Your social media strategy is not just about what happens during the event. It also needs to cover what happens in the build up and what happens in the aftermath.
It’s about building a community around your event, not just for it. It’s about laying the ground for follow-ups, and for relationship-building, for generating leads and nurturing your audience for future events, too.
And that’s the key word here: relationships. Technology is great, but it’s the means, not the end. The point of your social media strategy is not to have a social media strategy, it’s to find smart, effective ways to engage your audience, generate a buzz and create a sense of community that will take your event to the next level.
How does that work in practice?
Well, for starters, you should be thinking about ways to integrate your event with existing communities and groups. Ask questions like: how can you tap into already strong social networks to allow your event participants to interact and get the most out of your event, without you dictating exactly how that works? How can you give audience members the space and freedom to make this event their own?
Of course, you do need to curate those interactions to some extent. You need to know what it is you’re trying to achieve by developing your event “community”. Are you trying to make it easier for people to network and find potential partnerships and clients, for example? Or perhaps you’d like to crowdsource questions and ideas from your audience that will influence the event itself, or elements like seminars and roundtable discussions? The more you invite your audience to play a part in shaping the event, the more invested and engaged they will become.
Be as specific as you can about what you want to get from your community. What features of the social networks you’re using will make it easier for you to coax out these responses or outcomes? While you want as much as possible to happen organically, you still need a clearly defined strategy to help you guide your audience in the right direction – and measure your success.
That also means keeping up the momentum. Simply creating a Facebook page or starting a LinkedIn group isn’t going to cut it. You need to start the dialogue, and continue to nurture it. You need to figure out where your target audiences are already congregating online, join in, form bonds, and guide them over to where you want them to be. You need to find early stage brand ambassadors to model the kind of behaviour you want to encourage, on the platform of your choice.
For example, imagine you’re organising a fashion forecasting event for the garment industry, and you want your target audience – fashion buyers, designers, PRs, trend forecasting agencies – to connect on Instagram to build a sense of community and collaboration around the event. Perhaps you want to encourage them to post images that suggest what they think next year’s key trends will look like, or what they’re working on, ahead of the event. Perhaps you want them to take photos during the event of the ideas they find most exciting. Perhaps you want them to keep posting images afterwards that link back to what they’ve seen – either supporting or contradicting the trends showcased at the event.
These things aren’t going to happen by themselves: you need a loyal group of cheerleaders to get the conversation flowing. People who have a following, are briefed on your choice of hashtag, and on board with what you’re trying to create. People who will model the type of community you’re building, for others to follow. And you need them on your side before you launch – they’re a vital part of your strategy.
Fashion might lend itself particularly easily to a collaborative visual medium, but that doesn’t mean the same don’t apply if your event is about cloud services, or medical technology, or the future of 3D Printing. It’s the same whether you’re showcasing interior design, kickstarting social enterprises or discussing the future of mobile payments. You need to figure out who in your industry is a thought leader, be they business owners and entrepreneurs, bloggers and journalists, or other key players in the field. You need get them involved, get them excited about your event – and get them on the same page when it comes to your social media strategy.
… When it comes to social media event marketing, it’s all about getting the right people, those that really believe in what you do, to join your tribe as early as you can. Get that right, and the rest are sure to follow.
What events have you been to lately that really impressed you with their social media strategy? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!