Corrine Turke is a senior account executive at Portland-based Sparkloft Media’s Washington, DC office. She leads the company’s B2B social media marketing efforts, specifically focusing on how social media can be used to support meetings objectives across conference stakeholders. Turke 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 an MBA from the University of Maryland. Visit Sparkloft Media at www.sparkloftmedia.com
As association meeting planners know, annual meetings are incredibly important to the strength, stability and vibrancy of an organization. These events unify members around the organization’s mission, spread knowledge across regions and foster a strong sense of community within the industry. Meeting planners are under incredible pressure to create the perfect environment and experiences to facilitate this important activity, often with limited resources and growing expectations.
Today, meeting planners seek to inject new life into events and create a lasting impact for their organizations. Consider expanded social media efforts as an important, efficient tool. Similar to a live meeting, social media brings people together, strengthening conversations and relationships. When the power of social media is leveraged to support annual meetings, the potential for long-term impact is significantly greater.
Beyond rallying members around the organization’s mission, annual meetings are an important showcase for the association’s — and industry’s — contributions to the wider world. These events are a moment to highlight the organization’s innovation, energy and vision for the upcoming year, leading to greater investment, attraction of top talent and impact on public policy. Social media can amplify this moment, reaching existing and potential stakeholders in compelling ways, in a convenient space where participants are already spending significant time online.
Consider deploying livestreams, custom activations and influencer engagements to maximize conference presence while telling a powerful story to a wider audience. Additionally, social toolkits can help attendees tell a consistent message about the association’s vision.
Yes, the event itself is an important stage for thought leadership, but the real work and innovation occurs throughout the year. Social media platforms and tactics help extend the life of a conference before and after the event, telling an ongoing narrative to the wider world. Leading up to the event, meeting planners can create high-quality assets, specifically designed for social media, which can be targeted to key industry advocates, empowering authentic voices to tell your story. A strategic, paid media strategy can promote the conference story to new audiences. After the event, meeting planners can use social media to extend the life of the meeting, keeping the conference message top of mind among important stakeholders.
Educational opportunities are one of the most important drivers of conference attendance. These events provide members with a chance to share knowledge and learn from one another in an environment specifically designed for collaboration. In both formal and informal ways, attendees can learn new skills, problem-solve with peers and share their own discoveries, strategies and innovations with undivided participant attention. This learning advances the collective power of your members overall as attendees develop and implement new plans when they return home.
Social media is a place where people naturally go to share knowledge. With a YouTube tutorial available for any task imaginable, people want to share the solutions they’ve figured out to help others. When meeting planners build in a long-term social media plan to support their event, they can expand the total amount of learning achieved and create deeper, longer conversations.
For example, leading up to an event meeting planners can use social listening to better understand challenges members are facing and use those insights to drive educational conference content. Planners can steal from Reddit’s “AMA” — ask me anything — conversations and allow members and speakers to engage in a more informal and direct conversation than keynote presentations normally allow. After the event, planners can gradually release educational conference content on social media in ways that foster conversations among members — empowering participants to connect even after they’ve gone home. In particular, Facebook Groups, LinkedIn and Twitter all offer opportunities to support ongoing, one-on-one conversations.
Just as social can help demonstrate and amplify an organization’s mission and thought leadership, it can help extend and deepen learning opportunities at conferences. As meeting planners think about conference design, they can incorporate plans to facilitate that social conversation before and after the event — almost like an extended breakout session or workshop!
Members are more than just industry professionals: they’re human beings with families, hobbies and rich, complex lives. Conferences not only offer incredible professional networking opportunities, but also the chance for attendees to feel connected to something bigger than themselves and to form real, meaningful relationships with new and old friends. Part of what makes events so important and powerful is this incredible human factor; the strong feeling of community.
Social media can never replace this in-person experience, but it can help to support the event. A strong social media program can allow members to virtually meet one another before the event and thus feel more comfortable and connected when they arrive. During the conference, attendees can share their experiences in real time and build upon each other’s enthusiasm, ultimately having a more positive experience. After the conference, members can stay connected, ensuring those passing connections turn into real professional relationships.
While some of this happens naturally, meeting planners can support their connections by creating social media destinations and tools to make it easier for members. The conversation will happen regardless, but when meeting planners have a strong plan in place, they can be an active participant and guide the community in a positive direction. At the end of the day, building a stronger community helps support future meetings attendance and membership overall, the lifeblood of your organization.
Most meetings, conventions and trade shows would benefit from social media support. Association meeting planners, however, are uniquely suited to implement these plans. As meeting professionals and experts on your members, speakers and industry, you have the power to take a creative and nuanced approach. Social media is an excellent complement to meetings, expanding their impact where it matters most and, ultimately, achieving the mission of your organization. AC&F