Recent statistics show that 91% of the UK population actively use the internet, 72% actively use social media, and two thirds of us now own a smart phone. Bearing this in mind, you can understand why successfully integrating social media into live events is quickly becoming an essential part of event planning, delivery and analysis.
Audience participation has always been a key factor in maintaining engagement, but social media allows us to expand our reach further than ever before. Social participation maximises attendee and external audience engagement and allows us to get more value out of an event, before, during and after.
Hashtags allow us to filter and categorise updates, and expose brand content to wider audiences, build awareness and drive engagement. They have quickly become a fundamental tool in the events industry. They give events an identity on social media, get the audience engaged in the conversation and build anticipation leading up to the day. They can also drive brand engagement and traffic to online channels long after the event has finished, if used correctly.
The most effective hashtags use the event name as this is a phrase the audience will automatically tag in their content. Make sure you do your research in case this is already taken – if it is, keep it short and simple, make sure it is memorable and above all it relates to the event, such as Super Bowl 50 and the #SB50 tag.
Include your hashtag on all branding and marketing collateral, on the website, social media channels, emails and ad banners. You need to make sure it is visible throughout the venue as during the live event social engagement increases dramatically.
Hashtags are a great opportunity to broaden your reach and event awareness. Each individual who includes your hashtag in their post will be sharing your event with their network, driving more interest in your future events.
Choose Your Channel
Prior to the event, establish a presence on every relevant social media channel and encourage people to share the event using your hashtag. Retweets mean maximum exposure, so ask fans, your audience, acts and brand partners to promote the event and utilise your unique hashtag.
EventBrite is a valuable platform that enables attendees to share their activity with friends. Ticketing partners including Skiddle and Resident Advisor also offer a similar service for music events and allow users to share their activity across platforms and view other users who are attending.
Use social media channels to create a buzz about the event: ask your audience questions; run competitions; use announcements to cross-promote with other brands taking part so they will retweet and drive exposure. Share the usernames of acts, and retweet updates from guests and other brands involved in the event – you scratch my back, I scratch yours…
Create engaging, interesting visuals that can be shared on social media. These can include designs, pictures or videos of the location, set up, main acts or a count down. This increases engagement and exposure long after the event is over.
Appoint a social media person to continue this work throughout the event, posting highlights, sharing quotes, retweeting posts, responding to comments and sharing images and videos in real-time.
DURING THE EVENT
Fast and accessible Wi-Fi has quickly moved up the list of priorities for society as we have moved into the digital age. Speak to the venue provider and if there is poor or no network available, consider asking a business to sponsor the Wi-Fi service as a way of gaining positive exposure for their brand.
Fast and efficient Wi-Fi will allow your guests and audience to actively participate in social interaction and share their views, experience and information in real-time with their followers.
Exactly as you would ask for audience participation in a Q&A, explicitly ask the audience to share updates using the hashtag. Encourage guests to check in and post updates using the hashtag, and invite them to post their own photos and videos.
Ask acts to get involved by sharing their experiences with the hashtag, and where possible encourage them to spend time after responding to questions and posing for pictures with guests.
This is one of the most effective ways to boost social interaction. Display a live Twitter wall for extra buzz and communication, and give your audience exposure.
A live Twitter feed allows you to see and share real-time updates, not only with attendees, but with the unlimited global audience too – despite a maximum capacity of 63,400 at the University of Phoenix Stadium, the Super Bowl XLIX generated 28.4m tweets, demonstrating the power of social media to bring people together.
POST EVENT BUZZ
In the following 24 hours after the event, ensure you connect, friend, like, and follow new connections. This is your opportunity to interact with the audience whilst they are still engaged and encourage attendance for next year. Run competitions and encourage people to share their experiences using the hashtag to ensure the event lives on long after the doors have closed.
Ask for feedback – what did people enjoy or dislike, what can you do better next year? Use this opportunity to listen to your audience, retweet positive feedback and respond to any negative comments, taking the time to explain why something happened and what will be done to rectify this. People want to feel like they are being listened to and their opinions matter, so turn negative comments into positive opinions of your brand.
Upload further photos and video content of the event, publish reviews and blogs, continue to cross-promote through every social media channel and thank brand partners for their support and participation.
Whilst your audience are still engaged, use their feedback to understand success. Consider surveys you can send out to gauge attendee satisfaction and monitor social media mentions. Analyse data to understand the who, where and what of your event reach and reputation. Use all of the above to adapt and improve commercial and operational performance.
Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos said “your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room’ but social media and social interaction allow you to be in the room 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
You can observe, listen to and engage with your audience in real-time, and used effectively as part of an pre-event strategy and post-event analysis it will drive awareness, drive engagement and drive overall sales and performance.
Shaunagh Durkin, Senior Consultant, Foundation Recruitment