Don’t get left behind: effectively using social media for events

Like it or loathe it, using social media to promote and enhance engagement at events can no longer be an after-thought or add-on.

Sophie Bannister

But using social media effectively and creatively is more than a few quirky hashtags, as M&C Saatchi Talk head of creative development, Sophie Bannister explains.

With the advent of Clubhouse making a dent in the wildly popular existing catalogue of social media platforms, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Tik Tok and Snapchat, it’s likely other platforms are already waiting in the wings to disrupt tried and tested methods of engagement, marketing and communication.

Now is the time to engage, understand and use social media as a handy event tool.

Whether you’re beginning your exploration into how social media can enhance your events or you happen to be a social media aficionado, Sophie shares her top tips on how best to utilise this 21st-century engagement tool.

Why can’t event professionals afford to leave social media as an afterthought during their planning process?

Social media is used by (almost) everyone, to talk to various kinds of audiences. Be it a business audience sharing more than they ever have done before on LinkedIn, a consumer audience keeping their friends and family updated with what they’re doing, through to singular people curating personal brands and showcasing these to the world. And when we think of events, there are clear synergies. They bring people together, creating elevated moments in people’s lives, giving them the opportunity to learn or be entertained. So, it’s a natural fit that events have the power to cut through via social media. The key to success? They need to be considered from the get-go.

Events have the power to work extremely hard for businesses and brands through social media, as they can extend exposure and reach beyond those experiencing the event itself, as well as offering an opportunity to engage audiences with something that goes beyond simply a ‘moment in time’. Events can add real-time credibility to your content output and allow you to reach new audiences by channelling your attendees as your official broadcasters. If this is considered from the very beginning, social media really can allow you to make your event work much harder without a great deal more effort required.

What are some simple but effective ways to integrate social media into an event?

To integrate social media seamlessly into your event, you need to be thinking smarter than just a hashtag and a photo opportunity. It’s important to have a strong understanding of the brand or business’ social media strategy from the very beginning, involving that team in the planning process. This could entail understanding the role that the event plays within the brand’s wider comms strategy or gauging what the brand or business is doing in terms of how to present itself in order to reach new audiences or drive conversation.

Once you have clarity as to what social media is trying to drive in order to bring the brand message or subject to life, then the integration is no more complex than it would be for the event. On a practical level, it’s thinking about how to give your attendees easy access to information that they may want to share in the moment, before the moment passes. Social media is instant – historically, you may have followed up with presentations that were shown or press packs post-event. Now it’s about instant gratification – providing attendees with the tools they need to share content ‘in the moment’. Most importantly, lighting should never be an afterthought!

For the more competent social media users, what tips can you for using social media to bolster events and foster engagement?

For those of you already thinking about this, I have worked with my team – a mix of social and events specialists – to share their top tips:

  • Countdown stickers on Instagram allow users to subscribe to notifications once the event goes live – a great way to dial up excitement!
  • Event pages on Facebook include ‘discussions’ areas where updates can be posted, and you can engage with fans leading up to the event itself to tease info – a perfect way to build momentum.
    Live events can be championed by using event listings on Facebook. Asking your community for questions prior to the event means these questions can be vetted and then answered live on the day. You can also invite fans into Live streams on Instagram at your event, offering real-time Q&As with event spokespeople – giving fans their fifteen minutes of fame.
  • A simple but effective tactic, publicising your social handles and hashtags at the event will get people talking and engaging as it’s happening.
  • Sharing post-event user-generated content and wrap up videos will help to keep the conversation going.
  • Facebook’s Local app is also a great way to promote local events. More here.
  • Everyone loves to check in! Consider adding the location of your event as a pin on Instagram so people can check-in when they’re there.
  • Snapchat geo-filters are a fun and exclusive way to promote your event, as they’re activated only within a specific area around the event space, making it exclusive to those who attend.
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