woman taking photos using her phone

Image courtesy to decoded conference

As little as five years ago, it was considered rude to have your face in your cell phone during a conference. Now, it’s encouraged thanks to the proliferation of social media. If you’ve organized an event in the past few years, there’s no doubt that you’re familiar with this.

Integrating social media into your event starts long before the doors open. It begins when you sit down to work on your event marketing plan. When creating your marketing strategy, consider how social media can help you reach your goals. What will your social strategy look like before, during and after the event? Why do you want to include social media? Including social media for the sake of social media, results in a forced experience. However, including social media for the sake of your attendees or for the sake of accomplishing your goals leads to a much more enjoyable and successful social media integration.

Rather than thinking of social media as icing on the cake, think of it as the baking soda – mixing just the right amount is what’s needed to elevate your event. What’s the right amount? We wish we could tell you. When developing your social media strategy, take cues from your attendees and followers. Every event is different, and attracts a different audience. For example, if your attendees are tech fans, or young professionals, social media will probably be highly integrated into your event, and you might consider incorporating Facebook, Vine, Twitter, Instagram, and Google+. If you’re using the Whova app, you’re in luck: our app enables easy Tweets with auto-filled hashtags, regardless of whether or not the user has a Twitter account.

On the other hand, if your attendees are older or aren’t particularly tech savvy, they might have a Facebook page, but that’s probably it. Whatever your attendees’ approach is to social media, mimic that in your event’s approach.

Not sure what your attendees’ approach is? If your event already has active social media accounts, take a look at your followers. FollowerWonk is a great tool for this as it helps you understand who’s following you. If you’ve got a large amount of followers who are active on their own accounts, then social media can likely take front-and-center in your marketing strategy as well as at your live event. In this case, you’ll want to choose an event app that supports and encourages social media usage.

Social media’s involvement in your event is actually integrated into three distinct phases:

  1. Leading Up to your Event
  2. During your Event
  3. After your Event

Then, for the next event it starts over again!

So what can you do to create a seamless, successful and enjoyable social media experience for your attendees?

Leading Up to your Event

If you’ve got a digitally connected audience, social media will likely be central to your pre-event marketing and communications strategy.

Here are some questions to answer before you begin posting:

  • What’s our overall marketing strategy? If you haven’t done so already, we highly suggest reading our blog on creating a great event marketing plan before you develop your social media strategy.
  • Do you have a strong following on social media? If not, including links to your social profiles in your emails to attendees will help get the right followers. Running social ads for your event should also help you gain a following.
  • What’s our voice? Is it fun? Snarky? Professional? This begs the age-old marketing question: What is our brand? If your event is put on by a larger organization, you probably have branding guidelines that answer this. If not, we suggest identifying your brand first.

Once you’ve answered these questions, you can begin create your social media strategy. As with marketing, your social media will be infinitely more successful if you start with a plan first, then begin weaving in your tactics and posts.

Once you’ve identified your marketing approach and have a clear understanding of the role that social media will play in your communications, before, during and after your event, you can take the following steps:

1. Assemble your Team

You’ll need help in all three phases of your event: before, during the event, and after. If you’re lucky you’ll have the same people throughout each phase.

If not, that’s okay too! To streamline your on-boarding process for new social media team members, consider putting together a list of documents/copy that will help get them educated quickly and ready to jump in.

Our blog on marketing has some great tips on building your team. However, your day-of social media team might look a bit different.

The most impactful day-of social media teams usually include:

  • At least one person per social network
  • At least one photographer/videographer. It’s great if you can get your event’s photographer on board to send you images in realtime. However, there’s a high chance of them being very busy and pulled in separate directions, unable to send a constant stream of images. Having a social media savvy team member with a quick eye for aesthetics will work just fine
  • A designer ready and available to edit photos on the fly. A savvy graphics person might even have Photoshop, Canva or Visme templates ready for powerful and branded images

2. Create a Timeline

When it comes to posting on social media, starting sparse at the beginning might be smartest. This is true for two reasons: in case details change and to create some mystery around your event. Look at it this way; if you’re posting about your event 100% full throttle for six months, it might seem like old news by the time the event rolls around. That doesn’t mean that you aren’t busy behind the scenes, though! Take a look at the timeline from your marketing plan and notice when most of the big deadlines will hit (ideally around 3-4 months before the event), that’s when you want to start increasing the social media promotions.

3. Research your Speakers

When compiling bios, images, and contact info from speakers, you’ll be ahead of the game if you also compile links/handles of their social media profiles and have the social media team connect with them where appropriate. This will integrate them even further into your social media strategy, extending your reach through their networks. Think about it: they’ve been invited to speak because they’re influential! Speakers are usually more than happy to announce their keynote at your event, helping to increase their clout, as well as your event’s, by proxy. Win-win. Read more for how to find the right event speakers if you are interested.

4. Create an Editorial Calendar

An editorial calendar creates a strong, central place for recent and future social media posts, as well as analytics tracking. You can make one in Excel, or you can download a pre-made calendar online.

Pro tip: If you’re working with a team of more than one, use a centralized scheduler like Buffer, Hootsuite or Facebook’s built-in scheduler, even if your post is only five minutes out. This way, if two or more of you are simultaneously posting, you’ll be less likely to double-post.

5. Hashtags

Besides being #TheNumberOneWay to annoy people on Facebook (or in real life), when used properly, hashtags are an ingenious way to organize social media posts around one topic. In this case, the topic is your event or your cause. You probably already know that you should create a hashtag for your event. You may even be telling your followers who can’t make it to your event to follow your event’s hashtag, (usually #YourEventYear).

However, have you thought about creating peripheral hashtags? These hashtags can be used before the event, but are also very helpful to have on hand in case a topic starts trending and you sense the audience could use it. For example, your theme name or #leadership, #techtrends, #SDSUAlumni, etc.

Where should you promote the main event hashtag? Okay, that’s kinda of a trick question because the answer is: everywhere! Direct mail pieces, posters, newsletters, promotional videos, ice sculptures, skywriting … well, maybe not that, but you get the picture.

To save yourself pain and embarrassment, research your hashtag before you announce it to make sure it’s not already being used for something else.

6. Think Outside the (Digital) Box

Now it’s time for the fun part: planning your social media campaigns and posts. When planning your social media campaigns, think about how you can raise awareness of what you’re trying to accomplish (aka, your intangible goals), while also spreading word about your event.

For example, if the goal of your event is to celebrate female business owners, and your goal is to encourage more women in leadership positions, you could hold a social media contest by inviting women to take a picture that captures their feelings about leading a company or team and have them share it under a specialized hashtag, from which you would pick x amount of winners at random. Be sure to give people enough time to think about their entry and publish it. A good amount of time is two weeks, with the contest ending at least two weeks before the ticket sales end. Psst: this would be a great thing to get PR in on as well.

7. Create a strategy for the Day-Of

It’s the night before your event and you sit down to create a social media strategy with your team, right? Nope. The framework for the live social media posting at your event should be built into the rest of your social media planning and ideally would be created at least several weeks before your event. Even though we’ve talked about the three phases of your social media, from the audience’s perspective, it should all be fluid.

For example, if you’re live-posting for the above event celebrating female leaders, during the event you could slyly bring that hashtag back by revisiting or even revising the contest. Perhaps you can even create some sort of physical display that shares all the women’s experiences in leadership and encourage an online conversation under a specific hashtag from audience members on how the pieces affected them. Some of the best “social media” activities involve real world activities.

To carry out social media activities, you’ll likely need resources and collaboration from other areas, such as technical, logistics, or the speakers/presenters. Even something as simple as Tint, a social media display, requires advanced planning, ordering, and technical equipment. Being open to suggestions from other departments will create even smoother social media activities.

About one week out from the day-of is a great time to get all your final ducks in a row. Create a checklist for everything you’ll need day-of. Common items include:

  • Table and seats for the social media team with access to power
  • Snacks to prevent a growling stomach getting in the way of your Tweets
  • Ability to communicate with the event organizer in case an emergency rears it’s frightening head on Twitter. “Oops, I just knocked over that beautiful 10-foot tall ice sculpture! #DidIDoThat #YourEventHere”
  • Pertinent information:
    • Phone numbers – Each person on the social team should have each other’s numbers and emails saved in their phones. This will streamline the live-transfer of photos, and also give you the ability to communicate at other sides of the venue;
    • Passwords – Passwords are simultaneously the bane of our collective digital existence and the crutch many of us cling to for security. Not having access to a password at your event will certainly make things interesting, but not in the way you want them to be. Take a few printouts of all your digital passwords just to be safe;
    • Hashtags and handles – Keep a record of your peripheral hashtags in preparation to use them at the event. You’ll also want your presenters’ handles close-by to announce or quote them.
  • Laptops and smartphones – As mobile and social as the world is, managing multiple social media streams is still a laptop owner’s game. Meanwhile, there are certain social media networks that only work on smartphones such as instagram. Talk to any social media expert and you’ll understand the need for agility and flexibility in this situation
  • Power cords – Following right along with laptop and smartphones, you’ll also want to come prepared with a power cord so your devices don’t leave you stranded mid-event
  • Wi-Fi password – You won’t get much done without it so be sure to ask the facilities manager a few days before

At least one day before the event, make sure that the emcee is fully aware of the hashtag, and any social media activities happening at the event.

During your Event

Alright, now we can talk about the day/night before your event.

In the 24 hours before your event, we suggest scheduling the important posts leading up to the event. You’d be surprised (or maybe not?) what comes up in the 24 hours leading up to the event and you may need to be available to help out other teams/departments. Scheduling the necessary information the night before as well as the morning of will help you immensely. Some posts that you may want to publish the evening before as well as the morning including:

  • Food provided
  • Weather information and attire suggestions
  • Parking information
  • Maps and directions
  • If/where to buy tickets at the event
  • The hashtag for those following along at home
  • Information about special activities
  • “Doors open” time and event start time

There are also important posts to bookmark each day, that we suggest posting/sharing live and not scheduling, such as

  • Traffic information
  • Announcement of speakers and presenters (schedules can change quickly)
  • Breakout times or lunch times
  • Any other information heavily reliant on the schedule being on time

Make sure that at least 24 hours before your event, everyone on your day-of social team has logged into the social media networks that they’ll be using, on the device that they’ll be using them from. This will streamline their setup once they arrive in the morning. Speaking of this, it’s a good ideas for the social media team to arrive at least 30 minutes before they tell the audience to arrive, and even earlier if you want to create some cool vines of the venue set up or walkthrough.

Step Back

The best social media integration happens at events with a foundation created by the social team (activities, hashtags, branded images, videos, important event information) but is driven by the attendees. Rather than solely focusing on creating your own posts, spend a good chunk of your time sharing your audience’s posts.

If you’re busy following your audience’s engagement online, you might notice that sometimes social media use at an event waxes and wanes. While a dip in digital engagement may momentarily be disappointing, it can actually be a good sign. If you notice few retweets and hashtag uses, take a look around the event. We can guarantee that the attendees are most likely too busy enjoying themselves, socializing, and networking to post. There’s nothing wrong with this at all. The important thing is that you have the plan, infrastructure, and ability to scale up or down and respond to your audience’s social media use.

Lastly, on the day-of, don’t forget to close out the event on every social media channel through a post thanking everyone for a great event.

After your Event

The first thing you should do after your event, especially if you had one-time volunteers posting on social media, or printed out copies of passwords that may have been left behind, is change your passwords. This way, you can ensure that you maintain control of the accounts.

While your social media activity shouldn’t stop in its tracks the day after your event, having a plan to gently let it decrease over the next few days and weeks is a good idea. Use the time after your event to share important information such as how much money you raised, where attendees can fill out a survey, images, videos, and other highlights from your event.

If you only have one event per year, maintaining a low activity level on social media once you’ve shared all pertinent information until you start again for the next event will make future campaigns even more special and attention-getting.

And of course, never stop responding to your followers’ comments and posts.

Following the above steps will make social media integration at your event seamless and beautiful. Or as they say on Instagram: #NoFilter.


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