Social Media has revolutionised businesses across all sectors, and the world of events is no exception.
Studies have shown that almost nine in ten (87 per cent) B2B brands now use social media to promote events. And with good reason, too - it works!
Events marketing using social media can essentially be broken down into three key stages: before the exhibition, which focuses on prospecting and acquisition; during the exhibition, which has an emphasis on driving engagement and sharing information; and after the exhibition, where data capture, lead generation and maintaining momentum becomes key.
Facebook is the premier social media platform for events marketers looking to generate awareness, boost registrations and drive footfall in the lead up to an event. Facebook has 32m users in the UK alone, and some 1.94bn worldwide.
This vast connectivity has given birth to what Facebook calls its social graph. This is essentially a giant matrix of data that links all of us together by everything from our age, gender and location, but also more complex protocols like our interests, behaviours, values, intentions and beliefs.
The social graph is so rich that Facebook’s ad manager platform has established itself as the most powerful digital marketing tool that we have, allowing us to broadcast content to vast numbers of targeted consumers in an almost limitless number of ways.
Of all the major social networks Twitter is the clear market leader for sharing real-time news and information, and this includes the world of events and exhibitions.
Attendees will use Twitter to post about speakers and sessions, share content and engage with the event hashtag. Accordingly, Twitter plays an important role in ensuring that engagement and reach are maximised during the show.
A Twitter Wall is almost obligatory at exhibitions today, and large TV screens, which feed out tweets from the event, attendees, speakers and exhibitors over the course of the day, are an effective way to drive conversation.
Ideally, one or more members of your team should be tweeting content out over the duration of the show, live-tweeting the event. Content to be shared includes photos and videos, announcements, general information, session updates, speaker quotes and more. Be sure to retweet relevant content from others and actively engage and answer questions and queries.
Hashtags have an important role in social media event marketing, particularly on Twitter. The event hashtag should ideally be the name of the event or a close approximation, and needs to be as unique and short as possible. If your event has a long name consider abbreviating it to initials instead – for example, The Event Marketing Conference 2017 might become #EMC2017. Once you’ve made your selection, search for the hashtag on Twitter to make sure that it’s not being used.
When you have created your hashtag encourage all sponsors, speakers and other key delegates to share and use the hashtag in any content they create about your event.
Hashtags can also play an important role in brand and event discovery before the show. One popular hashtag for events professionals is #eventprofs, which businesses use to raise awareness of their events throughout the year.
More and more event marketers are utilising live video as part of their arsenal, often with incredible results.
While post-show video marketing still has tremendous value, there is a huge advantage to live streaming an event while it is taking place, as this allows people unable to attend to engage and interact with content right in the moment.
Facebook users spend three times as long watching live video than they do watching video content that is no longer live, and Facebook Live is finding increasing usage at exhibitions and events.
Snapchat, Instagram and Periscope also offer live video functionality – experiment with the different platforms well ahead of the show and find what works best for you and your audience.
After the event
Once the event has concluded be sure to use social media to thank everybody who has attended. Use standalone posts to thank important sponsors, key speakers and other notable delegates, but make sure to also thank all attendees.
Analyse the data collected from all your marketing content and feedback enquiries from hot prospects to your sales team.
Write blog posts about the event summarising the day(s), including commentary on speakers and sessions, images and video.
Consider creating an infographic that captures key data from the exhibition. A time-lapse video showing how busy the event was over the course of a day can be very effective.
Make sure that you create content that is appealing to non-attendees – it’s excellent for marketing purposes and will go a long way to encourage people to sign up for next year!