The Hashtag RevolutionFebruary 13, 2024

Building a Strong Planner’s Social Media Presence By
February 13, 2024

The Hashtag Revolution

Building a Strong Planner’s Social Media Presence

Why should meeting and event planners bother with social media? No need to Google this. Last year, an event planner’s post on social media revealed the perfect answer. “Social media is of high importance to meeting and event professionals, and particularly with event planning.” It stated that “more than 85% of event planners are using social media for promoting their event.”

If you’re a meeting and event planner and you’re part of the remaining 15%, one of the New Year’s resolutions you should keep is this: how to build a strong planner’s social media presence in today’s tech-driven, tele-everything world, where most of us have come to rely heavily on digital connections for work and networking.

Social media is vital to most companies and individuals looking to market themselves, and it’s no different for the meeting industry. The stats don’t lie. According to Our World in Data, a non-profit research firm with thousands of experts around the world, by the end of 2019, Facebook had over 2.4 billion active users. Instagram also crossed the 1 billion user mark, while Twitter (X) had around 350 million people on the platform.

The growth of social media networks over the last few years has seen a swift up-climb — and the ‘hashtag revolution’ has considerably impacted those brands and businesses that took to channels like FB, Instagram, Twitter/X, YouTube and even TikTok to reach and engage with a global audience.

The events industry has also made use of social media to increase the buzz about their events and conferences. Duane Gibson is a small business social media advisor and owner of Spelled With U, a social media management company in Alexandria, VA. He works with several meetings-related groups. In one of his recent blog posts, Gibson stated that “the evolution of social media’s role in marketing meetings and events encompasses more than just storytelling. It has enabled meeting planning professionals to create a sense of FOMO (fear of missing out) for their events.”

Like many in the industry, Gibson understands that social media can be instrumental in boosting many of the aspects of event planning digitally, from event marketing to the attendees to venue marketing, and even to real-time, two-way communications.

With effective posts, event planners are sharing high-quality content on social media channels to engage the billions of active social media users, including event attendees.

Social Media Networks

At its core, social media is a platform based on all aspects of networking. Event planners know this, so they’re finding that business connections are made easily through social media. And LinkedIn isn’t the only great social channel to forge new business relations. This story was made possible by connecting with meeting and event planners through Facebook, LinkedIn and even Instagram.

For independent meeting and event planner Sandra Tutkute, owner of Bloomssandmacarons, an event company in Chicago, IL, that provides her services for both corporate and other events, social media doesn’t just help drive business. It ultimately drives revenue for herself and her company, as well as inspires her work. “I’ve been following social media trends since it all began,” said Tutkute. “I like to see what other people do on social media, how they promote and advertise their events. I believe more in showcasing your work rather than just creating an image on social media.”

Like most planners, Tutkute believes in connecting with peers and industry leaders at meetings and events often leading to smooth networking opportunities on social media networks such as LinkedIn, Instagram, and Facebook. But, unlike some planners, she doesn’t rely on social media too heavily to find new business or build her network.

“The most important thing is to do your job. Do it at your best and the rest will come along,” she said. “Having a planner’s authentic personality and solid leadership skills enable me to adapt and engage to achieve high-level results quickly. My multi-faceted approach, for instance, gained by being a lifelong learner, has ensured productive conversations and the evolution of ideas and processes.”

While Tutkute is proficient in using social media to communicate with and grow her network, what drives her is to get the job done well. “I enjoy the social nature and strong relationships that drive the success of the hospitality industry. My relationships are warm, personal and lasting,” she added.

But of course, not everyone uses every social media platform. In fact, one could argue that you don’t need to post on every app to be successful.

Like Tutkute, Lori Dolan, an event planner and owner of Events from Lori in Wellington, FL, uses Facebook and Instagram to network and create connections with others in the industry. She said, however, “I’m on the fence about TikTok and probably need to research some best practices.”

“I need to bone up more on LinkedIn because that is where more corporate leads and clients are. It is much more than just promotional postings; LinkedIn is a more professional resource to search for leads and the right contacts. Most of my postings have been colorful yet polished teaser videos for my events. Lately, I have been incorporating survey results from around the event industry to bolster my offerings,” said Dolan.

Event Digital Marketing  

Before social media became a thing, event planners used “industry publications, mailers, email blasts and good old-fashioned email to showcase events,” said Christy Lamagna, master event strategist, at Strategic Meetings & Events, in Bernardsville, NJ. Like other event planners, she saw the evolution of social media turn into a new digital marketing resource.

The first recognizable social media site, as we know it today, was Six Degrees. This platform was created in 1998 and was based on the “web of contacts” model of social networking. It enabled users to upload a profile and make friends with other users. Since then, a lot of things have changed for social media networks and how professional corporate event planners use these platforms, but a lot more has remained the same.

For planners, no amount of post impressions and reaches can replace the “in-person networking and industry mixers, including local event organization chapters, chambers of commerce, etc.” Dolan continued, “For a while, I was also doing EDDM (Every Door Direct Mail), but it didn’t have the reach I was looking for. Plus, it could become quite costly, and the response rates did not justify the spending.”

It used to be that social media was an intern’s responsibility. But corporate event planners have seen how that has also changed. Social media now requires dedicated individuals who prioritize it every day to maximize its impact.

“Analytics and the aforementioned spending dollars were the main reason social media exploded,” explained Dolan. “Where once people looked at social media posts like data entry, now they are the lifeblood (for better or worse) of a business. And since the dreaded cancel culture can negatively impact a reputation with just one post, you need someone at the social media helm who can address a possible crisis swiftly and professionally.”

Social media is where attendees are gathered, so while “handling social media directly is a wonderful turn of events, it is a full-time job,” said Lamagna. “People need to be engaged constantly. The demands of managing multiple social media platforms, creating content, analyzing data and engaging with your audience are more than an intern’s or part-time commitment. If you can influence behavior, you have achieved success. Event strategists know that.”

Building a Planner’s Image

As for how planners are using social media to build their image, propel their careers and increase their brand, Dolan likes to trek carefully depending on her audience.

“In my opinion, for corporate meetings and events, LinkedIn is my first choice, followed by Facebook and Instagram. I am also on the fence right now about Twitter/X, as I do not see it as an effective promotional tool. It’s mostly been a place to share thoughts and opinions.”

For inspiration for her event concepts, Dolan likes to follow vendors she works with or those she hopes to partner with for future collaborations, and even to take a peek at the competition. This may come as no surprise, but most planners see themselves as competitors when in reality they are essentially in competition with their clients. This calls for planners to market or brand themselves differently, and social media is the perfect tool for that.

“Quality over quantity,” Lamagna said. “Be authentic and relatable. Make sure your content is useful and original. Don’t post for the sake of posting. It’s important to value your audience’s time, not inundate them with messages. It’s also important to remember that perfection is the enemy of progress; you’re not on a movie set. Allow your social media to capture you as your authentic self, not a perfectly lit, coiffed mannequin.”

Because of social media’s visibility, planners can embrace a clear digital marketing strategy that focuses on the desirability and accessibility of their destinations. They should use all the tools available to promote their brand, showcase their work and reach attendees. The final polished content benefits everyone who’s viewing and taking notes.

“Certain small elements should never be overlooked,” said Dolan, who thinks carefully about how to leverage social media effectively so she can increase awareness, generate excitement and drive growth for her company. When she’s looking at her competitors, bland content does not excite her. “Sometimes, the concentration is so intent on being witty or eye-catching, details are lost. Recently, a chapter of a major event organization had a holiday event, and the title of the event was hidden in this Roman numeral combination, so you had to concentrate and pay attention to see the words. It engaged you, it was cool, frankly, and it 100% worked. The event was sold out within a brief time.”

She recalled another post where the event planner mentioned the fine speaker lineup and scheduling, but that was all lost as the planner also posted about the venue’s lackluster food choices and related expenses that added up. That negative feedback did not excite Dolan.

“When I first started on social media, Facebook was just a way to find old friends, and your status updates were limited to a few pre-programmed choices. And then it became like that old shampoo commercial from the 80s… ‘and they told two friends, and so on…’ Friends begat other friends, and then everything expanded to business and business pages, etc. The best part of any social media for me is coming across someone else’s posting or tag and discovering a new idea, contact, venue or organization I need to book or be a part of.”

Lamagna not only looks at her peers’ social media platforms but at other people’s social media from all walks of life and uses them for inspiration. “It goes back to being your authentic self so drawing inspiration can’t be confused with emulating someone else’s style. It’s about your message and your brand,” she said.

From meeting planners who post on social media after attending conferences or events, Lamagna has observed that brief posts are usually better for engagement. “People who have successfully shared key insights are posting valuable content, not posting for the sake of posting. Remembering that everything about your audience is key. It may be your post but you need to answer the question, ‘What’s in it for me?’ to get eyeballs.”

While Facebook and LinkedIn are effective platforms where planners like to gather, Instagram and TikTok are perfect for them to provide glimpses into the daily life of a meeting planner, or document the entire conference journey, from traveling to the destination to the culmination of the event.

“People have limited time. If you are using your video instructively then a beginning-to-end documentation of an entire conference may be useful on these platforms,” said Lamagna, who finds that short clips of things that happen onsite get more traction. “For instance, a shot of a gorgeous general session set. I hesitate to put too much emphasis on the food and the décor as most events are about the content being shared, not the accessories. Planners get frustrated that they are not taken seriously and then post photos of parties and floral arrangements on Instagram; we are what we post.”

Industry News Source

Planners often get their latest industry news, job opportunities and trend updates from social media. Whether from an individual planner, event company, vendor firm or a group post, which is typically emailed to registered attendees, many of these conversations lead to enduring relationships.

Some of the most popular groups are those created for an event, where people connect and network with other planners and attendees. There you can find people such as Ed Graziano, founder and managing director of Corporate Event Interactive, an events company in Chicago, IL.

To rejuvenate attendees, Graziano and his team create activities to kick-off a meeting or provide that much-needed burst of energy at the halfway point of an event.

Now more than ever, event planners are using social media platforms as a tool to reach industry insiders, as well as those looking to get inside the industry. Graziano posted recently: “Looking for a part-time or full-time bookkeeper to add to our Corporate Event Enterprises, Inc.’s Finance Team.”

For event planners looking to connect, all the social channels provide plenty of open and closed groups in which to network. Corporate Event Planners is a “closed group designed to bring together top professionals eager to absorb, advance and advise” and their posts are as diversified as the members themselves.

“I am pursuing a career in corporate event planning. #eventprofs,” posted an anonymous member in the group thread.

Creating Identifiable, Branded Hashtags

With a new year comes new growth, and new optimism to work as a collective to connect and plan creative designs for events. To that end, corporate planners create, share, and maintain a unique personal and company brand identity online. This is most important for making connections, sharing industry news, promoting events, developing relationships and ensuring maximum exposure for an upcoming event.

For that reason, planners use event planner hashtags such as #eventprofs, #eventplanner, #meetingprofs, #corporateevents and #eventpros. As a standard, four to five hashtags should be used in all event posts on their social media channels.

“I build an online invitation with plenty of hashtags. Especially if it is a public show or event, I like to tag as many business and community organizations as possible,” said Dolan. “And not only hashtags but mentions (@) can spread your brand like wildfire. Sometimes I ask attendees to hashtag murdermysteries or impersonators and @eventsfromlori or the venue or organization. Together, these have amplified my bookings.”

After the meetings and events have been planned and delivered, most event planners know that planning extends well beyond the event day. The same hashtags used before and during an event should be used in posts after the event is over, most especially those containing attendee feedback or reviews.

Social Listening

While connecting, sharing and engaging are part of social media, so is social listening. Social listening is useful for understanding what attendees are saying about an event. And this practice provides valuable insights for future improvements.

“Planners should refrain from responding to every single review or response defensively,” said Dolan. “Now, that may come off as counterproductive, but I have seen places where their social media representative is like a rabid dog — knee-jerk responding to every poor review or a review that something could use improvement. Sometimes, you need to take a look at the big picture, recognize the keyboard jockeys for what they are and focus on the ones who are truly giving you good information.”

Planners know social media is a digital marketing and networking tool. It helps generate leads, connect and meet attendees, as well as build relationships. They also know that the #hashtag revolution is evolving. So, what works today may not work tomorrow. And it is not a one-size-fits-all digital marketing tool. While creating engaging content with different media is good, figuring out what platform and what hashtags are best for a post is key. After all, not all platforms were created equal.

“I love LinkedIn, but I would not use that to create buzz,” concluded Dolan. “TikTok and Facebook Reels, yes. This harkens back to having the right person in charge of your social media because the content and the amount of effective postings are daunting. Years ago, I used a social media scheduling tool, and it was great. Now I use Canva Pro, so I am going to start leveraging its media posting platform this year.” C&IT

5 Social Media Tips

  • Know your audience: generate content depending on whether they’re Boomers, Gen X, Millennials or Gen Z.
  • When posting about your events, read your attendees’ comments and opinions being expressed. Reply promptly to any complaints.
  • Share media content: photos, videos and trailers about your upcoming event on social media platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.
  • Share Surveys and polls on Instagram and Facebook.
  • For attendees who couldn’t attend your event, share full event recordings on Facebook and LinkedIn.


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