Social Media Marketing for real-time events.
Chances are that you can open your favorite social media app right now and find at least one brand promoting an event of some shape or size. Hint: It may look a lot like spam.
Whether it’s a formal fundraiser, open house, community festival or product launch, there are ways to proactively and effectively activate social media marketing to support and amplify the event. Beyond simply posting an event flyer on Facebook or tweeting a link to the event’s registration page, brands can influence and engage with online audiences by incorporating social media into all aspects and stages of event preparation and execution.
Why Use Social Media Before, During and After an Event
The always-on nature of social media matches the real-time spirit of events and event-goers who crave photos, information and naturally have FOMO (fear of missing out) curiosities. Events are a great time to integrate marketing tactics and explore the creative and personal side of a brand.
As an event marketer, it’s vital to plan the before, during (live) and post-event tactics, but what’s even more important is remembering that the overall marketing goals should remain the same throughout these phases. Typical goals may fall within the realm of brand awareness, industry education, social media engagement or even lead generation; and measurable desired outcomes from these goals are usually ticket sales and event attendance or excellent customer service feedback.
While there isn’t only one way to plan and prepare for hosting an event, there is one clear tactic that can no longer be considered an add-on right before or during the event—you guessed it, social media. We all know that activating marketing initiatives to promote an event and engage with event-goers is nothing new, but the digital approach from a cohesive, integrated angle is still developing into an art.
Deciding How to Manage the Audience and the Message
Knowing the goals and messages of your brand and event are key to success and will guide every action, comment and retweet along the way. The planning period is what tells brands if they will need a full staff on board with a command center or if their internal marketing/events team can handle the conversations and content. This is the difference between full-scale conversation monitoring versus channel management with only branded mentions.
During this discovery, brands must ask themselves if real-time marketing is relevant to the brand, the message and the overall campaign and event. This will help establish the metrics for measuring success. If the answer to, “Do we need to manage conversations in real time?” is yes, then metrics related to the goal are needed. Some metrics may include new leads, press mentions or social media channel growth.
Next, the listening strategy can be created. A deliberate, well-conceived strategy can accommodate the entire spectrum of engagement—from everyday, real-time exchanges to big event interactions. The following example from social media advertising business Pagemodo is a simple way to break down content.
The event timeline is well-known ahead of time and content can be scheduled.
The event is planned, but there’s a probability of spontaneity based on the timeline and audience participation.
Something will happen, but it hasn’t happened yet, and there are multiple options for engagement.
The content in-between the event promotion that relates to the brand or is content created by others.
Understanding the variations in content will help identify what to listen for. This is when brands should make a master list of content opportunities key topics, phrases, hashtags, brand/events names, and partner or influencer accounts.
Publishing Content isn’t Enough— Act Quickly and Engage
Planning the pieces of engaging content from contests to sharing crowdsourced photos is the fun part, but there is another side to integrating social media into an event. Depending on the size and how elaborate the event is, real-time listening and monitoring can be just as large of an undertaking as the promotional “before” period of event campaign planning.
People want brands (translation: brands that sound like real people) to respond to them within 60 minutes. While this is often unrealistic for companies, especially those without a dedicated social media team, you should assume that when it comes to social media response time, the faster the response, the better. This is especially vital from an event perspective as a user’s message to a brand on social media may often center on logistics such as parking, programming or weather. Subsequently, your ability to respond quickly may directly impact their desire to attend your event, as well as how much they enjoy it.
Using a simple tool like Hootsuite to monitor and schedule original content may be enough for some teams, but others may need an enterprise monitoring tool like Brandwatch, Salesforce or Spredfast to execute a full campaign. In general, event teams should listen for media mentions, watch hashtags and brand mentions (both tagged and “loose” mentions), keep an eye on common misspellings for keywords related to the event, brand or area where the festivities are happening and be prepared with a “cheat sheet” of answers to common questions.
Constructing and Operating a Social Media Command Center
Once you establish a strategy and the tools needed to execute it, start thinking about the functionality of a Social Media Command Center (SMCC).
Some questions to ask:
- What is the size of the team and the space available?
- Will you have Wi-Fi?
- Will the SMCC be public-facing?
- What’s the chain of command for responding to mentions?
These are all important factors to consider well in advance of your event and should be clearly explained to all parties ahead of the event.
But What’s the Point?
Why should brands consider this avenue of marketing? Long-term goodwill, creating a bond, boosting engagement, drawing new leads into the sales funnel, creating fan loyalty, demonstrating brand expertise and personality to key audiences, just to name a few benefits.
In the end, remember that the key to activating real-time social media marketing for an event is to amplify event messaging. Doing so means planning early and not making social media an afterthought. This is not just an online bulletin board where a flyer can be shared once with the hopes of generating buzz and attendance. Plan in advance just like for the event itself. Marketers wouldn’t try to secure the venue a week before the event, so don’t assume social media channels and followers are ready to support the event the week before either. Instead, create the tactics that can be deployed to highlight the journey of an event from start to finish, feed the audience’s need for information, and entertain users who desire to be entertained both at the event and in real time on social media.
Dynamic Engagement is an article featured in our 2016 Trends Summer Reader Magazine. Download your free copy of the magazine here.