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6 August 2019

Boost Onsite Engagement through Social Media

Abelene Hu

It’s no secret that social media can boost attendee engagement and directly lead to a more successful event – it’s one of the reasons 77% of event marketers use social media as a key engagement strategy. You’re probably already using at least one social media platform as a marketing channel for your event. But are you reaping the benefits of a solid social media strategy? Let’s take a closer look at several ways you can use social media to boost attendee engagement before, during, and after your event.

Engagement Begins Well Before the Main Event

While you can’t control every factor that might influence engagement at your event, you can set yourself up for success by ensuring attendees are involved and invested in your event long before they arrive onsite.

Starting the conversation on social media well in advance of your event will create a buzz of excitement among your attendees and potential attendees. It also stretches your marketing budget further by making use of your attendees’ networks, and it can help you identify their motivations and desired outcomes.

Start At Home

Your event website is a great starting point for your engagement campaign. By building social media tools into your website, you’re making it easier for your attendees to share your content and to find and interact with others. Further, it can give you insight into your attendees.

At the most basic level, you can start by simply ensuring your website displays icon links to your social media profile. Take it a step further by adding share buttons on individual pages or posts or embedding a feed of posts from your most popular social media channel. If your event website has an attendee-only section, why not use social logins to streamline the process?

Follow Wherever Your Audience Goes

While each attendee may visit your website several times in the lead-up to your event, you’re more likely to keep them coming back regularly with gentle reminders. Email newsletters are one way to achieve this effect, but you’ll reach a wider audience with less effort if you work your social media platforms.

Take your event information and related stories onto the platforms your attendees are most likely to be using, regardless of your personal preferences. Brands have traditionally opted for Facebook and Twitter, with professional bodies and B2B marketers adding LinkedIn to the mix.

In recent years, event manager interest in Instagram has grown rapidly, while Pinterest is slowly gaining interest. Google Plus and Snapchat are both underutilized by event professionals. This may represent an opportunity for you to claim more than your fair share of the market, so don’t be afraid to try something new and jump on an emerging platform, such as Vero.

Tailor Your Talk For Each Platform

Much of the event-specific content you share on social media will be suitable for all platforms. Whether you’re introducing new speakers, discussing topic streams, or inviting guests to access special offers, you’ll want to ensure your message goes out on as many platforms as possible, using one of the many available social media management tools.

Before, during, and after your event, you’ll also post more general content with the intention of starting a conversation, getting to know your attendees, and gathering their opinions. And it’s important to realize that when it comes to engagement patterns, not all platforms are created equal, so a key step for social media success is getting a feel for what works on each platform:

  • Facebook favors visual content, both static images and videos, and is well suited to longer introductory statements that set a context and invite a conversation.
  • Twitter has always been about bite-sized chunks of text, and discussions have generally remained short and sweet despite the increased support for images, multiple tweets, and more characters.
  • Instagram prioritizes images over text, with captions presented below the image. Unlike the other platforms, Instagram doesn’t allow hyperlinks in your post (only in your profile) and reposting content requires a third-party app.
  • LinkedIn suits longer form content and your audience is likely to post comments that are well-reasoned and explained in detail.

Create Communities and Opportunities

Picture how smoothly your introductions will go on day one if your guests have already met each other online. Of course, you’ll only accomplish this if you’ve made it easy for your attendees to find each other and get involved in the lead-up to your event.

Here are a few ways you can promote this sense of community and create opportunities for engagement:

  • Choose a unique event hashtag. Consider an abbreviation or acronym to keep it short and sweet, and check across platforms to make sure no one else has been recently using the hashtag for a different event.
  • Create a Facebook page, group, or event – or all three. For example, you might use your page to share information about speakers, groups to encourage informal discussions about each of your conference streams, and an event for sharing material related to each session.
  • Use Twitter’s list feature to segment your social media audience by role or interest area. For example, you might create a public list for your speakers, another for vendors at your expo, and one for each stream of your conference.
  • Create a poll on Twitter, Facebook, or in a vanishing Story on Instagram. Don’t overthink it – it could be as simple as asking which of your brand colors to feature on your event tote bag or media wall.
  • During your event, create Twitter Moments to collate your attendees’ highlights or share a session with a wider audience.
  • Invite your attendees to join a LinkedIn group, where they can build their networks and discuss key topics from your event.

Active discussion on social media can boost attendee engagement in two ways. First, they’ll want to continue their conversations when they arrive. Second, by uncovering their interests through your social media communities, you’ll be better equipped to meet their expectations. So be sure to facilitate the interactions, rather than directing them.

Real-time Fun and Games

Gamification is one of the biggest trends in the events industry, so don’t miss the opportunity to make social media part of your game plan.

At the start of each session, remind your guests to use your hashtag. Then simply add some incentives or prizes, such as free tickets to a social event or local attraction. If your event includes an expo, get your vendors involved, too. They’ll love the extra attention at their stand or stall.

Some of your attendees may be shy or uncertain about what to post, especially if they’re trying a new platform. Give them a few ideas by prominently displaying a feed of recent social media posts in your common areas.

If you’re livestreaming your event to a wider audience, displaying your remote viewers’ questions and comments will help everyone feel like they’re part of the action.

Maintain Your Image

Social media is a powerful tool for attendee engagement. It gives you an efficient way to answer any questions and address concerns, and enables your fans and followers to easily spread the word about your event.

But your event is part of your brand, and the integrity of that brand is something you’re responsible for. You can’t control what your attendees say about your brand on social media, but you can help present the right image by keeping your tone positive and helpful, and escalating any unresolved issues to your real-world support people.

You can also encourage delegates to feature your brand more prominently by allowing plenty of time for photos and ensuring you’ve got props and signage on hand. This is especially important for high profile and high security events, where controlling your brand messaging is even more mission critical.

Year-round Engagement

There’s no reason why your social media plan should end when your event does, especially if you’ll be inviting everyone back again next year. In fact, there are documented benefits of maintaining year-round social media activities, with one case study showing a 236% increase in click-throughs while growing to double their followers on Twitter, triple on Facebook, and Quadruple on LinkedIn.

Social media offers the perfect channel for engagement from the planning stage through to post event follow-up and planning for next year. If you’re stuck for ideas on how to continue the conversation, here are a few to get you started:

  • Relive the highlights from this year’s conference
  • Pubish good news stories from your attendees
  • Seek feedback on your event
  • Release after-event information, such as slides and videos
  • Ask which topics and speakers they’d like next year
  • Run a “Where are they now?” series featuring your previous speakers.

Of course, there are infinitely many ways you can engage with your attendees on social media to generate a connected energy they’ll bring to your next meeting or conference.

For more ideas on building year-round engagement for a more successful event, talk to one of our EventsAIR consultants or check out our videos.