Remember when keynote speakers and moderators were perturbed to see people texting, tweeting or posting during their presentation?
Now, in most meeting and event settings, engagement through social media is more a sign of intense involvement than disinterest or rudeness.
“Social media has completely changed how we interact with each other, and special events and meetings are no exception,” says Emily Maxie, marketing director for SIGNiX, a cloud-based digital signature company. “Event planners can distribute information quickly to a broad audience and interact with attendees in real time through social media.”
“Social media isn’t simply about creating posts and sharing things and expecting them to take flight on their own,” says Lisa Sagstad, director of communications for HelmsBriscoe. “The conversation should begin well before your event starts, and continue once the event has ended.
“The first action meeting planners should take is to choose two or three social outlets they want to feature at their conference and decide how they want to use them,” she continues. “For example, if they have the most followers and engaged employees on Twitter or Facebook, this is where they should place their focus. Next, determine how they will focus on these channels with a social media wall, a hashtag or both.”
Joe Pardo, an interactive marketing strategist for Experience Columbus (Ohio), says planners should be more concerned about the quality of engagement, not the quantity.
“It’s important to establish your goals before an event and determine what you want to accomplish through engagement,” Pardo says. “Getting people intensely involved and engaged is great, but you must have some direction to make the social media experience successful and productive.”
One of the ways to enhance engagement is by educating attendees about social media and how it’s used in a meeting or event setting.
“We don’t take for granted that because seemingly everyone has a smart phone that they understand how to use social media, especially in a business setting,” Pardo says. “People may use it in their personal lives, but may not fully comprehend the uses and ramifications at a conference or event, so we offer a breakout session about methods and nuances.”
In the social media world, a picture is actually worth more than a thousand words.
Site and venue selection is especially important when incorporating a social media component, as a photogenic setting will generate excitement with attendees and encourage them to share the dynamic experience through photos.
“Hosting events at unique venues where opportunities for great photos is vast is always going to generate significantly more social content than an event in a standard hotel ballroom,” Sagstad says. “Offering one-of-a-kind experiences will make attendees want to share their experience with their followers through images and event hashtags, and chances are they might even snap a selfie or two.”
Enhancing the opportunities for photos through creative planning is one of the keys to a successful social media program at a meeting or event.
“A great idea is having photo booths at events along with signage, make them user-friendly so people can easily e-mail to themselves or instantly post on social media,” says Alex Bimonte, director of social media at The Buzz Agency, a public relations, social media and events company in Miami.
Innovative planners have devised a variety of ways to encourage intrepid image taking, including photo contests, caption competitions, retweet challenges and scavenger hunts.