In 2019, organizations across the board, from non-profit to high-tech, will undoubtedly continue their focus on hosting meetings and conventions. In-person events are still the most effective means to gather like-minded individuals to rally around a mission, share knowledge, and build strong networks. However, event professionals are under even more pressure to deliver unforgettable experiences, whether planning large, annual conventions or smaller, niche meetings. In addition to education, information and networking prospects, attendees also expect unique activities and venues, wellness opportunities and destination-specific cultural elements.
Social media is a key aspect, and one of the most efficient and effective ways to elevate attendee experience at events of all sizes. Unfortunately, the multiple platforms available to event planners may seem intimidating to some, especially if not fully aware of all the tremendous tools readily available. Any meeting planner has the ability to develop a strategic social media plan to nurture audiences, while working to improve the attendee experience through digital conversation.
Fortunately, any meeting planner can utilize social media to foster healthy attendance, while ensuring those participating are engaged and excited throughout the event, especially during key moments. Follow these fundamental best practices of social media for event planning before, during and after your event:
Before The Meeting
Understanding and mastering the tools various social media platforms offer to market an event are strong ways to reach a wider audience and achieve the organization’s goals. In search of a large audience of young attendees? Hope to convince more East Coast members to take a trip out West? With a defined plan and the precise social media tactics, meeting planners are able to achieve and exceed the specific event’s goals.
As the meeting date approaches, be sure to amplify the event’s presence on social media through both organic and targeted paid content. Reach out to key voices and ambassadors in the organization, and encourage those with influential reach to post about the meeting on their social media accounts to help spread the word through their personal and professional networks.
While organic content is important to help build an event’s social media presence (don’t forget that event hashtag!), paid social media is the best way to reach a specific audience. Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn offer sophisticated targeting options to select the exact sets of eyes you require to ensure the event is well-attended. These options can share content based on the profession, industry, interests, demographics and more of your audience. Serve well-designed advertisements to showcase a taste of what your event has to offer, to drive more views to the conference registration page and help boost attendance numbers.
During The Meeting
Today’s the day; attendees are on the ground. Meeting planners have prepared the schedule, researched extra-curricular activities in the area and made sure the recommended dining options are top-notch. Now, it’s more important than ever to continuously engage visitors while they’re in town by amplifying the conference experience through social media.
Create a holistic experience for guests by sharing everything from keynote speaker announcements and wellness options, to food and beverage selections close to the conference space. Social media is a one-stop shop for information regarding everything, from the tradeshow floor to exciting options around town once the show closes. Attendees appreciate the opportunity to immerse themselves in the local culture when on the road.
Remember that conference hashtag mentioned above? Yes, it’s a strong way to get a conversation started among your attendees, but it’s also a great way to monitor the conversation during the event to see what people are excited or upset about. Meeting planners have the ability to directly respond to questions about a food choices, alert attendees where and when the keynote is happening or spread their excitement through social media reposts. Stay in-tune with, and engage positively and proactively in the social media conversation to create a lasting impression that will encourage attendees to return next year.
The last step to social media management during your conference is one every meeting planner hopes to avoid. While no one ever wants a crisis to strike during an event, it’s critical to be prepared with a communications plan in the event that it does happen. Social media is an easy way to monitor any issues during the crisis, and to keep those potentially impacted up-to-date with critical information.
After The Meeting
Are attendees sharing how much they enjoyed the event on social media? Reply with a message to encourage them to register early for next year’s event! Are discussions still brewing around a popular keynote? Plan a live social chat with the speaker to encourage attendees to ask more questions and continue the conversation!
The beauty of social media is that even after the event has concluded, planners can engage with attendees to keep the excitement boiling, even after they’ve gone home. Encourage attendees to keep in touch with one another to build a relationship with their organizations digitally.
From the moment conference planning begins, to long after the final day wraps up, social media is an invaluable resource for creating an engaging, wholistic and memorable attendee experience. Even if a planner starts with a small social campaign, make sure to consider all aspects of the conference, from beginning to end, following social media best practices, to ensure your attendees receive the most in-depth information possible.
[/inlinead]Author bio: Corrine Turke is a senior account executive at Portland-based Sparkloft Media’s Washington D.C. office. She leads the company’s B2B social media marketing efforts, specifically focusing on how social can be used to support meetings objectives across conference stakeholders. Corrine is particularly interested in LinkedIn as a social media platform and the advertising opportunities it affords her clients. She holds a BA from NYU and MBA from the University of Maryland. sparkloftmedia.com