How can you use social media at your event to boost engagement and reach?
Our recent Nashville HubSpot User Group (HUG) event, a monthly digital marketing meeting of inbound marketing professionals presented by Inbound Marketing Agents, has provided some insight into social media best practices during events.
At the end of our Nashville HUG, I realized that utilizing social media during an event is much more powerful than before or after an event. Why? For the most part, event attendees love to engage with real-time updates and network. And, with the support of your attendees and employees, your company will cast the widest net it's ever had on social media by providing event-related content to those who aren’t present. During your event, you hit the mother lode of knowledge-hungry individuals who can’t want to engage and share the content you provide. So, let’s make it easier for them to do so!
To help get the ball rolling, here are some of the things I did or wish I had done at our latest Nashville HUG:
1. Identify social networks you’ll use.
Where do your attendees hangout and post? Where do you currently have a developed online community? During the Nashville HUG, I posted to the following social networks:
Twitter is perhaps the main social network to focus on because it's fast-paced and typically used for updates on daily tasks. Mobile devices have the biggest impact on Twitter with “the highest proportion of mobile vs. PC photos sharing of any social network.”
Facebook should be added to the mix because 80% of users prefer to connect with brands on Facebook, and it retains the highest engagement rate of any social network.
Instagram is one of the most engaging social network, with more than 150 million users and 16 billion photos shared.
2. Designate one or two individuals to manage social media at all stage of the event.
The first to monitor, share and reply to social activity, and the second to capture pictures, videos, and post quotes and takeaway points on selected social networks. The number of people you should designate to social media is really dependent on your event size.
3. Write social media posts and quotes before the event.
You most likely will have several run-throughs prior to the event to ensure that your presentation slides, presenters and itinerary are prepared correctly. When doing so, you should record memorable quotes, points from each presentation, details about each presenter and announcements in the order that it is presented.
When recording these quotes, include relevant hashtags to post on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Remember to tailor the length and detail of each status to the appropriate social network. Save this list in a word document organized by presentation flow and social network. This will help you to quickly copy and paste into the intended social networks at the right time.
Although this tweet would have been better if it included the event hashtag, it's a great example of a company tweet that includes topic hashtags:
4. Consider appropriate organizations and people to engage with content.
Find the appropriate social influencers that are following you by using SocialBro, a tool to help you browse and identify social influencers and analyze your audience engagement to determine optimal publishing times.
5. Ask for Twitter handle during registration.
This is a great way to compile a list of attendees to engage via Twitter during the event. If you reply to a tweet with a cryptic handle, you can reference the list to locate their name (and possibly company and job title).
6. Encourage social media use during the event.
Some people may refrain from mobile device use during a presentation out of respect for the presenter and fellow attendees. Clarify that you actually prefer they use social media during the event and suggest they check-in on FourSquare or Facebook.
7. Specify the hashtag to use and your company’s twitter handle.
Select a unique and easy-to-remember hashtag to help your attendees build an event community and conversation in a designated location. Announce the hashtag and twitter handle throughout the event and display it on screen before each presenter.
Here’s a great example from the Nashville HUG where an attendee tweeted a photo using our event hashtag, #NashHUG, and event and company twitter handles:
8. Reserve questions until the end of each presentation.
To increase engagement, you can announce that the first questions will be pulled from Twitter. The designated social media person can also reply a short version of the answer for other followers to see.
9. Take photos of attendees.
One great opportunity is to take photos of prize winners and include their twitter handle.
Here is an example of announcing swag winners using Twitter handles and event hashtags before recapping with individual winner photos:
10. Use a social media manager like HootSuite or Sprout Social.
SproutSocial allows you to tweet from different Twitter accounts, monitor multiple account newsfeeds, mentions and hashtags at once and receive instant messages about engagement. You can also schedule messages to post to Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
Most presentations tend to keep the same pace, but in case something disrupts the flow, I would suggest not scheduling tweets. Otherwise, you risk tweeting points before they are mentioned or overlooked by the presenter and looking less authentic. If you decide scheduling is best for you, provide a time span long enough to accommodate any overflow.
11. Use a mobile device to instantly snap photos and post photos on instagram throughout the event.
Use Webstagram to download images from Instagram to share on Facebook and Twitter.
12. Don’t cross social media streams.
Why? First, your audience won’t view the content shared from a different network as unique, e.g. sharing a photo from Facebook to Twitter shares a Facebook link. Second, tagging and tweeting individuals works better within each network. Third, social network translation can hurt your post’s format.
13. Evaluate the appropriate timing and frequency of posts on each network.
Obviously you can’t change the time of the event to accommodate the best social engagement times, but you can post content in a way that will get noticed on each network. Consider the frequency the user prefers and the shelf life of posts on each network. You wouldn’t posts on Facebook every minute of the event like you might for Twitter, would you? You want to appear on your followers’ newsfeed, but you also need to be respectful by not monopolizing it, even if it is only for thirty minutes.
14. Not all content needs to be shared on every network.
Have some content be unique to each audience. Odds are, you share followers across networks and don’t want to annoy them with the same content at the same time on every network. Mix it up and post content at different times. All of the photos you publish on instagram don’t need to be posted on your company’s Facebook page. Since Facebook is a more personal social network, be more conservative with the content you post on Facebook during the event than on Twitter and Instagram. Like mentioned above, you don’t want to annoy your followers, nor do you want to overrun and dilute the great content that’s already on your page.
15. Display company posts, event hashtag stream, comments and tweets.
If there’s one thing people love, it’s having their comments displayed on a large screen for all to see. This is one of the best ways to increase engagement during your event. You can dedicate a projector or TV to just a twitter feed, have multiple displays for each social network around the event or stream it below your actual presentation. If you have multiple speakers, you can have a stream dedicated to just their tweets about other presentations. At the end of their presentation, have each presenter reference tweets and answer questions that have displayed on the feed.
16. Request photos and comments to be posted after event too.
You will most likely have photos, videos and a blog to publish after the event. Ask your attendees to post additional photos or reviews using your event hashtag after the event, too. The intrigue and credibility of your event increases with the more social engagement present. The content your attendees post is more valuable and may even be better than the content you’ve produced.
While you can read guides and blogs written by event coordinators and social media experts, you really won’t know what works best for your company and event until you actually implement it yourself. So tell me, what has worked for you?
(image credit: watiporn/freedigitalphotos.net)