By now, most of us are keen to use social media as a simple and cost-effective way to network and promote a destination. Recent reports find that as much as 25 percent of marketing budgets are now being dedicated solely to social media. As advances in digital technology continue to shape our world, the sheer volume of users, its viral nature and the ability to cater content based on user preferences are making social media a no-brainer. Slower to catch on is its built-in knack for providing value-added services that help with everything from brand engagement to offering “social concierge” services to meeting attendees. Social media is ensuring your meeting and event experiences begin long before their official start times. Here are a few ways to optimize your meeting or event around the clock.
develop ‘the hub’
Before diving into the fast-paced world of social media, you’ll need to decide where you want attendees to get the scoop on your event. This will more than likely be a website, microsite or app where you plan to house all event details. It’s the mothership and the ultimate springboard for all of your social media posts, and you’ll want it to be fully controlled by you. Once you establish and develop your hub, research your target audience and see which social media platforms they frequent. Social media is as much about quantity as it is quality. So you’ll want to have a clear strategy coming out of the gate or risk losing some of the audience you are hoping to capture. Develop your hub at least a month in advance to ensure all participants are on the same page, literally.
Creating a hashtag for your event will allow real-time conversations to unfold at any moment. Attendees can share the insights and impressions they gain from speakers, debate, post photos and videos and ask questions. CVBs, hotels, DMCs and all other participants can answer questions and engage attendees and notify them of deals, local events, restaurants and entertainment. Connect with the CVB of your event’s destination to find out what other perks they offer—the Chicago CVB offers interactive gaming to convention clients and Visit Orlando pairs planners with a social media guru. One of the less talked about benefits of an event hashtag is the potential for audience development. Whatever you choose as your hashtag can potentially connect you with people who share your interests—so think this one out.
After you develop your hashtag, engage your participants. They can be an incredibly powerful tool in helping you determine last-minute touches. Last talking point: the most effective hashtag campaigns are launched weeks in advance, from pre-to post-event. I’ve personally been at many events where the hashtag was invented at the last moment. This caused much confusion and distraction to the detriment of speakers and attendees. So research your hashtag, get everyone on the same page and gather a list of twitter handles from participants early on. You may want to corral everyone into twitter messenger as well, which will make real time conversation much easier to manage.
Facebook hashtags have admittedly been a little slow to catch on, but consider trying it anyway. Develop a hashtag for your event and use it in every post. It may be the same as your twitter tag, but do your research. Pay attention to your reach and engagement numbers to see if your hashtag is making a difference. You can also do a hashtag search (#criteria…whatever that may be) to see what other people are using to boost their meetings and events.
Lastly, it may be a good idea to outline a handful of potential best and worst experiences of your event beforehand. This will help you build a clear social media strategy for leveraging the good moments while addressing any setbacks in advance.
Podcasts and videos are extremely valuable, cost-effective tools for developing excitement around your meeting or event. Brief, pre-event podcasts can generate a lot of hype, especially when used to share the thoughts of upcoming speakers or to give a sneak peak at a surprise guest or experience. Producing a podcast can also be as easy as downloading an app to your iPhone. Apps like Caster: Mobile Studio, Mobile Podcaster and BossJock Studio offer an easy interface for creating podcasts on the fly. Upload the file to your website or schedule a wave of pre-event teasers to be posted via Hootsuite.
As of late 2013, YouTube was the second most popular search engine in the world. A report released by the Relevancy Group last year found that more than 4 billion YouTube videos are viewed every day with 700 video links being shared on twitter every minute. Free video distribution is an obvious plus in an industry that is as equally about aesthetics as it is logistics. Create a YouTube channel for your brand and consider offering attendees a glimpse of what’s in store for their meeting or event. Add interview teasers with upcoming speakers and videos of the destination and accommodations. The point is to create buzz and excitement around the event, so be sure to share your videos across all appropriate social media channels. Vine, a mobile video-sharing platform, allows users to create 7-second videos—the potential for pre- and post-event interaction definitely hyped.
Session rooms and high-traffic areas are excellent spots for live twitter feeds. You’ll need someone to monitor the feeds and determine which is retweetable–during your event, remember that laptops, smartphones, tablets and the venue’s audio/visual capabilities are the main links between you and your attendees. Try to use them strategically.
Although personalization may seem like a dying breed in the present digital age, handcrafted gestures still go a long way in meetings and events—it’s the definition of handcrafted that is a bit ambiguous. For planners on smaller budgets, allow attendees to personalize their itineraries by conducting a “choose your own adventure” survey or let a mobile application—such as the Crowd Compass mobile app by Cvent—do the work for you. Mobile apps allow you to engage attendees through the devices they are already using while providing important insights into attendee behavior. Send welcoming messages to attendees as they land in their host town, provide instant updates, give sponsors a place for interactive advertising—all this combined with the fact that it’s simply faster to find info on an app than combing through the internet web. They’re also a pretty good springboard for going green. Find out if your hotel or CVB offers any apps that will simply make your job easier.
Provide attendees with options for social media branding that are personalized and cutting edge. Engage them in a pre- or post-show twitter chat with a handful of event participants from keynote speakers to the event chef. Personalization in the digital age may also mean group discounts at registration and digital signage. Wearable tech is another trend that delivers schedule notifications directly to attendees’ wrists.
As we steadily veer away from being an app for everything into an app in everything kind of world, remember that social media is still driven by human beings. The best social media strategies acknowledge this by harnessing the power of social media tools to connect with people.