Years ago, when you were attending or planning a major social event like a conference or seminar, you might show up five minutes before it opened to get registered, and you wouldn’t have to spend much more time than that to be prepared. As a participant, you might then attend a few workshops, have several nice meals, meet some interesting people, and then head back to your hometown.
Organizers for the event of course, would have to spend a bit more time than that in order to make the day successful one, but still once the final event of the conference was held, it was only necessary to clean up, and pack everything away again. With the advent of major social media usage however, this whole picture is beginning to change. Event planners and organizers now can enjoy long-term, satisfying interactions with attendees which can be mutually beneficial in several ways. Here’s how using social media can create tremendous buzz for your event, and can also foster long-term business relationships.
Interact early with attendees
As soon as those registrants’ names start trickling in, you should be engaging with them to get their feedback on the conference programming and lineup of events. There are some services you can use to help in this area, one notable one being South by Southwest, which allows attendees to generate about a third of the total conference events which are ultimately provided.
This can be extremely useful information, since it comes directly from attendees, and lets you know exactly what they are hoping to see on the agenda. There are other software tools out there such as Twtpoll or PollDaddy, which are also very good at soliciting attendee feedback which can be incorporated into your overall program.
Use event pages
You should create a website for your event, so as to disseminate all the useful information about the conference events you are planning, but don’t rely on this website as your sole means of getting out the message. You should also be taking advantage of free event listing opportunities which are available to you, and possibly even some event management tools as well.
If your event is a business conference, or has a strong business character to it, you should be creating an event page on LinkedIn, and you should always use Facebook Events to publicize your conference as well. If you are selling tickets to your event, you can also use Eventbrite to handle that. Whichever of these opportunities that you end up using, make sure that they fit the audience that you’re expecting.
Get the most out of these extra event pages by encouraging all readers to invite their friends as well. It might be a little extra work to maintain these other event pages, but if it means doubling or tripling the audience which attends your conference, it will have been well worth the trouble.
Create pre-conference buzz
There are any number of ways to generate interest in your event long before it actually happens. You can use Social Media Marketing World to reach a number of attendees and speakers who can add content before the event, and while it’s actually in progress, using the hashtag #SMMW. You can also use the Social Media Examiner to tell attendees what to expect, sharing information about what speakers will be presenting, and what kind of interesting events are scheduled for the conference.
Work with your speakers to generate content which can be used to pique interest among potential attendees. You should also use Pitchengine to create press releases which are multimedia in nature, and then send the URL of your promotion to anyone who is a potential attendee. Lastly, make sure to gather as much social information as you can about all your registrants, and it would be worth your while to create a Twitter list of them all which is maintained right up until the time of the event.
During the event
Once the event has actually started, you can really kick your social media efforts into high gear. Carefully select a hashtag for your event, so that participants and remote observers can keep tabs on the event on Twitter. It’s a great idea to stage a number of different meetups for attendees, such as dinner meetings and meet-and-greet opportunities.
These kinds of meetups will have the most value if you have already asked attendees specific questions when they registered, about the kind of work they do or what their job title is. Having this information will help you put them in groups of individuals which are most beneficial to them. Another great idea is to run a contest on Twitter as the conference is in progress using software such as Metricool, so you can determine the number of people making use of your event hashtag, and so you can identify the most active contributors as the event progresses. Establish a leaderboard that shows these top contributors, and award prizes to them.
Solicit feedback during the event
There’s an app called Yapp which is ideal for this, allowing attendees to share their thoughts and feedback about conference sessions. You can use the same app to promote specific updates or contests which are being held as the event goes forward. This is a much better approach than sending out hardcopy surveys to attendees after the event to solicit feedback from attendees, because it allows them to share their thoughts and feedback right after sessions have ended, while it’s still fresh in their minds.
Create content from the event
You can use Periscope or Facebook Live to capture some of the most important and engaging moments during your conference, so they can be displayed to people who weren’t able to attend. You will also have created some extremely good content by doing this, which can be used going forward, such as to promote future conferences. Once attendees begin sharing content and using your event hashtag, assemble the best of this content and share it with attendees, as well as those who were unable to attend.
Promote your content
The content which you’ve created from your event should be spread far and wide to reach the largest possible audience. People who couldn’t make this year’s conference will see the value of attending next year’s event. Instead of putting all the presentations on your website or emailing links to attendees and others, release those presentations on Slideshare.
If any attendees have provided you with exceptional content, or if you have really good quotes or photos supplied by attendees, these should be rewarded with a free registration to next year’s event. This is a great way to encourage future participation.