How Can Event Planners Make Best Use Of Social Media Platforms?
By the end of 2019, Facebook will have well over 2.4 billion active users. Instagram has also recently crossed the 1 billion user mark, while Twitter has around 350 million people on the platform. The growth of social media networks over the last few years has been remarkably swift – and the ‘hashtag revolution’ has had a significant impact on practically all types of businesses. Online marketers are increasingly taking to channels like FB, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram, to reach out to more and more people – a global audience. The B2B events industry has also benefited from this sustained rise in the popularity of social media platforms. Here’s how event marketers can make use of social media to increase the buzz about their events and conferences:
Understanding the opportunities
The first thing that an event organiser might ask is “why bother with social media?” The answers are pretty simple: channels like Facebook, LinkedIn and Instagram can be instrumental in boosting nearly all aspects of event planning digitally – right from event marketing (to the attendees), to venue marketing, sponsor exhibitor optimisation, and real-time, two-way communications. Event planners can share high-quality content/tweets on social media channels to engage viewers – in a bid to capture new leads. What’s more, new and mutually beneficial business connections can be made through social media (LinkedIn is particularly good for forging corporate connections). There are literally billions of active social media users – and chances are high that a significant number of them will be interested in an upcoming event/conference.
Blending educational content with excellent networking scopes
If learning and seamless information sharing with peers and industry-leaders is one of the reasons any person attends a business conference, the other reason is smooth networking opportunities. Social media networks like LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook gives users top-notch openings on both counts. News and updates about the latest industry trends, research updates can be shared on social media, posted in groups, and even directly messaged to the registered attendees. There can also be official FB or LinkedIn groups for an event, where people can connect and network with fellow attendees and like-minded individuals. Event planners need to understand and appreciate the fact that most event attendees (if not all) have active social media profiles – and they simply cannot be ignored.
Creating branded hashtags
While planning a corporate event, it is vital to create, and maintain, a unique brand identity. Digital media in general, and the world wide web in particular, can be a confusing place – and branded hashtags can be important for creating a ‘recall value’, and ensuring maximum exposure for an upcoming event. The onus is on an event planner to create, share, and most importantly, stay consistent with event hashtags (no more than 4-5 such hashtags should be used). These hashtags should be used in all the regular event updates shared on social media channels. Once the event is over, the hashtags should be included while responding to attendee feedback and reviews too.
Enhancing the visual appeal
As per a recent report, 3 out of 4 people take a purchase decision (in this case, ticket-purchase decision) after seeing something on social media. Over 60% people need to see a product more than twice, to be sure about their purchase decisions. These stats, in turn, bring to light the importance of having visually appealing pages/profiles/feeds for business events on the social media platforms. Media content like photos, videos and small teasers about the upcoming event – as well as images of events organised in the recent past – can be shared on LinkedIn and Facebook. Instagram and Facebook, on the other hand, can serve as great channels for posting interactive content – polls, surveys, feedback forums, etc. It’s not only about creating social media profiles for an event…unless they are visually appealing and engaging enough, they are hardly of any use.
Note: Event planners need to be prompt while responding to user queries, feedback and suggestions. That would indicate a high level of professionalism and sincerity.
Initiating and increasing the interaction levels
A high level of social participation can shape the success of a corporate event. On social media platforms, things like live presentations and demonstration videos can help in a big way in this regard. Live attendee videos also increase the level of interactions. Many organisers include live Q&A sessions and polls on their events’ social media pages – and notify the attendees about them. For people who are not able to/did not attend a conference, full event recordings can be shared on the social platforms (Facebook/LinkedIn). On the official event organiser’s page on Facebook, live videos can be hosted by exhibitors or partners – which can engage the audience. The focus should always be on coming up with posts that people would find interesting, relevant, and worth interacting with.
Tracking the latest industry news and updates
There will be times in a year when there are no events forthcoming in, say, the next couple of months or so. Professional event planners can utilise such ‘off-seasons’ to join Facebook and LinkedIn groups, participate in ongoing discussions, post queries, and in general, collect the latest industry information. Following relevant hashtags is yet another easy option to stay in touch with what’s happening in any particular domain. Organisers also have the option to conduct surveys, generate insights from the results, and use that data to make their event planning activities more efficient in future. Social media is not just a platform to share content – it doubles up as probably the best tool to gain knowledge, get connected with like-minded peers, and learn how to organise events better.
Note: Following certain company pages, news portals or profiles of industry leaders also work well – for getting all the latest news in the profile feed.
Using each social network uniquely
Not all social media are the same. Hence, adopting a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach for the social media marketing of an event is not likely to work. Event marketers should use Instagram primarily for visually advertising the upcoming conferences, the topics that will be covered (i.e., the agenda), and even the venue where the conference will be held. It is vital to research and use relevant, high-traffic hashtags with each IG post on the event page. For sharing short messages, making quick announcements, and following up on a daily basis, Twitter is an ideal platform. Planners should use Facebook to publish articles and press releases about their events, as well as upload pertinent images and HQ videos. LinkedIn is for the more serious-minded – and the more insightful and thought-provoking content should definitely be shared on the platform. To keep the buzz about a soon-to-take place-event alive, event planners need to post everyday – and the content has to be engaging.
Note: The number of active LinkedIn users (monthly) is well above 300 million. Through the various groups, it is fairly easy to find and connect with senior-level decision-makers from any industry.
Leveraging word-of-mouth marketing
Social media can add quite a bit of thrust to the attempts for viral event marketing for an event. The platforms are free, available to everyone, and have excellent reach – and that makes these social networks ideal for users to share opinions, reviews, feedback, interest, queries, and interactions in other forms. Put in another way, social media channels help in building up a mighty useful word-of-mouth publicity drive for any conference or event. Through these portals, registered attendees can be mobilised – and they can influence their contacts/connections to sign up as well. The process is way easier than managing a full-blown email marketing or phone marketing campaign. Think of it this way: who is more likely to convince a person to attend an event – a third-party event organiser, or an individual (s)he already knows on the social media?
Adopting social media marketing (SMM) best practices
Websites like Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn present huge opportunities for event planners, to interact with their targeted audience and convert a chunk of them into actual attendees. The key here lies in posting and tweeting on a daily basis – and tracking the response to all posts. For instance, if a certain template or a video format fails to generate enough clicks or interactions, that should be taken as a hint to alter the type or posts or tweets. Analysing how other event organisers manage their Facebook or LinkedIn pages can also throw up very useful insights. In an ideal scenario, social media managers of an event should respond to all comments on the posts (irrelevant, abusive or objectionable comments should be hidden/deleted). On Twitter, interesting news and announcements – things that readers will find beneficial – can be retweeted. On all social media platforms, user feedback should be closely monitored. Express gratitude for the positive reviews, learn from the negative ones, and never repeat the same mistakes.
Benefitting from Facebook & LinkedIn groups
Digital tools like mobile event apps generally let attendees to build their very own social communities. Popular LinkedIn and Facebook groups offer the same advantages. People can easily connect, communicate and collaborate with each other – as well as other industry influencers, decision-makers and growth hackers – in these groups. Over time, people can create social communities, where regular interactions and seamless information transfer can take place. In addition, conference planners can share their social media feeds on their mobile event apps as well. It is vital to let the visitors communicate with each other – and social media allows them to do just that.
Initiating a ‘bandwagon effect’
If an event planner or a venue owner is very active on social media platforms, and is very responsive to user-queries – he/she and his/her brand gets an additional air of credibility. This form of ‘social proofing’ results in people feeling more inclined to participate in a particular event. Reviews of previous events (the positive ones) can be shared on FB, LinkedIn and Instagram. As already highlighted, glimpses from past events also need to be shared – both on the official website AND on the social media channels. When a person sees that the previous edition of an industry event was attended by a large number of professionals – (s)he automatically feels that the upcoming edition will be worth attending to. Reinforce this feeling with repeated posts and positive reviews.
Avoiding the risks
Adopt a ‘too-casual’ approach while promoting an event on social media – and the results can be seriously counterproductive. Things like poor-quality, blurred images, spelling errors, and even incorrect tags are likely to create a negative impression on the minds of prospective attendees. In fact, SMM research reports have found that low-quality content is one of the biggest reasons for users getting disengaged and dropping off. Avoid sharing anything that might have political or social or cultural connotations. For event planners at least, not all types of publicity is ‘good publicity’.
Finally, the benefits
There are a myriad of ways in which an active social media presence can take event marketing activities to the next level. The total volume of web traffic (i.e., people redirected from social media portals to event website) can be increased manifold, organisers get the flexibility of selecting from paid and free marketing plans, the reach and awareness about an upcoming event can be maximised, organisers can directly interact with prospective attendees/interested individuals. Event planners, of course, need to customise the look and feel of their social media – and the posts shared over there – based on the precise nature of their events. An event website and an event app are absolutely key for promoting a business conference – but having a strong social media marketing plan is also critical.
On the social media channels, it’s all about building a strong professional reputation and credibility for event planners, while building up the exposure of upcoming events and conferences. Taken together, these social media platforms form an integral component of paperless event promotions – and, when managed well, they can pave the way to higher event ROI figures.