The last thing you want is to invest time and resources into planning an event or conference and have it fail. The first step to creating a successful event is to motivate people to actually attend. Events by nature are social gatherings. People attend them so they can connect, interact, and share with their peers. Similarly, people join social media networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to connect, interact and share with their peers (Pamorama, 2016).
If you take the right approach, these similar characteristics can work to your advantage when it comes to planning, promoting and building excitement for any event or conference you plan to host. Here are some tips on how we used social media to strategically promote our Tourism Human Resources Conference held in Antigua & Barbuda last month.
- Create your event objectives. Before promoting your event on social media, figuring out your overall event objectives should be your first order of business. Why are you having this event? Who are you trying to target? What do you need to do to target this audience? How will you measure your success? All of these questions need to be answered so you can know the right ways to reach your desired target audience(s). For instance, CTO’s Tourism HR Conference objectives were as follows:
“The main aim of the Tourism Human Resources Conference is to bring together tourism practitioners, from both the public and private sectors, human resource professionals, tourism educators/trainers and consultants as well as tourism & hospitality students of tertiary institutions to share strategies and best practices on areas and issues affecting the tourism and hospitality sectors, to provide updated information on various aspects of tourism’s development, to enhance skills and to allow opportunities for professional networking.”
2. Schedule a social media event communications plan. This schedule will keep you on track for content production and distribution via all of your social media platforms. Here are some of the things CTO included for the pre-conference stage in our social media event communications plan:
- Created visuals to promote speakers individually. Social Media Examiner (2015) says that it is almost impossible to overemphasize the importance of using visuals in your online marketing. While a headshot of a speaker may excite some people, it is crucial to share something worthwhile from that speaker as well. Use one or two powerful quotes from each of your speakers and include that on a graphic containing a headshot of the speaker. This gives people something to relate to that speaker, a glimpse into his or her personality or presentation. This also develops an opportunity to give your speakers additional exposure and for them to share with their own audiences creating more exposure for your event. Here are some examples of graphics we created to promote our popular Master Class .
- Collaborated with all the necessary stakeholders to maximize reach. In this case, the CTO partnered with Antigua & Barbuda to host this event. We worked together and assigned tasks to key persons to drive the online engagement for the conference. We are delighted to say that the Antigua & Barbuda team did a fantastic job in working with us to coordinate the planning and logistics for the event and also contributed greatly to help grow an online audience. They took the liberty to create a Facebook event page for the conference, which strengthened the engagement from their followers and the CTO’s respectfully.
- Hosted online group discussion with event speakers. You are most likely to select your speakers because they are thought leaders in their fields. What better way to highlight this level of talent before your event than to host an online speaker discussion? Asking your speakers to take part in this kind of discussion has the following benefits:
- Your speakers will feel appreciated when they are given an opportunity to demonstrate their expertise to your audience.
- Prospective attendees get a sneak peak of the great content that will be shared at your event.
- Your audience will obtain valuable knowledge from reading and taking part in the discussion with multiple experts.
Here are snapshots of a speaker online discussion we hosted on LinkedIn several weeks prior to the conference.
- Created designated event hashtag. A hashtag is a type of label or metadata tag used on social media that makes it easier for users to find messages with a specific theme or content (Wired Impact, 2016). This tip may seem obvious, but you would be surprised how many events miss out this fundamental step (Social Media Examiner, 2015). Create, use and market your event-specific hashtag. Ensure that it is short and easy for people to remember. You should also be using this hashtag well in advance of your event dates and it should be included on every piece of promotional material. The CTO’s hashtags for the conference were #MakingExcellenceAHabit, which complemented with the overall event theme and #LoveAntiguaBarbuda, which promoted the event hosting destination.
During Event Tips:
- Build the conversation online. Issue press releases, Tweets and other social media updates that would engage those who could not attend. It is also relevant here to highlight key points from your event that you would like the press to cover. This is where traditional media and new media intersect. Together with strong press releases and frequent Tweets and other social media updates, your message gets spread out to an even wider audience. This creates an opportunity to get featured by the media. For instance, issuing frequent press releases and social media updates about our event, resulted in it being featured in an article by TravelWeekly.com, written by Gay Nagle Myers. Click here to take a look.
- Use photos and videos of attendees and speakers in social updates. At your event, set up a media corner where attendees can take pictures and videos. This is also a perfect opportunity to ask event delegates to complete evaluation forms to get their feedback from your event. Consider using attractive props such as an InstaFrame that would compel attendees to take photos using it and would then be encouraged to upload them to their social media using your event’s hashtag. This InstaFrame costs about US $45 and is a popular promotional piece to engage attendees, especially the millennials or Generation Y demographic. This is a great example of how you can foster user-generated content (USG) to your social media platforms. Here is a video of one of our speakers, Ian Blanchard giving us his insights on achieving overall excellence.
Also, here are some delegates who tagged us in their photos with the InstaFrame on social media.
Post Event Tips:
- Create and share photos from event with hashtags on Google+, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. After your event, share images of your attendees and tag them if you can. This gives people a chance to comment and talk about how much they learned or what a great time they had and how much they’re looking forward to attending again (Social Media Examiner, 2015).
- Share content from affiliate partners, attendees and speakers who wrote or Tweeted about your event. For instance, the CTO welcomes opportunities to share articles from industry experts who write about their experiences from attending our events. Take a look at this blog post from one of our speakers; Nicole Antonio-Gadsdon, Independent HR Consultant and Founder of Aquarius HR Consulting. Stay on the look out for these kinds of stories and share them on your social media channels.
- Ensure that it all boils down to the right numbers. It can be so exciting to watch your follower count increase during your social media event promotions. Look at how many re-tweets your getting, and watch how many people are engaging with your content! Isn’t it great? But wait, while this is all wonderful, how does it prove that you are bringing home the dollars? If you or your boss is starting to ask that question, here’s what you can do to see the impact on overall sales. After reviewing CTO’s event evaluation forms from the final day of the conference to which 49 delegates responded; 5 persons stated that they first heard about the conference from social media. If this was applied to the Master Class event held on the final day of the conference and the cost of one Master Class session was US$125, then we can do the math. This would mean that US$625 in additional revenue was earned from social media promotions from that one session. This is a small start to prove how social media promotions can contribute to your overall event registration sales.
In short, social media is a great way to promote an event and increase ticket sales. Remember to ask event speakers to promote your event on their social media platforms and use various props to make attendees willing to share promotional material from your event. Cheers to your social media event marketing success!
Pamorama. How to Promote Your Event With Social Media Marketing . 2016. http://pamorama.net/2015/02/16/promote-event-social-media-marketing/.
Social Media Examiner. 16 Ways to Use Social Media to Promote Your Event . 2015. http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/use-social-media-to-promote-your-event/.
Wired Impact. How to get more people to your events with social media . 2016. http://wiredimpact.com/library/social-media-nonprofit-events/.