Over the past year I’ve had a couple of opportunities to speak to Event Planners on the topic of using Social Networks and Social Media for events. Since event planning is something I’ve done a little of (though not by profession) and internet technologies are the forefront of my business I thought this would be a great opportunity to offer some ideas that apply to a specific business … the event.
Using Social Media Before Your Events
The main goal here is not only to increase attendance at our events but also to improve the event experience and even the event itself. Ideally, we will get people participating in the event before it even starts so that they might be able to help shape the event and can start networking with their peers. Looking for additional revenue streams? Get a title sponsor or “social media” sponsor to sponsor a prize for a contest at the event like a “Top Twitterer” or Blog Reporter who writes actively about the event.
Gather momentum by forming groups for your event on Facebook, MySpace or LinkedIn (depending on your audience), open a Twitter account for the event and encourage known attendees to follow. Getting these things set up well in advance will make it easier to build momentum going into the event. They will also give people who may not be users of those social media outlets the opportunity to get engaged and for everyone to get some idea of what the experience will be like, how they can network with others and how they can more easily communicate with you. Before the event is also a good time to establish your event’s specific #hastag so it’s easy to follow the twitter conversation.
Using Social Media During Your Events
During the event I think of social media uses primarily for personal networking and communication. While breakout sessions are a big draw for events many people go for the chance to actually meet other people (in person if you can believe that!) so think about how you can use social media to help people connect, some possible tools include:
Facebook: Do you have a fanpage? Can people find and befriend each other?
LinkedIn: Like Facebook a good way for people to network with, tends to be more professional, slightly social. Could be a good avenue to find additional speakers.
Flickr: We all love pictures, and on Flickr people can become contacts with each other and put faces to names before or during an event. Look to tools like
You Tube/Video: Getting video of key people and speakers at an event or certain breakout sessions is great promotion for those speakers and quickly puts a face and personality to some of the bigger names to people that attendees might want to network with.
Twitter: Largely used for communication the use of Twitter at events is becoming huge. It provides great feedback on what is happening all over the event that everyone else can see and gives the event planner a real time feedback loop of what people are thinking and doing. It can also be used to get people to connect with each other as well.
Tools like TwitterFall can make for interesting presentations and on side-screens, in the exhibit hall… to show a pulse on what is being discussed.
Blogging: Don’t forget the bloggers when you think about social media. Active bloggers can be a powerful resource for reporting on the event in greater detail.
Using Social Media After Your Events
Blogs: Blog content tends to be evergreen so engage the bloggers in your industry to cover the event. One good way to find influential bloggers that might cover your vertical is to check Technorati and search by industry. Search for posts with “a lot of authority” and get in touch with the authors. Not all will be takers but some may be. Be prepared to make it worth their time.
Flickr: Get up events pics during and after and make sure you encourage attendees to upload theirs as well. Don’t forget to recommend a common tag to use with their photos so it’s easy for people to find photos from a lot of users for the event. A good tag is usually the event name with the two digit year at the end (e.g. meetdifferent09).
Google Alerts: If you want to keep up with what people are saying and writing about your event after it’s over set up Google alerts with keywords pertaining to your event and see what comes in each day. You might be surprised at how much conversation is going on.
Pathable: I had never used Pathable until MeetDifferent and could instantly see the value. MPI used it will and I saved it for last because it is a valuable tool before, during and after the event. As described on the Pathable site:
“People attend events to network, but meeting the right people is hard. Pathable’s easy-to-use on-line community helps attendees explore and communicate with each other. Pathable’s color-coded badges create conversations and our mobile web and text message interfaces help attendees connect in person. Pathable conferences are more successful networking events.“
I glossed over LinkedIn but will come to that in greater detail in another post. While this is by no means comprehensive it should give you some ideas of how to start using social media with your events and the benefits of doing so. It’s also important to keep in mind that “events” covers a lot of ground and not every type of social media will work for every event. Don’t feel like you have to shoehorn any particular social media outlet into your event. Select the ones that work best for your event and focus on using them well rather than trying to use them all just for the sake of using them.
I’d also like to give the team at MPI who put on the MeetDifferent conference the recognition they deserve for making incredible use of Social Media at MeetDifferent 2009. I was very impressed by what they did so if you are an event planner and not a part of MPI, check them out.