Making the most of your event means making the most of social media.

If you’ve ever organized an event – a conference, a seminar, a retreat, or even a church VBS program – you know how much thought and work goes into making everything happen in time, in the right order, and as smoothly as possible. It can take a monumental effort to put on an event so, understandably, you want for it to be as successful as possible – which generally boils down to getting people to register and attend.

Putting on a successful event requires pulling off a great marketing campaign and there are a lot of pieces to think about. You’re going to need graphic design work and an email campaign and all of the event information needs to be present on your website…

And you’re going to need social media.

If you’re going to create a successful social media campaign for an event, you have to create a social media campaign around an event. It’s important to remember that your event isn’t confined to the dates when it’s happening – at least not from a marketing perspective.

As far as marketing is concerned, your event starts at least a month before and it’ll still be going on two weeks after your guests have left.

We can break this down into three phases:

Cliffhanger Style

Cranking up your social media campaign in advance of an event is crucial. It not only lets people know that your event is coming, it builds anticipation and excitement as well. The important thing to remember about this stage in the game for social media is that you don’t need to use these channels for informational purposes. Hopefully, you have all of the details already on your website at this point (you do right?) so that, when people get excited and want to know more, they can get what they’re looking for there. Don’t try to give them everything via social media. It’s just not the best place to engage in that level of communication. Social media is best at connecting to individuals on a personal level.

Show Value

When you’re starting up your marketing push prior to your event, you’re talking to two audiences: people who have been to an event (or who engaged with you before) and people who maybe know about you (but aren’t engaged) but who haven’t been to an event in the past. In this pre-event stage, it’s crucial to show the value of attendance to your audience. Hint giveaways. Share photos of people enjoying themselves at the last event. Show off the location. This is the time to plant the idea that your event is going to be an incredible experience and will be worth the price/time/travel of attendance.

Pump It Up

Building anticipation is the easiest part of a pre-show social media campaign (because YOU’RE excited about the event) but it’s also often the most neglected part as well (because you’re BUSY getting everything ready to go). Excitement is contagious! Share the personal feelings of your staff and attendees. If someone tweets their excitement in response to a teaser post, retweet it! Repost encouragement from your audience. Respond to excited posts with excited replies. By sharing your audience’s excitement, you can build and spread excitement exponentially and you can create a “same team” culture. By being excited together, you can turn your audience into a community.

Reinforce The Moment

The day has come, everything is in place, everyone has arrived and is excited to get started. Now that everything is in motion, how do you make the most of all of the thought and effort that you’ve put in to your event? You reinforce the moment. Reinforcing the moment does two things – it provides an online record of excitement and it makes those “right now” moments feel even bigger because they are shared with a greater audience. Tweet events as they happen and encourage your attendees to do the same. Provide a hashtag for your guests to use so that you can aggregate all of the excitement. One thing that I’ve seen used to great effect is a “twitter wall” in the main event space. A twitter search for your hashtag and projected on the wall provides a constantly updating feed of excitement from your guests and encourages them to tweet about the event and to use the hashtag when they do.

Create “Attendance Envy”

You want people who didn’t make it to your event to wish that they had. They will remember this attendance envy the next time you do an event and it will make them more likely to make the change from spectator to guest. It’s fairly easy to accomplish this. Post pictures of exciting moments as they happen, tweet great quotes as they’re said, engage with your guests online, congratulate them on their successes, show photos of people smiling, cheering, and generally enjoying themselves. Remember to use your event hashtag so that non-attendees can see everyone’s excitement in real time!

We Are One

Perhaps the most important role of social media during your event is to create a sense of community with your guests. This is as easy as using social media the way it was meant to be used – respond to tweets, repost statuses, tag people, share pictures, comment on posts. Be engaged with your audience instead of remaining aloof as the organizers or administrators of an event. It’s that simple. By engaging with your attendees on social media, you send the message that you are all part of the same community – the same movement. By inviting them into community, you give them ownership of the brand and the event and they are therefore much more likely to invite others to attend and help with your next social media push by retweeting and re-posting your updates.

Take A Bow

Your event is done! Take a deep breath – you did it! Congratulations! Pat yourself on the back, you deserve it. Now do what your grandmother told you to do and say thank you. Always thank your guests, sponsors, and volunteers specifically and publicly. Remember, without them you wouldn’t have had an event to be thankful for. Via social media, this looks like photos of your team, of volunteers cleaning up, or even of people passed out in chairs from exhaustion. It’s tagging attendees in thank you posts. It’s linking to sponsors’ social media accounts or websites in tweets. Remember, it’s not only ok to congratulate yourself on a job well done, it’s good publicity. But it has to be balanced with thankfulness and humility. Always give credit where credit is due.

Let’s Go To The Replay…

Recap your event, don’t let it fade away! Now that you’re out of the chaos and frantic energy of the event, take a moment to step back, think about the event as a whole, and create a condensed roundup of the high points. A few easy ideas for social media recaps are:

  • Top 10 Event Moments
  • “Favorite Photos From Our Attendees” Gallery
  • Event Quotes Share Graphics
  • Video Montage

Mark Their Calendars

Doing this again next year or in a few months? Now is the time to get your guests to sign on for next year. Let people know when the next event is happening while they’re engaged. If you don’t already have the dates in place, this is the time to get them connected with you so that they can be the first to know when you have more details. Encourage them to like your Facebook page, follow you on Twitter or Instagram, or – even better – sign up for an email list. Your audience is never going to be more engaged than they are right after your event. They’re experiencing the mountaintop high from your event. This is when you have the best chance to hook them for the next one. Don’t miss this opportunity.

So that’s a quick, high-level look at building a social media campaign around an event. Obviously, every event, every church or organization, and every audience is different so the social media push needs to be customized each time. This is just a general guideline. Take these ideas and create a custom, targeted plan to reach your audience and make the most of your event.

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