Whether it’s your annual flagship event where you own the event agenda, a leading industry expo where you will be exhibiting alongside competitors, or you’re attending a small local seminar, planning your social media strategy from the start will help give you a greater chance for success.

Engage, engage, engage

The first guiding principle when developing your social media strategy for events is focusing on how to engage with your target audience and not just broadcasting what you’re doing. While the latter certainly does play a role, overall it’s about using content that will resonate with customers and prospects to drive engagement, much like you would in your content strategy or in the material that you pitch to the media.

The second guiding principle is understanding the digital lifetime value of the event — this will always be greater than the duration of the event itself. Consider the size of what’s being announced and who’s attending. You also need to look at which platforms you own, when they should be introduced to your content, and what features you can take advantage of.

Strategy, narrative and your audience

Your social strategy should be designed to help you meet key objectives; sign up to an event, drive footfall to a stand, generate interest, create hype, or a combination. The key is to define the objective upfront, create a narrative and key messages that need to be incorporated in all your efforts throughout the lifecycle of the event.

Knowing who you’re targeting plays a crucial role when considering your social media strategy, so take a look at your existing social media following and determine whether you’ve built up the right followers for your event. If not, it’s not a problem, just be prepared to put extra effort and spend behind your social media tactics potentially with a hyper-targeted paid social media campaign to reach your desired audience(s).

Different support layers, different objectives

Of course, there are different levels of social support depending on the objectives for the event. For an intimate roundtable of invited clients at your own offices discussing industry challenges, for example, a pre- and post-event campaign isn’t necessary. You could tweet selected anecdotes or quotes from the evening as an awareness building exercise with some supporting images to bring the conversation to life.

Whereas for a major exhibition or tradeshow you’d need a comprehensive strategy that covers before, during and after the event. Again, there are various levels of support that can be included here; from building momentum and interest in the event as part of a larger content market campaign, to live tweeting with key takeaways to engage with any of your target audience who aren’t in attendance, to promoting assets after the event that visitors to the stand (customers and prospects) would gain value from to amplify your message and continue the dialogue.

Related: Event Series – Content comes first: reviving the lost art of event storytelling

Related: Event Series Webinar Summary  Redefining event marketing: Plan for success

Use your best ambassadors

There are always opportunities beyond your company’s own social media channels. For example, do you have any employees attending the event whose social media channels you can tap into? If you do, it’s a good idea to clearly brief your employees with how they can contribute to the social story, include key messages, event hashtags and a few gentle social media reminders on best practices. Do you have any customers or guest speakers with a good social media following that you can leverage as part of your PR, digital and social media strategy to further amplify your message?

So what does a typical event social support programme look like?

Before the event

  • Formulate the objectives, narrative and key messages in collaboration in your PR and marketing team
  • Drive awareness and build a buzz about the event through teasers about the speakers and content
  • Start to drip-feed your key messages for the event with the creation of an event landing page, video snippets or blogs which can be actively promoted across social channels
  • Create a suite of branded and interactive social media tiles will help to promote pre-event content and raise awareness to drive sign-ups.
  • Brief your team and external speakers, providing social media guidelines to help them amplify the event content

During the event

  • Engage with people attending the event by using the show hashtag
  • Blend your offline activities with online to create an integrated approach, run Twitter polls alongside speaker sessions for on-demand engagement
  • Share the event with those who couldn’t make it by telling them what’s happening on the stand, key announcements and presentation slots
  • If you’re at an industry event, include key insight from other presentations and what’s trending at the show balanced with your key messages.
  • Create content live from the show (e.g. demos in action or interview with key spokesperson) to generate interest from prospects and drive footfall
  • If you’ve got a big announcement planned, look to highlight it with live social media coverage or a video Q&A.

After the event

  • Promote content from the show and after thoughts for follow-up event activity. For example, uploading a presentation to SlideShare is great for your website SEO
  • Create content assets linked to the interests of the attending audience to use for post-event promotion and continue the dialogue
  • Report back to the business on key social metrics aligned to business objectives and new lead opportunities that have derived from social media

Related: Event Series – Turning an event into a prime media relations opportunity

Related: Event Series Webinar Summary –  Redefining event marketing: Plan for success

Final thoughts

When it comes to events, large or small, never underestimate how many minutes there are in a day. The majority of your event’s social media success will be down to how much planning you’ve done upfront for each of the three stages I’ve outlined, but also be prepared for the unexpected and be ready to jump on that next social opportunity as it arises

Emma Walker, Digital Account Lead

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