After publishing his book “UnMarketing,” author and marketing expert Scott Stratten let his 60,000-plus Twitter followers determine where he would hold his author signings. Fans tweeted to him asking him to come to their cities, and he responded and put the events together using Twitter. On the day of each signing, he tweeted about the event to encourage attendance. Stratten’s strategy saved his publisher a lot of money, and it demonstrated his social-media marketing savvy.
Whether you’re hosting a book signing, a guest speaker, a webinar, or in-store event, social media is a great tool for generating buzz before, during, and after the event.
Check out our tips for drawing crowds to your next big event using the power of social media.
Before the Event
Decide what action you want from your event campaign, whether it’s registration, participation, or attendance. Then, build a campaign to generate the result you want. Try some of these ideas:
1. Create a Facebook Event page. You can use “Category” to tag your event so people can find it, and you can click on the “Add Targeting” link to promote your event on Facebook. Create the event two to three weeks before it starts, and ask for RSVPs. You can link back to the Facebook Event page from all of your social networks.
2. Create a graphic to unify your campaign. Make sure that it looks good both on desktop computers and mobile screens, and obtain permission to use non-original images from any copyright holders.
3. Try a Promoted Tweet. Buy Promoted Tweets on Twitter that allow you to place targeted tweets about your events into the right people’s Twitter feeds. You might also create a dedicated Twitter handle for the event, using your graphic at the top of the profile page.
4. Incorporate social media into registration pages. Provide a button on your Web page that allows people who have signed up for your event to immediately post or tweet about their registration. Also, notify people during the registration process that you might share event photos on your social networks. This precaution especially matters if your event caters to children under 18.
5. Generate interest on LinkedIn. LinkedIn can drive a large percentage of registration, so advertise the event on your LinkedIn feed and create a dedicated LinkedIn landing page for registration. Also, if you’re a member of LinkedIn Groups, promote your event in the group.
6. Create a hashtag. On almost any social network, you can create hashtags that people can use to post or tweet about your event. Pick one hashtag that you can use across any network, and be sure to promote the hashtag both in social media posts and on printed or televised materials.
7. Post promotional videos. You can produce and post your own video promoting the event, or you can encourage your followers/fans to create videos and then share them on your networks.
8. Do a countdown. A certain number of days before the event, start creating a daily post or tweet counting down to the big event.
9. Tap an influencer. If someone in your industry has a huge social following, ask the person to share or retweet your event.
During the Event
Once you’ve gotten your followers to participate, use social media to increase engagement during the event. Use these ideas to increase social media participation:
10. Promote mobile device usage. Encourage people to use their mobile devices (asking people to turn off ringers or to avoid recording certain presentations is acceptable) so that they’re posting about your event or tweeting about the brilliant thing that someone just said. Depending on the size of your event, you can run a feed of live tweets on your website or on a big screen at your event. Make sure to visually and verbally promote your hashtags.
11. Live blog or live tweet. Using the event hashtag, generate a live stream of everything that’s happening at your event. At the end of the day, compile the day’s posts and generate a “Day in Review” blog post. In addition to tweeting, you can generate a running Instagram stream using your event hashtag. Encourage participants to share their own Instagram images.
12. Post a short video that people can share. Create shareable clips every day that people can blast out over social media. Also, short video formats like GIFs are great for social networks like Vine and Tumblr. Your videos can contain clips from presentations, live interviews, or montages of notable happenings.
13. Conduct a live poll. Ask people to vote for their favorite happenings, speakers, presentations, products, or other components of your main event. Put a live update on your website, or create regular posts of updated vote counts.
14. Encourage check-in. Ask your attendees to check in at your event using social networks, and suggest that they invite their friends.
15. Collect questions. Create a dedicated account or hashtag to collect questions for big players at your event, and conduct interviews with your guests using the questions. Share the Q&A either in blog posts or in short videos.
After the Event
Most people remain engaged with events for 24 to 48 hours after they end, so keep milking the good vibes by leveraging social media.
16. Post photos and videos. Post some great photos or videos of your event for up to a week after it ends, and make sure you tag the people in the images. Again, make sure that you’ve obtained permission to share people’s images before posting them. In addition to posting individual images, create albums that people can peruse later.
17. Ask for feedback. Create a Facebook post and ask for feedback in the comments. You can also send out a tweet asking for feedback and encourage people to reply using your event hashtag. A simple question, such as “What did you like best about the event?” can encourage a lot of engagement, or you can post a fill-in-the-blank status such as “My favorite thing about the event was_____.”
18. Create a post-event Google+ Hangout on Air. Invite influencers and attendees to discuss highlights of the event. During the Hangout, share event posts and tweets as well as photos and videos from the event.
19. Post a Pinterest Pinboard of favorite images, quotes, or videos from the event. Encourage your followers to add their own pins and to share their favorite moments.
20. Give a parting gift. Gather some stats about your event and put together an infographic to release the week after your event. Some ideas include showing the growth of your event over time, statistics from the best slides at your event, the best moments as voted on by your attendees, or the best social network posts from the event.
21. Request user-generated content. Ask your participants to share their photos or their post-event thoughts on their own social networks, and ask them to tag you or use your event hashtag. Share the best items, with user permission, on your own social networks.
Another Event Strategy: Tying Into World or Local Events
Many individuals and businesses use social media to boost their brands by piggybacking off of existing events. During the World Cup, for example, Adidas ran an “all in or nothing” campaign to promote its sponsored players. For example, when Team USA soccer player Graham Zusi was having a good match, @AdidasSoccer tweeted a photo of Zusi along with the hashtag #allin.
If you’re like most small-business owners, you don’t have the resources to sponsor World Cup athletes, but you can tie your brand to events that matter to your followers. Try a few of these strategies:
22. Think locally. If you sponsor a local sports event, fair, or contest, use the hashtag on your own social networks or link to the event page. If you’re a fan of a local sports team, then promote your fan love on your social networks. Also, when your community hits a milestone, such as a centennial celebration, get involved in the event by promoting it on social media.
23. Seasonal events. You can easily create event tie-ins to big holidays, like Christmas, and smaller holidays, like Arbor Day, depending on how well they connect to your followers. For example, if you participate in a local holiday parade, share photos of the parade route on Instagram.
24. Business-related events. If a major event relates to your company, then don’t hesitate to take advantage of it. A local hot dog stand can get a lot of mileage out of National Hot Dog Month, or if you sell soccer equipment, don’t hesitate to create a World Cup campaign.
Whether you’re putting together a small event, like a local book signing, or inviting people to a major conference or celebration, social media provides a great way to promote special occasions. Make sure you discuss possible legal issues, such as image rights, with your attorney. Whether you’re hyping your own event or tying your brand to a bigger event, you’re creating a great opportunity to build long-lasting relationships with your customers.