November 14, 2013

#SocialPlus Events

Social Plus Events_thmbQuestion: What was the original Social Network?

A) Friendster
C) Online Forums
D) Compuserve

Answer: E – Other. The original social networks were cocktail parties.

Alright, that may have been (okay, definitely was) a trick question, but it’s so easy to think of connecting directly with customers as a new thing. In-person events are a great way to make a personal connection with your customers and deepen brand loyalty in a way that digital social networks simply can’t.

But, just as ignoring live events for social networking is wrong, so is ignoring social at your live events. Use your social presence to encourage people to spread the word prior to the event. Provide incentives such as giveaways, weekly drawings, or discount coupons in order to enlist the help of your community to create buzz about your event. A well-integrated social media promotion plan will also keep your event buzzing beyond its actual lifetime much better than a stress-ball stamped with your logo (does anyone actually use those?).

When It Comes to Events, Think Broadly

It’s tempting to only think of industry events or conventions, but don’t stop (or maybe even start) there. Consider these gatherings as a place for you to include a social networking component:

• Festivals/Concerts
• Industry/Job Fairs
• Block/Community Parties
• Meetings/Seminars

Literally, any event your company participates in is a place for you to include social. By tying social media into your event, you are creating hype and building awareness. Most importantly, all of your efforts can lead to a larger crowd at your next event (who said ‘virality’ was only for cat videos?).

Use the Right Social Media Channels to Promote your Event

Which ones are the right ones? All of them! (Except for – the fictitious social network for people who hate events of any kind.) You want to spread the word by as many means as you can, but use your time and energy wisely. Here are some specific channels and smart ways to use them.

Twitter — Focus on sending out simple updates and quick blasts of news
Facebook — Give a little more description, with longer write-ups, little-known fact boxes and details on the where, when, why and what happened
Pinterest — Pinning photos of past and current events can help set the scene, strengthen brand recognition and build anticipation for upcoming events
Instagram — Photos of venue set-ups, behind the scenes, and candid “attendee” shots humanize the event and build interest
Vine — Short, punchy videos are a great way to draw attention to your event in advance and show off even more of what’s going on

#StandOut with #Unique #Hashtags

Hashtags allow the Twitter/Instagram/Vine/Facebook community to easily stream a particular subject. Simply put, it’s a tag embedded within a message that includes the “#” symbol followed by a word/phrase/message/title (and no spaces – at all).

When promoting your event, you want it to stand out from the crowd. This goes for your hashtags too. Make them unique so that they don’t get lost among the cyber noise. When you make a hashtag too general, you run the risk of it getting grouped with unrelated hashtags.

So for example, if Jenny planned an ice cream festival, she could have #jennysfestival. If Jenny chose just #icecreamfestival, she loses some of the exclusivity that her name gives, while lumping her in with other ice cream festivals all over.

Here are some hashtag tips for getting the most out of your promotion efforts:

1. Keep in mind that it’s harder to conquer a pre-existing hashtag, so even if your window-cleaning -enthusiast event is called “The Microfiber Softies”, #microsoft is not a good choice for a hashtag.
2. Keep them short and simple. Hashtags count against the 140 twitter character limit – #dont-be-the-company-that-uses-most-of-the-characters-in-its-hashtag.
3. Having a unique hashtag makes it easy to measure how much buzz your event is generating by allowing you (and participants) to easily stream the posts.
4. Promote a hashtag that encourages people to live tweet at the event – and incentivize live tweeting with impromptu prizes. For example, an event randomly selects and displays a tweet (with the event hashtag) every 30 minutes or so and gives free drink tickets to the person who had tweeted it.

Rignite Insight: Get attendees visually engaged by running a hashtag photo contest.  Ask them to tweet pics of their favorite moments, using your hashtag for a chance to win a compelling prize.

Take Advantage of Their Smartphone Cameras

People love to share photos (just ask the folks at Instagram, Facebook or Pinterest). Your job is to help them share photos of your event and brand.

Pinning photos to Pinterest that link back to your website is a great way to build awareness/excitement around your brand to a large audience.

Encourage people to pin event-related photos prior to the event to create hype, which may help drive traffic. After the event, encourage them to post photos to keep excitement high and spread the word to others who may not have known about the event. That way, when your next soiree rolls around, they will be on the look-out for it.

Don’t stop with still photos either – encourage people to upload short videos to deepen the social sharing experience¬¬. And, no matter what they’re posting, make sure they #usethehashtag!

Involve Your Crowd Even More

Stuff We All Get. Swag. It’s not just a term the kids are using to describe. It’s the stuff you give people at your event, and it serves a purpose beyond alleviating stress/drying your golf ball/writing notes on napkins. Be sure to include your social media, website URLs or related hashtags on any swag you’re giving away, so people have a place to re-visit your brand once the event is over.

You can even take participation to the next level by building it into the event itself. Encourage social tweeting and interaction by ensuring your event has a fun, photo-centric centerpiece. For example, at the Social Media Marketing World conference this year they had a photo booth with Social Media Examiner-themed props (No bonus points for guessing which one is us).

Integrating social into your live events is not just a nice addition, it’s critical to getting the most out of your event. Make it fun and easy for people to talk about you and they will.

Share your experience with us. How have you used social media to promote events?

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About the Author
Kim Cooper

Kim Cooper is Sr. Marketing Manager at Rignite. She helps businesses get better results from their social media activity. She blogs about tips, best practices, and social media success stories.