No doubt social media is used extensively to bring people and resources together. 65% of American adults now use social media sites, according to Pew Research Center. That’s 10 times higher than it was a decade ago. And it’s not just young adults (although 90% of people 18-29 use social media), usage for people 65 and older has more than tripled since 2010, rising from 11% to 35%.
Yea, but how to leverage all that use for my event?
Since 23% of online adults use Twitter, it’s a no-brainer to integrate it into your app. Creating a well-designed hashtag is easy and allows you to bring people together for discussions and networking. Choose one that relates to your event, but is short and to the point.
Be sure to check that the hashtag is unique; you don’t want to create confusion and embarrassment when two unrelated discussions collide because of a shared hashtag.
Once your hashtag is created, tell everyone about it. Some tried and true ideas for promotion are:
- Include the hashtag in the name of the event itself. This encourages attendees from the start to discuss it on social media.
- Place posters around the venue.
- Hold a random drawing for a prize, with each tweet counting as one entry.
- Incorporate into panel discussions or Q&A sessions.
- Encourage questions and monitor Tweets to answer in-session.
- Reply to Tweets. 77% of Twitter users have positive feelings toward a brand when their Tweet is responded to.
For deeper discussions, utilize a platform where people can fully express themselves with longer responses. A discussion board is the perfect tool for this.
To get your discussion board up and running and to captivate attendees, keep two things in mind: hook and engage. Hook your audience by starting the conversation. An empty discussion board may remain so. People may not always feel comfortable being the first to post, but they’re usually happy to join in once they see the conversation begin. Post an interesting topic or question and promote the board to your attendees during the conference. The best boards include topics about work and play. For example, a good work question might be a strategic one: What customer segment should be our top priority this year? Or you may want to encourage connections among attendees: Is anyone interested in joining small networking peer groups? To liven things up, you may ask a more light-hearted query: Who is going to the wellness activities? And which ones will you attend? By all means, when someone answers or responds to a post you’ve created, be sure to engage with them by replying.
Consider your event app’s discussion board as a room; have someone in that room waiting to talk to anyone willing to walk in. Tweet this!
Have speakers generate interest in their sessions by posting a topic to the board. Then he or she may address the comments during the session, adding a level of engagement to the session that may not be possible otherwise.
If your attendees are grouped together in some fashion, create a topic post for each team or group. This is a great way for group members to interact with each other.
Photos require little time, but can communicate so much. Here again, upload a photo or two to get the fun started. Try a scenic shot of the conference venue or a photo of the crowd during the first keynote session. And of course, when one of your attendees uploads a photo, be sure to give it a positive comment.
Feel free to get creative to fully convey the essence of your event.
- Host a photo challenge in the event app.
- Award small prizes (could be as simple as bragging rights and a tote bag full of conference swag) to the person who uploads the photo that includes the most people or the selfie that best captures highlights of the event or the conference host city.
- Create a sign with your organization’s logo. Ask participants to take a selfie in front of the sign, then finish a sentence you begin (like, “I empower company results by...”) and post the photo. This is a popular way to increase attendee engagement and encourage strategic thinking.
Whatever you do, make your contest or photo challenge fun and rewarding. People will remember it.
For even greater impact, display the photos, discussion board and Twitter on a large screen in a common area. Social media can help you tell a richer story of your event through crowd-sourced narratives.