Tweet me! Like us! Follow us! Tag our clever hashtag! As marketers and event planners, we are populating our event promotions and collateral with various social media buttons and calls to action. But what value does this bring? How is it measured? Does it matter?
The number of likes, shares and tweets can help you build buzz and interest leading up to and during your event, but how do you make that buzz last? How does that translate into support of your event’s overall objective?
Here are seven simple ways to maximize your social media strategy, and ensure your efforts will make your event’s impact last long after the event is over.
- Post rich content. Videos, photos, memes, and gifs get more attention than plain text posts. This is true across all social platforms. Research has discovered that images can result in an 85 percent interaction rate on Facebook and increase retweets by 35 percent. Before the event, your team can post photos of the invitation, preparation activities and other behind-the-scenes details. During the event, post photos throughout each day with your phone. However, it might also be worth getting a professional photographer to take quality photos, which can then be uploaded to an event Facebook photo album or pinned on Pinterest. Following the event, post and tag people (if possible) and share the “aftermath” photos where you can. This will make people feel they are truly part of the entire experience, not just a guest.
- Understand your channel and post accordingly. It's 140 characters for Twitter, 15 second videos on Instagram, 6 seconds for Vine. There are restrictions and best practices on the length of copy, tone and timing of posts for optimal performance of the content. Understand your audience, identify the social tools to engage with them, and then post--and post often.
- Use calls to action. Be honest: The purpose of the social media strategy is to generate leads and engage your customers. A “like” is great, but a download of your new content or registration for an event is even better. Linking to registration pages and downloadable content will give you a better understanding and connection with your audience. Additionally, tools such as Twitter cards can provide a form within the tweet for followers to engage--without ever leaving the social media platform.
- Establish a creative, unique hashtag. Try to use hashtags that have never been used so you own the conversation. #Donuts won’t set you apart as a thought-leader but #RobotDonuts might. (Oh wait, there is already one tweet out there with #RobotDonuts). Promote the hashtag in all communications, so others will catch on when they are posting and sharing their thoughts on the event. These hashtags can be used for a recurring event by adding a date stamp to the end of the tag. For example, #RobotDonuts15 for the event held in 2015.
- Prepare social media materials for sponsors and speakers. You’ve established a hashtag--now take it one step further. Make it easy for the sponsors and speakers you’ve lined up, and draft sample social media messages for them. The posts are simply recommendations, but those who are not regular social media users will appreciate the content. If the event participants get in on the social media action, it will encourage attendees to join in as well.
Give away “exclusive” information to your social followers. Make your audience feel that they are part of something exclusive or special. Give them an “insider tip” or offer them a unique opportunity to test one of your products. You really can’t go wrong with a prize or giveaway.
- Measure your efforts. There are a host of free tools out there to measure how your social strategy is doing. Hootsuite, Google Analytics, and even the analytics provided by native social platforms can help give you an idea of how your efforts are performing. Changing up the timing and format of your posts will help you understand the best way to engage your audience.
Tips and best practices can only take you so far. Using social media to engage your audience for your event requires a team that is committed to identifying the best cadence for posts and the appropriate channels. Being responsive to the performance of the content and iterative throughout the process are key for a successful program.
Alena Van Dalen is an event marketing manager for global brand experience agency Event Strategy Group, based in Plymouth Meeting, Pa. Alena is a social media marketing professional, advocate of strengths-based practice, and weekend adrenaline junkie. Follow her on Twitter at @ZalenaN.