If you are involved in event planning, you know that planning the event is only half of the job. Of course, you must book the venue, hire the speakers, map out the schedule, and attend to thousands of other details, but you must also ensure your attendees are engaged.
Engaged event attendees gain more value from the event, which means more value for you and your partners–more sales, partnerships, positive word-of-mouth, and ultimately, more attendees next year. One way to drive engagement is through social media, and here are three great ways to do it.
1. Optimize your event hashtags for maximum impact
Make sure to secure the relevant hashtags before you begin your event. Hashtags are the foundation of social media conversations, so make them available to your attendees in as many ways as possible: signage, event deliverables, and presentation decks. Consider including the hashtag on conference swag like pens or notepads.
Whichever way you choose, ensure the hashtag is everywhere, make sure (if possible) it is the same across social platforms, and encourage attendees to use it on social media.
2. Spark captivating conversations to captivate attendees
Many professionals use social media to advertise events, encourage people to post on social during the event, and call the job done. But that only scratches the surface of possible uses of social media for event engagement.
Yes: use hashtags, and find and tag relevant people, including speakers. But don’t just post what is happening during the event. Dig deeper:
- Identify interesting questions raised by speakers or attendees.
- Key on thought-provoking quotes.
- Create interactive polls or behind-the-scenes content.
- Encourage attendees to live stream and post videos.
- Collaborate with partners or influencers, if possible.
In short, give your audience something to respond to.
3. Sustain and nurture ongoing interactions to maintain engagement
The essence of social media is a real-time response, so keep the conversation going by responding to posts. Let your attendees, partners, sponsors, or onlookers see you actively and appropriately interacting. This could mean:
- Delivering praise. Make sure to celebrate accomplishments whenever appropriate, and tag those involved.
- Answering questions. Social media can be an excellent platform for asking and answering simple/practical questions, such as “Where is the restroom?” and contemplative, such as “Where will the field be in five years?”
- Accepting or responding to criticism. Criticism can be difficult, but it is inevitable on social media. The question is, how do you deal with it? Don’t be too quick to block the offending poster or delete the post.
To further engage your attendees, you might consider creating a social media wall where social posts appear in real time. This can be a natural gathering point, and it can be rewarding for attendees to see their posts appear on a big screen. It also signals that you take their ideas and experiences seriously. Many trade show booths can be customized to deliver this kind of display.
Ultimately, social media can be a valuable partner in driving event engagement, but only if used strategically. A key goal of social is to engage people in something approaching a real-time conversation, so it requires engagement on your part and the part of your intended audience.
Start an interesting conversation and keep it going on social media; you might be surprised at the results.