Trevor Jonas is director of social media at Access Communications, where he develops digital communications strategies for clients spanning the financial services, consumer electronics, and food and beverage industries. Follow him @TrevR.
Earlier this year, Microsoft brought in an acapella group to sing tweets from CES 2012 and last month Skype had a hilarious town crier reading tweets during South by Southwest Interactive.
Social media has certainly changed event marketing for both organizers and attendees looking to get noticed. In order to stand out at trade shows and major industry conferences brands and marketers must go to great lengths.
While splashy moves may get attention there are basics that, when overlooked, can make the social media component for any event fall flat. Here are six ways to effectively bring your next event to life using social media.
1. Create an Online Hub For Social Content
Make sure there’s a single destination where attendees and interested parties can go to get all the information they need about the social media components for your event. Mobile World Congress provides a great model by including the preferred event hashtag, relevant Twitter handles, Facebook pages, YouTube channels, and Google+ profiles on a single page.
Also, be sure to think about how to drive people to this page. One way is to make it part of the online registration process. Remember, early promotion is key.
2. Hash Out the Hashtag Strategy
Every event should have an overall hashtag that follows the basics of good Twitter etiquette, including being unique, descriptive, and short (ten characters or less). Events with multiple breakout discussions should consider creating individual hashtags for those sessions. Most speakers and panel moderators love having unique hashtags for their talks, as it provides a real-time feedback loop. It also allows those unable to attend a particular session to follow along and get involved virtually.
But creating the hashtags is only half the battle. In most cases, the audience needs to be constantly reminded that these hashtags exist in order to ensure they’re using them consistently and appropriately.
Provide reminders both online and offline. Announce the hashtag at the beginning of each session, including keynotes, and consider having them prominently displayed throughout the session. At South by Southwest, breakout session hashtags were included on both the online and printed schedules that were available to all attendees.
3. Prominently Display the Discussion
The most successful social media campaigns merge what’s happening online with what’s happening offline. Setting up Twitter walls throughout the event space is an effective way to entice attendees to get involved in the online discussions stemming from the event.
If you’re running a smaller gathering, consider creating a virtual welcome wall near the registration area so that you can say hello to attendees on Twitter as they check-in. When attendees see their username displayed on the screen, next to your hashtag, they’ll be encouraged to get involved.
There are a number of vendors that provide Twitter wall functionality, including Socialping, Visible Tweets and TweetWally. Each offer varied levels of customizability and analytics. Just be sure to think through filtering options and map out a plan for the worst-case scenario, like a hashtag hijack.
4. Curate and Share the Best Content
The most successful events generate thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of pieces of digital content. Luckily, there are tools like Storify that make curating the best content—Twitter updates, photos, blog posts, video—dead simple. Last year’s inaugural Napa Valley Film Festival provides a good example.
Just make sure to dedicate someone who knows how to craft a compelling story to be your event social media curator, and make sure the curated content is distributed via other social channels and made available on your hub page.
5. Surprise Attendees by Going Retro
With so much focus on online content and digital conversations, going back in time can really stand out. Consider taking the best social media content and turning it into a newspaper that can be handed out to attendees. Yes, a newspaper. It’s similar to what Mashable did at this year’s SXSWi with the The Mashable Times—and is guaranteed to get social media users talking and tweeting about it.
6. Consider a Good Comic
Live drawing continues to be a trend at major industry events. Samsung hired caricature artists to show off its new smartphone at CES. And SXSWi featured multiple live drawing activities, including a collaboration between UNIFIED, StumbleUpon and @visualhero to create and share visual recaps of the event’s biggest talks.
Let’s face it, some people are more visual learners and this type of activity could be useful for events with complex material. Similar to session-specific hashtags, recapping a specific talk with illustrations provides a reference point for those unable to attend. If done properly, it can be part of the arsenal of content to be shared from the event.
Looking to engage face-to-face? Check out Mashable’s new Events Board, featuring conferences all over the world and across all sectors, including social media, advertising and design. It’s an excellent resource for event-seekers, and a must-have tool for event organizers. Here are just a few of the events you’ll find there:
- Mashable Connect — Orlando
- MediaBistro’s Facebook Marketing Bootcamp — Online
- Internetworld London — London
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