Social Media Event Marketing Strategy: Before, During, and After

By Olsy Sorokina

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Image by Nathan Rupert via Flickr
Image by Nathan Rupert via Flickr

Have you ever hosted a party and promoted it on Facebook? That’s social media event marketing, but there’s a lot more to it than getting your friends to click ‘Join.’ Social media is an intrinsic part of how people experience almost every event now, and if you’re a marketer, that means lots of new opportunities to get more out of your event marketing strategy. All you need is the right tools and a plan.

The great thing about social media is that the size of your event doesn’t dictate the level of success you can achieve by incorporating social. Whether you’re organizing a networking event with a hundred industry professionals or a music festival with thousands of attendees, social media can help you get the word out and connect with your audience.

To achieve your goals, you should have an event marketing strategy planned for before, during, and after the event. Here’s how you can leverage the benefits of social media every step of the way.

How to incorporate social media into your event marketing strategy…

Before the event

1.  Think of a unique, short, memorable branded hashtag

This is a vital element of your event marketing strategy—all the necessary information, social media interactions, promotion and campaigns will be tracked using this hashtag, so you want to invest an appropriate amount of time and effort into making it great. Once you think you have a good candidate for the official event hashtag, make sure it holds up to the following test:

  • Is it unique? Branded event hashtags are designed to help attendees and speakers isolate relevant information, so it would be a shame if everything got lost in the noise if someone else is currently using or has used the same hashtag in the past.
  • Is it short? You want the branded hashtag to be equally format-friendly for all the social networks your brand is using, so be mindful of the character limits on channels like Twitter. For example, a successful Tweet promoting your event should contain a call-to-action link and a picture, along with the branded hashtag. Can you fit everything into one Tweet, leave enough room for an “RT” for your audience, and sound coherent? If not, you may have to rethink the hashtag.
  • Is it easy to spell and remember? See if you can create a play on words associated with your event or brand, or use alliteration to help the hashtag stick in people’s minds. That being said, avoid being too clever with your hashtags: what may be a hilarious inside joke between you and your colleagues can get lost on your social media audience, and result in a smaller overall reach of the hashtag. Avoid something that can be easily misspelled—or misread, which can easily backfire, as the world of social media has learned from the Tweets promoting Susan Boyle’s album release a few years ago.

Once you find a hashtag that meets all the criteria, include it in all social messaging relevant to the event, any special content promoted on blogs or traditional media, as well as any physical promotional materials—such as posters or flyers—advertising the event.

2.  Make a social media promotion plan

Choose social channels you plan on using to promote the event, and assign different levels of importance to each to see where information will be updated first, and what kind of information will be released through each channel. For example, if your primary channels are Twitter and Facebook, schedule all social messaging with important information—the speaker information, workshop description, and event details such as location and relevant times—to be published on these networks first. Secondary channels, such as Instagram or Pinterest, can have a slight delay in social messaging, but make up for the delay with more descriptive media, such as a video, a photo or a checklist. Create a big enough field for each social network to plan what kind of content you plan to promote there, and a checklist to track progress on each of the social channels.

On Facebook, set up a separate Event page dedicated to all the relevant information. Use the description field to include all relevant links, and introduce the official event hashtag. Post any last-minute changes to the event’s Timeline to update all invited guests.

On Twitter, write several Tweet templates including the location, time, a trackable shortened URL of the official event page, as well as the official event hashtag. As well, take note of all the official Twitter handles of notable speakers or performers, and introduce them on your brand’s Twitter account once their attendance is confirmed.

On Instagram, take and queue up photos that preview the venue, the guest speakers, flyers, and anything else that may be visually appealing and relatively self-explanatory—you don’t want to have your Instagram followers guess what the photo means, or how it relates to the upcoming event. Include the official event hashtag in the caption.

On Pinterest, create Pinboards dedicated to various aspects of your event, such as workshops, guest speakers or artists, as well as any organizational aspect you want to recognize—the venue, flyer design, merchandise or a common interest among all attendees. As Pinterest is a highly visual social network, add as many visual elements as you can, including photos, videos, and infographics. Add keywords to your Pin descriptions for greater discoverability of your Boards to increase awareness around the event.

3.  Highlight guests of honour

Create buzz by showing off your greatest assets—your special guests. Once all your speakers or artists have been confirmed, take time to track and share their social media accounts, such as official Facebook Page or Twitter handle, and use these to get your event attendees excited about the talent your event attracts. Show off your favourite works—for example, a blog post from a copywriter or a remix from a DJ—to highlight the reason you believe them to be a great fit for your event and a sight worth seeing. Include the official event hashtag, as well as a call to action (to register for the event or buy tickets), in your guest highlight message, but only do this if it can be added tastefully—the main purpose of the message is to explicitly promote your guest, and the promotional message for your event is the implicit bonus.

4. Promote social media content offline

Once you have seamlessly incorporated social media into your event marketing strategy, your brand may no longer need any print assets. However, for those businesses trying to reach an audience who are not aware of all your brand’s social channels, there are ways to direct them through more traditional promotional materials. Include the official event hashtag and your primary social media channels in any posters, invitations or flyers you distribute to promote the event. If you are using paper tickets and your ticket design allows for some extra characters, print the official hashtag in a prominent spot on the ticket.

5. Schedule Tweets for the day of the event

Compose reminder Tweets containing all the essential information someone might look for if they were interested in attending the event: the time and location of the event, a URL to the website with more information, and anything else that may be relevant and stay unchanged on the day of the event. Schedule tweets to go out at reasonable intervals immediately before the event, and a couple of messages for the duration of the event, to make up any of the last-minute minds.

6. Use targeted ads

If you are organizing an event in a new location, and you want to be certain you are reaching your target audience, consider investing in a few targeted Facebook ads. You can boost an existing post from your brand’s page with the event’s details, and select the option for it to appear to people in a certain geographical location.

For example, if you are organizing an event in Los Angeles, you can choose to boost a post to users in US, or more specifically, in the state of California, or zeroing in on the city of Los Angeles. The cost of the boost depends on the size of the audience you reach, but it’s still a more frugal option than print advertising.

7. Social media campaigns for ticket giveaways

So you have composed seemingly flawless, multimedia social messaging to announce the upcoming event, but ticket sales are still not meeting your expectations. You know the event would appeal to your target audience, but they just don’t seem to be responding to simple announcement Tweets—it may be time to spice up your ticket sales tactic by organizing a ticket giveaway.

If you’ve never put on a social media campaign and don’t know where to start, we’ve got some creative ideas from your fellow successful brands. Include the branded hashtag or the official Twitter handle of your brand as the requirement for an entry: this will put your brand on the radar those who follow contestants on social media, and help you keep track of all the entries. And—yes, the giveaway will cost you the price of a couple of tickets, but the promotional benefits of such a campaign are well worth it.

During the event

1. Monitor and engage with attendees on social media

Since you have made social media an inseparable part of your event marketing strategy, be prepared to keep the standard high for engagement throughout the duration of the event to match your attendees’ expectations. A social relationship platform with capabilities to manage several social channels simultaneously, such as Hootsuite, would be useful to ensure you don’t miss any social messaging. You can track interactions with your brand through search streams tracking the official branded hashtag, your brand’s Twitter handle, as well as search streams with any relevant keywords or common misspellings of the hashtag you have encountered during the promotion stage of the event.

Now that you know the how, let’s get to the what—what kind of social messaging you should focus on while you monitor attendee interactions.

  • Address any questions about the event. You can find these easier by setting up a search stream in Hootsuite that tracks any interaction containing a question mark, or “?”, with the keyword you choose.
  • Share interesting social messages. Select the most descriptive photos and videos from attendees and repost them on your own channels.
  • Address any complaints about the event. If it’s something that needs to be solved in person, have an on-site support team on standby. Thank the individual who brought it to your attention, and inform them that help is on the way. If the message contains more of a suggestion what can be done better next time, and leaves no room for improvement at the current event, acknowledge the individual’s message and thank them for contacting you. Make sure you take note of all the suggestions or complaints made during the event in a separate document—this will help you in your post-event evaluation.

2.  Organize on-site promotional campaigns

In order to encourage attendees to share their experiences of your event on social media, set up an on-site promotional campaign that rewards them for tagging their social messaging with the event’s official hashtag. You can also gamify the sharing experience by organizing a scavenger hunt or a “photobooth” in front of an event poster, where attendees have to take a picture and tag it accordingly in order to be eligible for a prize. On-site campaigns are a great way to keep your attendees engaged and entertained, as well as helping your brand increase the visibility of your event on social media.

3.  Display social media messaging at the venue

Another way to encourage attendees to participate in the social conversation is by making this conversation public. You might think that it couldn’t possibly be more public, with all the messages clearly visible on social media, but you may be overlooking the fact that it’s not immediately obvious to everyone attending that there is indeed a social conversation taking place. One way to address this is to set up an online hub, a screen or a monitor that displays all the social messaging that includes the event’s official hashtag. You can use a free tool such as Hootfeed that displays all interactions in real-time. This can serve both the attendees, who can see what everyone else is saying about the event, and the organizers of the event, who can use the Hootfeed as an extra on-site social listening tool.

After the event

1. Tell a story with social media

Another reason to encourage people attending your event to talk about it on social media is creating a post-event narrative. Sure, you can tell your social media audience that the event was a success on your blog or in a Tweet, but wouldn’t it be better to show it off in the attendees’ own words, images, and videos? Compose a story from your attendees’ Tweets and Instagram photos by organizing them into a Storify narrative. You can organize the story in chronological order, or by highlighting your attendees’ favorite moments of the event.

2. Ask attendees to rate your performance

If you’re planning to organize similar events in the future, it’s important to get feedback on what worked well and what areas could be improved. Your event monitoring team has probably already recorded some comments they have addressed during the event, but it’s important to reach those who did not express their opinion during the event, or only thought of something to say after the event.

Encourage attendees of the event to voice their opinion by conducting a quick post-event survey. You can boost participation by organizing a draw among those who complete the survey, rewarding them with free attendance to the next event you organize.

3. Analyze your own social media performance

Finally, since social media played such a big part in your event marketing strategy, it’s important to take note of how it performed. Take a look at the social media promotion plan you set up before the event, and evaluate how each social network performed its intended purpose. Did Twitter increase your event’s visibility? Did Facebook ads help you reach the audience you intended to attract? Each of those networks has its own analytics tool to help you get the metrics you need to measure the contribution of social media to your event marketing. If you’re not sure where to start, we’ve got you covered—here are some resources to help you learn more about using social media metrics, and how to measure the success of social media campaigns.

Set up social media monitoring to improve your event marketing strategy—sign up for Hootsuite Pro, free for a month!

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