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How can I leverage social media at my conference?

You may have attended a conference recently to see that the presenters had a Tweetwall (live Twitter feeds) behind them, or telling attendees what the hashtag for the event is and it got you wondering: Is social media event marketing right for my conference?

In all honesty, your participants will determine whether or not social media at your events is worth the effort, but if you’re asking the question or intend on acquiring millennials, chances are that leveraging social media at your events is a worthy investment of time and effort.  If there has already been some good activity at your social accounts, then your participants are already connected and ready to be ambassadors on your behalf.

According to Rich Rust, social and digital engagement manager for Nissan, “…[T]hink through the user journey to make it as simple and easy as possible and as shareable as possible. As a brand, it’s great to tell your story but you also need to be very cognizant of the people who are actually on site.”

Here are four ways to engage attendees using social media at your next event.

1- Incentivize engagement

According to the Event Marketing Institute, 92% of attendees are willing to give feedback at events if it is tied to an incentive.

If one of your objectives is to create buzz during your event, a great way to do so is to attach a prize when encouraging event participants to tweet or talk about the event or specific sessions. The prize offered could be free registration for the next event or an even something as simple as a branded T-shirt.

If one of your objectives is to gain more likes on your Facebook page or acquire more Twitter followers, then you can offer a prize to event participants who follow you on the varying social media networks. The drawback of this, however, is that once the prize is awarded, there is no guarantee that they will remain followers, so this is where great content and knowing when and how often to post come into play.

2- Use a hashtag from the get-go

Alon Alroy, founder of Bizzabo, a leading networking platform for event organizers and attendees, believes that a hashtag without a marketing plan is useless. “Your hashtag won’t mean anything if nobody uses it! Promote the hashtag by having it everywhere — your event website, marketing materials, advertisements, dedicated emails, the conference’s mobile app, social networks, newsletters and every other event digital marketing channel used to reach attendees.”

Inevitably, people who attend your events are going to post pictures on social media, across all platforms. Why not track their posts with a personal event hashtag?  Not only are you tracking them, but this is a great way for participants to interact with each other and share their thoughts about the conference and your organisation.

It’s important to research hashtags before settling on one. You want your hashtag to be short and definitive (e.g., #assnconf2014), and you want to ensure it hasn’t already been used so as to avoid confusion.

3- Use photos to attract and engage

Have a professional photographer on the premises at all times to take pictures of attendees having a good time and networking. This works twofold: it encourages participants to visit your social pages to find themselves (or tag themselves) in the photos that get posted and it creates buzz for those who did not attend this time around, in turn planting the seeds for the next event.

You can use the images once again when it comes time to promote your next event. Showing participants having a great time, as well as networking with industry leaders is a great way to foster excitement.

4- Share access to your social pages

Social media event marketing is not a one-person job. Share access to your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages with key volunteers and members so they can upload interesting visuals and updates for attendees.

If you are not comfortable with giving access to others for fear of the unknown (once a post is out there, there’s no taking it back), then enlist their help for content and funnel it through an assigned social media manager. Are lots of attendees visiting the help booth looking for a particular session? Let everyone know about it via Twitter. Was there a technical glitch at the event venue and your team is working toward getting things up and running again? Let everyone know with a pic and a smile on Facebook.

If you keep them posted about happenings on social media, they will continue to check-in to see if they need to know anything specific about the conference.

Are you ready to leverage social media event marketing at your next conference?

Leveraging social media event marketing at your events can be done if you begin your efforts early on in the social media mapping phase. If you need a consult, recommendations or need someone to take over this phase of your event marketing, drop me a note.

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