Yesterday we were thrilled to host a webinar featuring Charlene Li, acclaimed author of Groundswell and Open Leadership, and a bona fide social media expert. The title of Charlene’s talk was “Creating a Social Media Strategy for Your Event,” and she divided her discussion into 3 parts: social media strategies before, during, and after an event. Today we’re highlighting her key points on the first of these: pre-event strategy. In upcoming posts we’ll cover her discussion of the during and after segments.

Social media strategy before an event:

  • Learn where communities already are. Before the event, it’s critical to identify existing communities like those on LinkedIn, Facebook, or other forums and find out what they’re interested in. You can also use real-time search on Twitter to find out what your future attendees are talking about and hoping to gain from an event. Then use this knowledge to fine-tune the event content and make sure that it’s relevant for your audience.
  • Encourage sharing to jumpstart dialogue. There are now so many platforms for attendees to share prior to an event.  One excellent way to encourage advocacy is through the use of badges, which people can put on blogs and Facebook pages. It’s a clear way to broadcast, “Here’s a great event, and I’m going.”
  • Encourage dialog with hashtags. Twitter hashtags are an excellent way to build buzz around an event. However, it’s important to step in and designate what the event hashtag will be, early in the process (if you don’t, others are going to do it for you). You can even designate individual session hashtags if your event is large. Then publicize this in advance across all channels — put it on your registration page, website, and use it in all your Twitter posts. Once at the event, plan to promote it repeatedly: in signage, in printed programs, and from the stage.
  • Create groups and communities to connect, and support pre-event networking. Use such forums as LinkedIn groups and other online communities to give future attendees areas to connect. For a major event, you might also create a special online networking space—an example is South by Southwest’s my.SXSW.
  • Ask for proposals via social media. Why not ask people for input about what they’d like to see at the event? It’s a great way to tune the event and to get them engaged. SXSW has even made this process official, asking for comments on proposals through the “PanelPicker.”

That covers the major takeaways on social media strategy before an event. Thanks again to Charlene Li, and keep an eye on the blog for our next installments in this series!

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