Many of our trade show and conference clients come to us with one common problem—in a time of trendy events like SXSW, how can others compete to draw in that coveted millennial audience?
The solution? Design a shareable event.
It’s no secret that us millennials live for social media. We read books that we can tweet about. We order the most photogenic food on the menu so we can share it on Instagram. We buy products minutes after a Facebook ad pops up in our feeds.
When so many millennial buying decisions revolve around social media, why would event registration be any different?
We go to events that 1) we saw shared on social media last year and don’t want to miss out on this time around (Fear of Missing Out or FOMO) and 2) we can share with our circles to show how smart/cool/fun we are.
So how can event professionals create FOMO and harness the power of the share to increase attendance year over year?
Here are seven tips for designing an event social media strategy that’ll drive a digital conversation and make your modern event shareable:
Not all social platforms are created equal. Each social network appeals to different generations, demographics, and niches. Before you create your first post, you’ll want to do some research to find out where it has the best chance of reaching your attendees.
At our social media agency we almost always focus on the Big Four—Twitter, Facebook, Instagram (+ Instagram Stories), and LinkedIn. Our first step with any new client is to dive deep into an analytics and pinpoint the platforms their ideal audience can’t stop scrolling.
While it’s a good idea to remain active on each, we recommend you really focus your efforts on the platforms your target audience is most active on. If your attendees can’t turn away from Instagram, you don’t want to be constantly posting on LinkedIn. Make sure you’re investing your time into platforms where your attendees are already hanging out.
No one likes a one-sided relationship. If you want others to engage with your posts, you need to do the same. Liking, commenting, and sharing other people’s posts helps them know you exist and makes your attendees feel good. Engaging with other accounts also sparks reciprocity—by liking or sharing someone’s post, they will most likely engage with yours, which can lead to one of their followers sharing your post, and so on. It’s a win-win situation.
Community engagement should begin a minimum of 30 days out from your event. Ideally, you’re driving a year-round strategy and doing this 365, but the 30-day mark is when attendees really start taking notice.
For our work with Hitachi Healthcare at RSNA, we began community engagement 6 weeks ahead of the show.
If there is just one thing you implement into your event social media strategy, let it be this: create an official hashtag for your event. This may seem like common sense in 2020, but a lot of event professionals overlook the power of the hashtag.
Time and time again, we show up to events as attendees and see zero signs of a digital conversation. Like typical millennials, we whip out our iPhones and start snapping photos of the night’s highlights for social media. We open our Instagram app, hammer out a clever caption, then start to type the event hashtag…but what is it? It’s not on our tickets. There’s no hashtag projected on the wall. At this point, we’ve put enough effort into searching for and just make up our own or forgo the hashtag altogether. If you’ve ever wondered why you saw 100 attendees taking photos but only 3 Instagram posts, this is your answer.
To ensure attendees use and promote your hashtag, make sure it’s:
It’s up to the event to start the conversation. Again, a minimum of 30 days out, you want to be consistently posting shareable content.
So what makes content shareable? We share posts that make us look cool and smart. We share moments that tell our followers, “I am smart, I’m funny, I’m likeable!” Basically, we share content that tells the world how truly awesome we are. Craft your content with this psychology of sharing in mind to drive reach.
Conference hall free wifi? You’ll be lucky if you attendees can even connect to it, never mind post with it. Without a strong wifi connection, your attendees likely won’t waste their precious data on live-streaming keynotes or giving a play-by-play on Instagram Stories.
Yes, wifi isn’t cheap but, if your goal is to use event social media marketing to drive ROI, it’s an inevitable expense. Make sure you’re investing in the necessary technology that will make it easy for your attendees to go digital. It is 2020, after all.
At its core, social media is a social platform. We launch our Facebook apps to see what friends are doing and share our own personal highlight reel. To millennials, influencers feel like friends. We follow bloggers that resonate with us, value their opinions, and trust their recommendations. Because of this human connection, influencers can help create an authentic buzz for your event.
Finding the right influencers is key. Look for influential voices within your industry and check out the most active users during last year’s event. Once you’ve identified these power users, consider sending them complimentary tickets or inviting them to an exclusive ‘tweetup.’ These voices are just as, if not more, influential than popular industry media.
Arguably the biggest stumbling block for our clients? Creating a team that can manage and execute their social media strategy. No matter how well-intentioned your event staff may be, social media will quickly become an afterthought if there isn’t at least one dedicated social media manager on-site. And, if we’re being honest, having just one won’t get you too far. We recommend assigning at least two knowledgeable social media managers that can: