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How to use social media successfully at an event

3rd August 2015

Driving engagement on social media can sometimes be a tricky task. We regularly take part in online events like #DevonHour but far fewer people use social media to engage at physical events. Whether you’ve organised the event, you're exhibiting or just attending, this guide will help you make the most of your time there in the online world.

What’s your goal?

A focused campaign is essential to be successful with social media at events, and you’ll struggle to be focused if you haven’t set yourself a goal. What do you want to achieve? Perhaps you want more followers/likes, more engagement, you want to run a competition or just raise general awareness.

Who’s your audience?

Who do you want to engage with your social media? Is it attendees of the event, influencers in the sector, even celebrities? One retweet from an influential Twitter user could skyrocket your campaign.

Or who can you involve in your campaign? Are there other organisations who you can get on board and invest their time, effort, people-power and expertise? One of the best things you can do is have influential partners in your campaign who will also market your campaign on their social media.

You can create a written description of your target audiences and a tick-list for influencers to make sure you engage with them for your campaign. Have a look at YouGov Profiles which uses data that YouGov collates to create profiles for potential audiences for brands and different topics. You can go straight to the tool by clicking here. (https://yougov.co.uk/profiler#/)

Create a concept

Once you’ve identified your goals and target audiences, then you can let your imagination run free to think of an idea. Try taking yourself away from your desk, perhaps to a café or communal meeting space with a colleague and have a brainstorm with a piece of blank A3 paper. When we brainstorm at Cosmic, we try to keep away from boundaries and hurdles to jump and instead brainstorm around the ideal situation which allows you to be much more creative with your ideas. Don’t restrict yourself at the brainstorming stage.

Part of the development of your idea or concept has to be the practicalities of doing a social media campaign: does your venue have good Wi-Fi or mobile internet signal? Is your idea simple enough to encourage people to easily participate? Does your target audience have a reason to participate, perhaps you will offer a prize for the winner of a competition.

Lastly, have you checked out your customer journey? Have a go at the engagement step-by-step from the point of view of your target audience. This can really help you identify things that are missing from the campaign or whether you’ve over-complicated it by adding in too many steps for good engagement.

Create a plan

So, you’ve got your goals, your audience and your idea - now it’s time to make a plan, set deadlines and stick to them! When will you have the graphics and printed materials ready by? Will your campaign run over days/weeks/months? Or is it a more long-term thing?

If you choose to run a competition then choose around 5 key rules that are really easy to take in for entrants. This is to ensure that the contest is fair and that everyone stands a chance of winning. For example;

  • You must ‘like/follow’ and ‘share/retweet’ our page to enter
  • Only one entry per person will be counted
  • Entries will be counted between *time* & *date* and *time* and *date*
  • This competition is only open to residents of the UK (think about postage and packing of prize!)
  • Staff members within our organisations’ entries will not be counted

If you can clearly state these as rules or terms and conditions, this allows you to always have something written and dated to fall back on if anything was ever questioned by an entrant. Equally ensure you have an open and honest process for picking a winner of the competition. We often video the picking of the winner and post it online to increase transparency and humanise the Cosmic brand by featuring different staff members.

Make it visual

This is a hugely important aspect of your campaign. If your social media around an event (and at the event) is not visual it simply won’t succeed. Make your graphics eye catching, clear and where possible include some photos. Try using tools like www.canva.com to help you create shareable graphics in a quick and simple way. Canva also has infographic tools that you can use to visualise a more data-based post. Don’t forget to think mobile - video can be a great way to cross platforms and be just as effective on a smartphone as on a PC.

What can you do on social?

Getting the word out on social can be tricky but if you’ve done your target audience and influencer research correctly then you shouldn’t have too many problems. Make sure you send any partners involved in the project example social media posts and graphics that make them up. Try and get them to contribute further photos and graphics too. You can also encourage attendees to spread the campaign before, during and after the event.

It’s important that you get the message out there before your event too. Sometimes the build-up can make and break a campaign so that you’re not starting from ground zero on the day of the campaign. Then on the day you can do live updates and stimulate engagement through your own posts.

Offline marketing

Sometimes printed materials can really make a campaign visual and it’s essential that you have enough printed resources to spread the word on the day. Think posters, flyers, ‘A’ boards and more. If you don’t publicise the campaign offline at the event then you’ll find it difficult to get any traction online. Why not look at putting up a live feed of the hashtag on a project or big screen to help people track contributions. If you’re going to do this, make sure you have someone monitoring the feed for inappropriate content and keep posting to keep the discussion fresh. This sort of approach works really well if there is a particularly controversial or interesting speaker posing questions or giving their insight on a subject.

After the event

Of course, the end of the event doesn’t have to be the end of your campaign as long as you ensure it doesn’t outstay its welcome! Make sure you maximise engagement after the event as well as before. You can do this in the form of a summary blog, highlights coverage on social media and remarketing some of the graphics and content of the campaign to demonstrate its success.

If you can apply just some of these techniques to your social media campaign you’ll master engagement online. Don’t forget that these things take time and the more campaigns you run, the more you’ll learn about monitoring and improving them at the planning stage and as you go along.

How can we help?

At Cosmic we have good experience of running social media at events and supporting the development and planning of campaigns for events and general awareness. Give our friendly team a call in the office on 01404 548 405 or get in touch via [email protected].