players” in your community who are also active online in order to generate early buzz for your event. Contests can generate immediate and sustained awareness for your event (especially if the winner must be present at the event to win).
Related Class: Fundamentals of the Tier 1 Social Media Platforms
A successful event has to be well planned. That said, the rubber hits the road at the event itself, and you need a game plan that will get the crowd fired up. There are 3 Cs of effective at-event communication:
- Content creation. With a bit of planning, you can develop a content calendar framework so your team knows what they should be producing and when. While staff might focus on complex content like interviews and videos, ambassadors or volunteers can handle pictures and general status updates. Create and promote a dedicated hashtag for your event (the shorter, the better) that others will associate with their updates on Twitter or Facebook to allow for more effective engagement and curation post-event.
- Collaboration. A core component of your event planning should be to develop a core team of social media marketers, including employees, volunteers, and ambassadors from your community. Provide them incentives (sometimes as little as a free t-shirt) and basic training that will allow them to post real-time updates, pictures, and videos from the event.
- Conversation. The primary goal of your social media team should be to engage event attendees during the event. Actively promote your Twitter handle and hashtag to attendees and ask them to share their experiences in real time. Monitor your Twitter account and mentions of the hashtag to look for opportunities to engage in conversations that enhance the value and impact of the event. For example, attendees often provide helpful commentary about the event (the speakers are too loud or too quiet, beer is low, or the toilet is clogged). To further foster conversation, post questions or surveys during the event.
One of the most common mistakes event managers and marketers make is not following through. Your event plan should include post-event activities for continuity. I’ve outlined a methodology below that will allow you to “LINC” your events and maximize impact:
- Leverage momentum. It’s never too early to think about your next event. Best practice is to set the date, time, and location of your next event so that you can promote it at the current event. Close the deal by offering special incentives for attendees to register for the next event (discounts are most common).
- Inspire dialogue. Assuming you throw an event people will be talking about for days if not months, engage with attendees immediately after the event with highlights, a formal recap, a thank you to sponsors and special guests, insights, interviews, and special offers.
- Nurture relationships. While generating Facebook likes and Twitter followers is great, nothing is better than building your house (email) list. Encourage your attendees and social media fans to provide their email so you can continue the conversation over a platform you “own” and can control. Build on previous content mentioned above with in-depth content best suited for a newsletter. You’ll have greater control and improved tracking.
- Curate content. Your social media team and event attendees will create a good deal of content in the form of updates/posts, pictures, and videos. Unfortunately, a good deal with be distributed across platforms. It is your obligation and opportunity to compile the information into one thorough recap (I recommend a blog post) that links to the various platforms and profiles containing the content. If you can get permission, move all the images to Facebook or Pinterest where they can be easily viewed and shared. Move your videos to YouTube and updates to Facebook or your blog. Google will appreciate your efforts as much as past and future attendees.
Armed with these best practices, I guarantee your event will be a smashing success! For more tips on social media marketing, visit Anvil Media’s Resources section.