Social media is everywhere. The efficiency and access it affords financial and insurance meeting planners and attendees is unparalleled. Key components of social media include everything from being able to excite participants about the agenda at a particular event or convention to the basic usefulness of offering needed resources such as event date, time and location.
“Your guests and attendees are watching you,” says Amy Grace Collins, certified event designer and venue owner/speaker & author, Amy Grace Events & The Collins Collective. “They want to get excited about the event they are attending. Using social media to tease ideas of what’s coming, different kinds of offered entertainment, menus for meals and speaker bios are a great way to engage attendees before they come.”
According to Jenna Grochow, marketing and media specialist at The LaClare Group Inc., the use of social media has become one of the biggest ways to promote today’s meetings and interact with potential attendees. There are many different social media platforms, and by knowing your audience, insurance and financial meeting planners can meet them where they are. Within the many platforms, there are different strategies that can be utilized to be successful in regard to social media for meetings and events.
Caytie Pohlen-LaClare, founder/president of The LaClare Group Inc., is seeing social media being used by most clients now. Some companies have an intentional approach and use social media to promote their events, especially if the target audience is customers/clients/vendor partners of the organization.
“When the meeting is for internal staff, the decision to use social media is mixed. Obviously, there are privacy and confidentiality issues to be considered,” Pohlen-LeClare says. “To that point, companies usually have policies about the use of social media by employees.”
In one of the company’s social media marketing strategies for an annual conference, The LeClare Group was figuring out a way to get more traction online. They noticed a huge increase in engagement when posting videos of speakers talking about their presentations at the conference and inviting people to register. “Speakers can also share the same video to get extra traction,” Grochow says.
Amy-Marie Lemanski, owner & senior meeting & event manager at AML Events LLC, says social media within meetings and events is growing, and is a trend that isn’t going away. “I would say that most of my clients have a social media communication plan using Facebook and/or LinkedIn,” Lemanski says. “So many people use social media since they carry around these little pocket-sized computers [smart phones]. I don’t know if I would call it vital, but it has become an integral part of any event marketing plan.”
Kastina Morrison, event & meeting planner, and owner, Kastina & Co., says social media is where many of us share some of the most exciting aspects of our lives, and going to a great event is part of what everyone shares. “Within corporate event planning, attendees assume the hosting company will be posting updates before, during and after the event,” she says.
Dana Ellis, president of Ellis International, sees a wide variety of client preferences and styles when she does events. Ellis says the use of social media in events depends on the client and what industry they are in. “We’ve done events for companies who have dedicated staff to create social media posts and who really focus on making social media posts,” Ellis says. “Other industries or events that are for internal staff rarely use social media at all for marketing the events. They do have attendees who post on their own social during the event.”
For companies that are selling products or services, Ellis says it’s beneficial to them to use and promote the event to the public via social media or for organizations trying to raise funds for a cause as it’s great to help build awareness of the need and request donations.
“But for internal company sales meetings, for example, it’s just not that important to them, or is sometimes prohibited as they don’t want the internal company information that they share with the staff to be publicly shared,” Ellis says.
Using social media pre-event through post-event is a vital component as meeting planners want to take the potential attendees and customers through the whole journey. As Grochow explains, pre-event is important because this is the time to promote the meeting and event. During the meeting, planners can use social media to interact with their attendees by providing any information or updates throughout the day.
“Lastly, post-event you want to follow up with your attendees by showing appreciation and promoting anything that will be occurring in the future,” Grochow says.
Morrison adds that social media before any event is used to build anticipation and boost attendance. During the event, it can be used for engagement and creating the buzz of all the great things happening at the event. For example, during awards, Morrison will live share the winners — and tag them if it’s appropriate — so those winners or supporters can share.
“The goal is to get imagery to spread as far and as wide as possible. That can include not only the attendees, but all your vendor partners who may be proud to share what the event celebrated and how they were included,” Morrison says. “After an event, if we can’t share winners live, we will do that after.”
During the event, attendees want to use their social media platforms to reach their audiences showing them fun activities they are doing and how it will help or assist their client base. They want to use social media as a platform for relatability to their clients.
Collins says trust is earned through these platforms by transparency, and she’s seeing participants use hashtags and stories to update their viewers on their lives — particularly during fun events. “After events, it’s a great way to showcase photos of participants — which area always shared — and keeping your audience engaged until the next time,” Collins says.
Morrison also uses post-event social media content to thank vendors. As Morrison explains, your vendors are your partners too, and sharing and tagging vendors post-event is an excellent way to build those relationships and have your content shared again.
“Finally, we always make friends with our photographers,” Morrison says. “Getting professional photos after an event is a whole other set of content you can get and share again even weeks later. And if the event is annual, you can use photos from this year to promote for next year when the time comes.”
Whether or not social media is a vital component of a meeting or event really depends on the meeting’s purpose, content and audience. In addition, the individual company will dictate the use of social media. “With insurance and financial companies, they have to be careful to follow compliance requirements,” Pohlen-LeClare says. “At the same time, social media is a way to attract a younger demographic who may be potential customers or employees.”
One of the most important musts a social media initiative for a meeting should have is a clearly defined plan. Ellis says it’s important to know how many posts you will make, when they will be made and who is the team member dedicated to manage them. “You can do more, or ask people to add your event hashtag to their posts to show up in your stream, but in order to have success, you need to have a plan,” Ellis says.
To make the most effective use of social media within the meetings and events environment, Grochow says specific hashtags for meetings or events on social media can be very helpful. It is a way for everyone to put their content in the same place and find information in regard to what is going on with the meeting. “You want to also utilize event advocates such as speakers, presenters, staff, etc.,” Grochow says. “Anyone who will be a part of your meeting can help promote interaction on social media.”
Determining a hashtag for your event also is important, especially if it’s an annual event and attendees and guests get used to using it when they go to share their photos and videos. As Morrison explains, these days with video becoming more important, any event producer would want to have video clips taken during the event to capture everything from set-up to the end of the event.
“You can later put this together in ‘reels’ on Instagram or TikTok,” Morrison says. “Video is only going to become more important in the future. So, a ‘must have’ is being able to recap your events in video format and share on your platform of choice.”
If Morrison and her team are doing an event where the host company may not know everyone attending or coming because the event is intended to attract new clients or prospects, they have the host use their Instagram and go follow the attendees 24 hours in advance of the event. “They will get the notification of the following, the event will then be top of mind for them to get ready for, and it will be easy for the attendee to remember to tag the host in the content they put out,” Morrison says. “We see this be a huge success in following rates and engagement overall and in the future, so that the host company stays top of mind of the attendee and can see their other social posting about services after.”
Morrison advises meeting planners be careful with posting close-up facial photos of attendees. Not everyone wants their face promoted on a company or firm’s own social media without permission. “Also, and this is very important: don’t forget to tag your vendor partners,” Morrison says. “They worked on the event alongside you, and vendor relationships are so important to have a well-oiled production. If we use the event photographer’s photos — you must always credit the photographer if/when using their work. Tagging all the vendors showcased in the images you choose to use is citing the work that it took to put on any event, including the caterer and A/V crew, etc.”
Event-specific apps are always a great way to engage attendees if the budget allows. Having a single platform to have them jump on for conference details not only allows them to have the access at their fingertips, but it also allows for last-minute changes to room numbers, speaker bios and relevant data that would typically have to be published weeks before.
“As planners, this can be an absolute godsend for venues that tend to be less than communicative beforehand,” Collins says. “It’s also an incredible way to aggregate data for people to reference, a way to put all participants’ contact details in and have a place for participants to connect post event.”
Also make sure you don’t just create a hashtag for your event and throw it on your printed program and expect a wild amount of social media posts to just happen. “I’ve seen many clients who treat social media as an afterthought,” Ellis says. “They don’t put much time, effort or thought into it, and then are disappointed that they don’t get many posts.”
Industry experts agree that more matters are moving to an online format, especially communication. “The future of social media will become — even more than it already is — a way for registrants to network and engage whether your meeting is virtual, hybrid, or in-person,” Grochow says.
Social media’s role will continue to grow, especially as the workforce demographic continues to evolve, Pohlen-LaClare says. “It is a great way to interact with the meeting audience before/during/after the event by telling stories and making emotional connections.”
Morrison adds that fewer people are going to websites for the most up-to-date information regarding an event. Any last-minute changes — times, venue, weather — or any important know-before-you-go information should at least be shared on the host company’s social media, even if it says “more information on our website.” “Expect that the attendees are going to social first for information, reminders or updates,” Morrison says.
Collins says the biggest way social media will continue to be used in meetings and events is a form of marketing and creating FOMO — fear of missing out. “The more guests feel you are creating epic events they can’t miss out on, the higher participant numbers will turn out and be engaged,” Collins says. This can be an opportunity that leads to much larger sponsorship opportunities for hosting companies.
“I think that social media will continue to play a role in many meetings and events since, when done well, it is an effective way to get the word out or to help build a brand or culture online, especially for companies that cater to the younger generations,” Ellis says. I&FMM