When it comes to social media and event marketing, the lesson is: start using it NOW – but make sure you listen before you leap. Social media users surpassed email users globally three years ago and social networks are only projected to keep growing. Think of social media as a communication channel beyond a promotional tool or an advertising replacement. One-to-many communication platforms are less and less effective. So success in today’s digital world requires event organizers to let go a little and facilitate “many-to-many” communication.
Before you close this tab to update your Twitter account, let’s review four steps for employing a successful social media plan for your event.
- Identify – The first step is to know your desired audience. Find the community that is already online and cares about your cause. This can be done through various methods whether it is attendee research, hosting twitter chats, or starting a group on LinkedIn. Whichever way you choose, it’s important to view this social sub-network as a group of potential brand ambassadors, so make sure to treat them with online respect.
- Listen – Online respect is much like party etiquette, you wouldn’t just approach a group of people and start yelling your agenda at them. It is important to first listen, understand their interests, and then show you’re listening by adapting your event content to match the wants and needs of your attendee base. Sharing content to create buzz and chatter around your event is only effective if your audience is interested, so always listen before posting.
- Plan – This is a two-part step involving content and platform.
Content: Always align social media strategy with quarterly or yearly goals. Having a clear set of objectives to map back to will help you to measure your efforts effectively and improve your engagement. The plan will also give you a clear picture of your long-term reason to engage event attendees’ year-long and the content to do so.
Platform: Once you have a content plan in place, make sure you have a platform in place for folks to engage on. There are free platforms such as LinkedIn or Twitter but there are also paid forums such as self-contained, persistent communities or event-focused social sites to pull in and aggregate activity from various social networks and pair it with expressed interests and information from the event.
- Let go – The hard truth is that your attendees now trust their peers more than they trust your organization. Accept that losing control of event discussions is a good thing. Pre, on site, and post event discussions on social media are meant to be organic community engagements versus controlled and formulaic. Your goal should be to create ambassadors that are fanatical about your organization, and arm them with the materials you want them to share. Then, give them the freedom to inform the network. This does mean taking extra due diligence to ensure that all content you are distributing to social media community members can only be construed positively. If done right, this army of evangelists can drive more attendees than any amount of advertising.
Events are social in nature, a chance to connect with like-minded individuals and discuss topics of interest, as is social media, which makes it the perfect natural extension of an event. Follow these steps and you can easily build an engaged community around your events and around your organization. As a result, the impact of your events will flow beyond the walls of meeting rooms and the resulting spike in interested prospects will flow into the seats of your next event.