12 Tips on Using Social Media to Create Events Everyone Talks About
Using social media to create events and conferences that everyone talks about, is not that hard, it just requires some planning and time. It’s about way more than just deciding on a hashtag and sticking it on a couple of PowerPoint slides. Here are a few tips to help:
Tip #1: Involve attendees at the start in formulating aspects of the agenda. Social media is all about engagement. An easy way to involve your potential attendees is to involve them in picking workshops (ala South by Southwest – the leader in this field), expressing their interests about the agenda, potential speakers, etc.
Tip #2: Focus your efforts and make a plan. Pick one or two social media platforms to focus your energies on, and choose what your audience prefers. Designate someone with your nonprofit or association to steward your social media plans for the event. Pre-write some content for your blog or Facebook page based on what you think will happen during the conference that week and dump it into drafts, then update it with photos and new information before hitting publish. Find out how easy it is for people to charge up their devices at your event location – are electrical outlets readily available? Or will you need to add some charging stations for your attendees? Offer free wifi so everyone can stay online and easily participate.
Tip #3: Promote your event online in more places than just your website. Having a website for your event is a given. But make sure you talk about your event on your own social media channels. It can be very easy for organizations with a long-established running event to just “do” what they have always done because they know it’s worked in the past. But think outside the box. Share information via LinkedIn. Consider using free event management and marketing tools like EventBrite. Cross-promote from Facebook to Twitter and vice versa.
Tip #4: Create a social media directory for conference participants. You have to make sharing simple for people. If you create a printed program for the conference – include Twitter handles for speakers in the program next to the presentation, and put the official event hashtag in the header or footer on every page. I’m always amazed at how often I attend a conference, hold in my hand a beautifully-produced and mega-planned program – and there are no Twitter handles in it – reducing speakers at times to spelling out their handles for the audience’s benefit. If you have an app for your event (not uncommon nowadays) include social media for speakers, as well as social media handles for attendees (make sure you get permission to share information like this on your event registration and speaker forms).
Tip #5: Develop an expectation with attendees that they will get information via social media. Long gone are the conference newsletters and paper fliers we used to produce in the middle of the night to keep attendees informed (yes, I did do this for association conferences many years ago). If you are changing how you distribute information at the conference, tell attendees in advance and make it clear that you will put information out on a particular account and on the hashtag.
Tip #6: Use social media to excite and engage participants before the event. Do a Twitter or Facebook chat ahead of your event with a key speaker or organizer to excite attendees. Blog posts, short videos by speakers, and contests are all great ways to involve your attendees. Encourage your speakers to post something on the hashtag in advance of the event.
Tip#7: Pick a hashtag. Make it memorable but short. And put it on everything – you don’t want to risk confusion and end up with some content on the wrong hashtag. Start using the hashtag before your event. Do a tweetup when your event starts to encourage people to use the hashtag and be excited about sharing during the event. Display a running Twitter stream at your event. Ask speakers to reference the hashtag or include the hashtag on PowerPoint slides. Don’t be afraid to be creative. Do interesting things – hide a prize at the event – post a photo on the hashtag – whoever gets to it first wins the prize.
Tip #8: Let attendees ask questions via Twitter using the hashtag. You don’t have to do this at every panel or presentation, but encourage attendees to ask questions via Twitter, and ask moderators or speakers to read and answer some questions this way.
Tip #9: Create photos and video during your event. Send a staff member around with a camera/phone that can easily update to your social media accounts. Create a schedule for photos so you can easily update with key event photos. Ask attendees to write just a few words on signs that they hold up (like in our photo example from Girl Guides of Canada’s 2015 conference #GGCconf15). Gather sound bytes from attendees and share them on social media. Have a “drop in booth” with prizes for attendees who stop in and provide a sound byte or take a photo.
Tip#10: Make it easy to share photos DURING your event, but go one step further and use them to narrate the story of your event. Your hashtag should help collect photos on Facebook, FlickR, Tumblr and Instagram. You could also do a Storify, morning slide show, a roundup blog post, or a podcast or video. Then cross-post whatever storyline you create on social media.
Tip #11: Put conference presentations up on SlideShare. Get the PowerPoint presentations from your presenters and post them on Slideshare. Then share links in social media. I was genuinely surprised when I spoke at a conference on social media a few months ago and they had no plan for what to do with presentations after the event. I ended up putting my presentation on SlildeShare myself the day I spoke, so attendees could access it.
Tip #12: Reward the people who help create content. It takes a village to have a successful social media presence for a conference – and if you see conference attendees live-blogging, tweeting in a frenzy or posting photos like crazy – consider giving out a prize or featuring their work. Include their blog post in your round-up or e-newsletter after the conference, or tweet it out as a link on your official Twitter feed. Profile in an after-the-event newsletter the major social media activities that happened during the event and interview some of the people who participated – by holding up the positive, you are encouraging others to follow.
Talk to Us: How are you using social media to enhance participation in your events? Is social media generating more buzz for your events and why?
Photo credit: Thanks to Girl Guides of Canada for our featured photo showing attendees sharing inspiring messages at their 2015 conference on the hash tag #GGCconf15. Link to the photo here. Licensed under Creative Commons.
Ami Neiberger-Miller is a public relations strategist and writer. She is the founder of Steppingstone LLC, an independent public relations practice near Washington, D.C. that provides public relations counsel, social media engagement, writing services, and creative design for publications and websites. She blogs frequently about media relations, social media and work-family balance. She also reviews books on her blog. Follow her on Twitter @AmazingPRMaven.