When we talk about social media strategies for conferences and events, we have to take a look at communication. Communication in the twenty-first century has changed beyond all recognition. Even a few decades ago, the idea that the internet would shape our social worlds was the stuff of science fiction. This is not to say, of course, that face-to-face communications no longer have a place. They do. The role of a conference – to exchange ideas, to promote products and services and simply to meet with like-minded people – will never be superseded by online symposia. Nonetheless, conference organisers who ignore the online world – in particular, social media – do so at their peril. Not only can social media be harnessed to promote an event, but it can provide a superb means of interaction with guests before during and after the conference. Used well, it will allow for a richer experience for attendees and help you to improve your next conference offering.
Any conference that has the experience of the attendee at its heart should engage with one or more social media platforms. With no social media presence, or a poorly thought-through one, modern audiences will simply think the conference is not up to scratch. In other words, social media strategies for meetings are necessary because the average attendee expects there to be Tweets or Facebook posts.
They might not choose to articulate it that way, but without a conference organiser seeking to engage with them through social media, large parts of your potential audience will simply think something is missing. No matter how intense the experience is for visitors on the day, their perception of how the conference has been put together will already be formed. Remember that conferences, especially trade shows, are often in competition with one another and ones with inferior social media strategies will find it increasingly difficult to maintain their profiles.
Part of the importance of using social media for a conference is to generate excitement. Promoting an event can be costly when you look at traditional print media, but digital marketing strategies often afford more ‘bang for the buck’. This is never more the case than with social media where shares and likes can get your programme of events noticed by more and more people at zero cost. Even if you pay for advertising via social media, the results can be cost-effective and highly focussed on your target groups.
Create a catchy hashtag for your conferences, such as #event2017 or similar, and encourage attendees to post on social media using the tag. This will generate its own momentum over time, and anyone with a professional interest in the conference’s subject matter or sector will soon be able to pick up on it. Post Tweets and Facebook posts using the hashtag yourself in the run-up to the conference as well as sharing attendees’ posts.
When you have followers who cannot make your conference but who still want to be engaged, it is still possible to get them to be involved. During talks and open sessions, there is often ample opportunity for Q&A sessions, so why not conduct this live on Facebook video? You could also ask people to submit their questions to your speaker via platforms like Twitter and LinkedIn. The greater the engagement, the better future conferences are likely to go.
A lot of people like social media because it is where they can get news directly. When you have confirmed a speaker or a demonstration of something, announce it on social media. Potential visitors are more likely to attend if they can see the nuts and bolts of how the ‘show’ you are putting on is coming together. Flyers, newsletters and e-mail notifications still have their place, but social media announcements tend to create more buzz. Got something genuinely showstopping to announce? Make a teaser post a day or two before along the lines of, ‘We have a big announcement coming up soon. Watch this space.’
Few media options work in the powerful way that video does. Ask your speakers to provide a little content of what they are going to be talking about to whet you attendees appetite for more. If that is not possible given their technical abilities, then ask for a few photos of what they will be talking about and create a slideshow to post on your conference’s Facebook page.
As well as generating a degree of hype, social media is an excellent means of increasing your conference’s numbers. As a simple marketing tool, its power should never be underestimated. Pitchengine is the perfect tool for creating press releases which will work across several social media platforms. If your event has lots of people saying that they are ‘interested’ or ‘maybe’ going to attend, then this is the best way of reaching out to them. Remember that social media allows you to work out who is coming to the conference and who might still need to be convinced to purchase a ticket. Analysis of their demographics should enable you to tailor your digital marketing to attract the sort of people you have previously failed to convert.
It is worth noting that a social media strategy which is aiming to boost numbers needs to continue right through the conference. If yours is going to run over several days, then continue to engage with your audience on social media, perhaps pointing out what is coming up or drawing attention to tomorrow’s highlights. Furthermore, retweeting positive messages from visitors, especially if they have used your hashtag, will encourage more latecomers to pitch up.
Social media can be a conference organiser’s friend. Not only will it allow you to stay one step ahead of your competitors, but it can provide a cost-effective means of promoting your work well before the conference takes place. Run well, and a social media campaign will generate interest from newcomers while offering an incentive to continue to take part for your more established clientèle. During a conference, it is the ideal tool for keeping visitors and speakers on track, by pointing out changes in schedules and generating reminders about keynote speeches and so on. Ultimately, it can help you to create a community where your conference is received positively by like-minded people who value the experience afforded them.