Marisa Russell Cain
As a strategist, Cain manages social strategies and communities for a variety of meetings and travel and tourism clients, such as Crystal Cruises, Promperu and Greater Palm Springs. Before joining Sparkloft, Cain worked with companies like Johns Hopkins University, CNN and Martha Stewart Weddings. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Hofstra University and a master’s degree in Public Relations from Syracuse University. She also has a passion for creating content that tells a brand’s story in innovative and compelling ways. Visit www.sparkloftmedia.com
Everything is social. Remember when daily cocktail parties and post-event surveys were the most exciting — and just about the only — way for meeting attendees and planners to engage with each other for real-time feedback during an event? While the desire to incorporate social interaction still stands, the social media aspect has advanced quickly through the ever-evolving, device-focused landscape and has changed the meetings world tremendously.
In 2020, creating an event with social media in mind is the best way to interact with attendees in a place where they’re already spending a significant portion of their time. Of course, we’d like to think spending time fully tuned in at the event is their main focus, but reaching attendees on their mobile devices is extremely effective. Not only is it critical to develop a strong digital marketing plan largely rooted in social media to promote an event of any size, but it’s even more essential to have a plan to engage digitally with attendees during your conference.
According to a report by Venetian Meetings in Las Vegas, two in three event planners say “they plan to use more technology to power their meetings in the future,” and social, many will attest, is a key component. Some are convinced that live events are declining, but research shows they’re on the rise. These events are a way for companies and brands to engage their employees in real-time. Incorporating social into that strategy helps event planners create a unique and unforgettable experience for every attendee and makes live events a worthwhile investment for businesses. When planning a big event, consider these ways social makes a difference.
Conferences may offer hundreds of different sessions, tracks, speakers, events and activities through which attendees may engage. While it’s impossible for an attendee to make their way to every event, social makes it possible for them to keep up with the conversation and still enjoy key takeaways from the sessions they were unable to experience.
Following along with the conference hashtag, exploring posted photos that include the conference center’s geo tag and enjoying a curated social board in the welcome hall are all easy ways for attendees to feel like they get the most out of an event. If you’re feeling extra ambitious, provide a list of speaker and exhibitor social handles in your conference program or mobile app to encourage attendees to keep the conversation going online.
Whether attendees are exploring a new city or simply looking for the right hall for their next session, social is an essential tool for information sharing and real-time answers. Social is often the first place to which people turn when they have a question.
Community management is one of the easiest and most effective ways to garner strong social engagement, but it’s also a slippery slope for negative comments. The best way to capitalize on this is to create a community around the event hashtag or designate a go-to account for questions. Create a ‘cheat sheet’ of FAQs, or ensure you have the proper team monitoring your channels.
No conference would be complete without the typical welcome cocktail reception or an evening of networking. While events are largely meant for learning and education, they’re often a big class reunion. That’s great for the extroverts who love to talk, but it means those who are networking-shy might fall short. Social serves as the perfect place for attendees to convene around the sessions, share thoughts and insights, promote articles they loved around a topic and more without face-to-face engagement. Creating a strong social community around an event gives those introverted attendees an equal way to stay involved.
Want to know how attendees felt about a certain session? Perhaps you’re interested in learning how many potential visitors considered participating but ended up staying home?
The social media landscape is a key piece for meeting planners to understand all conversations related to the event before, during and after. Yes, there’s always the old standby post-conference survey, but do those who enjoyed the event actually take time to fill it out? Odds are you’re only receiving negative feedback, or the positive feedback is the biased opinion of an event planner looking for some extra points!
There are multiple ways to track the online conversation surrounding an event, whether planners utilize in-platform tools or more sophisticated social listening options. This deep data dive will help meeting planners fulfill desired insights in real-time, with the ability to directly respond without relying on future pen-and-paper-based insight.
Social never sleeps. It’s the perfect place for your attendees to follow along with post-conference content or virtually engage with colleagues they met after the fun’s over. Whether it’s a LinkedIn connection or a more informal Instagram follow, users will be sure to engage with fellow conference attendees on social in the near- and long-term. Therefore, make sure event recap content is implemented into the event’s social strategy.
Post-event content opportunities can also assist in polling audiences and are a great way to engage them while the conference is fresh on their minds. It’s also a strong chance to get attendees excited for next year’s event — and maybe even persuade them to grab the early bird registration!
Develop recap content in your social strategy and use social as a way to poll your audience, engage in conversations with them and, most importantly, get them enthusiastic for next year’s event. C&IT