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Events of any kind are, by definition, a welcome break from the everyday routine. They’re special, notable, (hopefully) enjoyable and something to talk about. And where are your attendees most likely to share their experiences at your event? This should be a no-brainer in 2016: social media! If done correctly, an event can yield hundreds to thousands of tweets, posts, updates, ‘grams and snaps.

However, the amount of online buzz generated will depend not only on how much you promote your event, but how well. You’ll need to ensure that not only are the right eyes seeing your material, but that it’s presented in a way that encourages sharing – whether that relies on being funny, inspiring, beautiful or even upsetting (this last one is more likely for social causes than corporations).

Here’s how to play your cards right to make sure you max out the social media potential of your next event:

Drumming Up Excitement: Before the Event

Get the momentum going early, and leave plenty of time for mistakes – social media is an art, not a science, and no one can guarantee that a message will go viral (not even Buzzfeed). However, there are some key tips you should keep in mind from the very first planning stages for your event…

#1 Decide the target audience, then the event theme, not the other way around. Too often we see events that weren’t well thought out, or that were a passion project of an organizer, but not really interesting to the majority of their audience. The best time to plan for a social media campaign is right when you decide to host the event in the first place.

The biggest culprit? Webcasts. As these events are considered the easiest to host, as they mainly require a webcam, chatroom capabilities and an email list, they’re often thrown together last minute. This leads to depressingly low attendance numbers, and a waste of your – or your executive’s – time.

#2 Name your event something descriptive, not just clever – and hashtag-able! The name of your event should be easy to remember and obviously related to the topic. Your attendees shouldn’t have to do any of these:

  • Click on anything to at least have a general idea what the event is about (tech, finance, etc.)
  • Be familiar with your brand to understand the title (sometimes major brands can get away with this, but if you’re not in the leagues of Coca-Cola, TechCrunch or Fidelity, make it a little more obvious)
  • Guess what the hashtag will be

All of these are practically begging for your busy public to forget just enough to not bother finding it again. “Wasn’t there a thing next month? It had a pink poster, I think it was about diversity…or health or something…” is not how you want your audience to describe your hard work!

#3 Use A/B testing within your own network to perfect the promotion early on. The first place you should be sending out your lovely tweets, posts, updates, ‘grams and snaps is in your own network, but that doesn’t mean just blasting out your message whenever! Keep careful note of the time of day and day of the week each post goes out on, and see what time slots get the most traction. Also, have a few different styles of campaigns going, if possible. A/B testing is your friend – and you’ll be much better equipped to target new people once you know what works on your existing audience. Here’s a few hints as to what times to focus on when you’re first getting started, from Hootsuite.

#4 Focus on images and repetition. They say a picture tells a thousand words – we’re not sure of that, but we do know that a picture is much more likely to get a thousand shares than a text-only post! Make sure your images are appealing and send a clear message. Have a promotional video? Even better! According to Kissmetrics, content with relevant images gets 94% more views than without, so consider that time you spend hunting for the perfect images, editing video and applying filters to be well spent.

Also, remember those forgetful users we talked about in #2? Don’t be afraid to be a bit repetitive – most of your followers have hundreds, if not thousands of people in their feed. Don’t be shy about reminding everyone not only that your event exists and is approaching, but how to sign up, why they should go and any other relevant details.

#5 Reward sign-up shares! Everyone loves to be acknowledged. Make sure you build in a share button when people sign up for your event, and share those posts with a thank you when you see them. Eventbrite actually found that social shares drive over a dozen (sometimes almost twenty) visits to the event page – each. Not only does it make attendees feel good and encourage future sign ups to share as well, but it also proves that people are going to your event, and emphasizes what a good time it will be!

Turn It Up: Sharing During The Event

The doors are open, either figuratively (in the case of webcasts and other digital events) or literally, and the energy is high. It’s easy to breath a sigh of relief and pat yourself on the back for a job well done, but it’s only just beginning! (Though that pat is still well earned, so go ahead and give it to yourself anyways).

During the event, make sure to keep the momentum going by:

#1 Taking lots of videos and photos, and posting them immediately (as well as saving them to repost later). Make sure to capture a wide variety of material, from happy faces to video testimonials to funny shenanigans. Spoiler: these are just as helpful after the event is over, so make sure to save the full size resolution versions as well! Consider hiring a photographer and videographer if at all possible – they’ll be well worth the investment.

#2 Documenting and promoting giveaways and raffles. If your event is large, this may be necessary to get the participation numbers you’re hoping for. Even if the event is small, if you can make some of these available to those following along digitally, you’re getting a leg up on success. The goal here is to involve as many people as possible, whether they’re present or not.

#3 Schedule some tweets and posts before the event starts to give yourself a bit of a break. This can be a lifesaver while you’re running around, unless you’re able to have a dedicated staff member manning the controls of your social media accounts. Even if you do have one – or a few – dedicated posters, schedule a few just in case they get caught up in a conversation, or other unforeseen circumstances distract them, from dead phone batteries to Wi-Fi outages.

#4 Display your hashtag and social profiles prominently throughout the event. Your attendees will be just as active, if not more so, than your brand – make sure they know how to spread the word, and how to tag where they are! Also, don’t forget to create a location for Swarm and Facebook, so users can show where they are to their network.

Encore! Keep The Conversation Going After It’s Over

All right, you’re almost done, we promise. The main focus once the event is over is not only keeping the momentum going for as long as possible, but using the goodwill you generate from your audience to apply to your brand as a whole, future events and your products.

#1 Those pictures and videos you took? Repost them. Taper the frequency over time, using that valuable collateral to prove your branding, and act as a reference that your brand’s events deliver what’s promised – whether that’s a good time, world class education or incredible networking (or all three).

#2 Capture information you discovered about your audience, and apply it to your strategies. Was the age group slightly – or more than slightly – different than what you were expecting? What about income or position? Gender? Use the information to guide your future strategies – whether that means focusing on a more specific niche, or reworking your branding to broaden your appeal.

Your event requires a lot of time and effort – make sure it’s worth it by making it easy to spread the word, and show off how successful it was and how much value it delivered for weeks and months to come!