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Social Media for your Next Event

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Planning a conference can be grueling.  From coordinating with speakers to taking registration; from staying in budget to staying on time; from sorting name badges to sorting travel arrangements – conferences take work and time.  I think this is why so many organizations and firms are reluctant to incorporate social media in their event planning.  Many figure that the event is difficult enough, why complicate it with the addition of social media?  Well, for starters, this is how Americans have indicated that they want to hear from us.  66% of Americans now use social networking sites!  Better yet, using social media at your next event doesn’t have to be hard.  It can actually be pretty fun!  Here are some tips if you are considering incorporating social media into your next event:

1)  Develop a Plan – Don’t leave it to chance.  Don’t wait until three weeks before your conference when everyone is stressed and you are putting out fires.  As soon as you have a date and a location, put together a social media strategy that you can incorporate into your theming, advertising, and planning.  All too often, I see people wait until a month or even days before an event to begin asking themselves questions like “Should we get a Twitter account?” or “How do I tell people to follow us on Facebook?”   If you figure out what you want to do well before the event, it will be a lot easier to pull off.

2) Don’t Overwhelm yourself…Or Anyone Else – There are a lot of social media tools out there.  YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Four Square, Google+, Pinterest, Tumblr, I could go on and on.  Just like in your real, non-digital life, if you try and be too many places at one time, you’ll drive yourself crazy!  If you are new to social media, it is usually best to pick two or three tools and get really comfortable with them.  As you gain experience, you’ll be able to determine which tools work best for your specific event.

3) Use a Hashtag (#) - If you are going to use Twitter, create a hashtag for your event. All tweets with the same hashtag are “filed” together and thus searchable.  Let’s say you are planning a county dog show, all of your tweets should include something like #CookCountyDogShow. Encourage others to tweet using the same hashtag.  This will build momentum and drive discussion on your event.  For more information on hashtags, click here.

4)  It’s a Conversation…Not a Commercial – You want people to attend your event, but social media is not so much about selling as it is conversing.  The key word in all of this is “social.”  Get people talking about your event.  Foster discussions.  Encourage communication.  If someone uses one of your social media platforms to ask you a question, answer it.  If they have a complaint, address it.  Openness and responsiveness are key to a successful social media campaign.

5)  Don’t Stop at the Event – This is a hard one.  Conferences can be busy whirlwinds of activity and it is difficult to find precious minutes to work on social media.  However, those organizations that are able to continue their social media campaign throughout their event keep attendee interest and generally keep people talking!  Encourage people to Tweet at your event (using the hashtag) or to Check-in (on Facebook).

6)  Use Promotions – It’s no secret.  People love to win things.  Use promotions to grow your community and generate enthusiasm around your event.  Photo contests can be a huge success.  I have also seen haiku, trivia, and video contests.

There are hundreds of creative and fun ways to use social media to promote and encourage participation at your next event, and this is just a general list.  Don’t allow yourself to be limited by what you have always done or what you have seen others do.  The goal is to foster discussion and, since we are social creatures by nature, this is not as difficult as it may sound.  The truth is your attendees are probably already using social media, and if they have even a vague interest in your organization they are likely to want to engage.


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