Social Media Marketing for Events – Putting Bums on Seats!
Updated on July 15th, 2013
Conference organisers I speak with often say “I’d love to do more with social media but where do I find the time?”
When I addressed the Australian Conference & Events Bureau (ACEB)I demonstrated that if you set up social media early enough and provide good content, you can let the enthusiasm of the delegates, speakers and exhibitors do a lot of the hard work for you. And this is what helps create the buzz and drive registrations!
Does that sound worth giving social media a go?
As case studies: I’ve chosen the digital marketing conference ad:tech Sydney that uses Twitter and its blog well. [So does EMSA but I couldn’t retrieve the tweets from last year to use on my slides, sorry Vision 6].
I’ve spoken to quite a number of conference organisers in preparation for this presentation and one of the biggest objections I’ve found about social media, is where do I find the time. What I’d like to do today is argue and demonstrate to you that if you harness social media earlier and plant the seeds early enough, your life will become a lot easier. The delegates, speakers and exhibitors will do a lot of the hard work for you to help put bums on seats and to help make your life easier.
The key to doing so is putting the delegates first. They’re the people passionate about the topic and they’re the one’s paying good money to be there. They’re the ones taking time off work and often flying from a different city to attend. If you can harness their passion and energy and their desire to form meaningful connections and relationships with everybody at the conference, then they’re going to do a lot of the leg-work for you and so too are the speakers and the exhibitors as well.
All the speakers want to speak to full houses, they don’t want an empty room. So they will help you via social media to help spread the word and put bums on seats as well. If you start early enough, they will help you fill those seats and the pressure won’t be on you to do everything.
These are the five different types of social media we’ll look at today – Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, LinkedIn and blogs. But it’s important to have consistency across all these channels because somebody might choose to follow you on Twitter, but they may not choose to follow you on Youtube or Facebook. As you can see, a lot of people are actively involved with it, so I’ll teach you a few tricks that’ll help you promote your event.
You make tweets of 140 characters and that’s the way you communicate via Twitter. It’s really quite new. It’s often misunderstood but it can be quite a powerful way to promote your event and I’ll show you how you can do that. Ad:tech is the first case study I’d like to go through today – that’s a digital marketing conference. It’s a conference that I spoke at last year and the conference organiser, Lucy James, did a really good job of using social media to help promote the event and put bums on seats.
- Twitter Handle – Her Twitter handle is lucyjjames and she chose to use her personal one rather than creating a new ad:tech Sydney one, because she already had a lot of personal relationships with the delegates, speakers and exhibitors. She was getting a bit of a head start by using her personal one, but the choice would be yours.
- Followers – The reason social media works so well is because other people are doing the hard work for you, if you set it up early enough. You can see here that Roger, he’s one of the speakers at ad:tech yesterday, he’s tweeting out the fact that the conference is on to all of his followers as well.
- Links – You can see that there’s link there that you click through to the registration page for more information about ad:tech. Say Lucy has only 500 followers but Roger has his whole following of people as well and so do the other 60 speakers at the conference. Between them, they’re actually reaching a lot more people than just the number of people on your Twitter account. It can get amplified through all of these different people attending the conference. Of course that’s just the speakers, the delegates are also encouraged to retweet when people actually sign up for the conference. Keith’s registered for ad:tech Sydney and he’s tweeted out to all of his followers as well. So again you are reaching so many more people. If each and every delegate are all tweeting out when they register, you can see how many people that reaches and how that buzz gets started by using Twitter.
- Integrating Promotions – Finally, in the lead up to the event, Peter said they book really late for conferences and that’s definitely true in my experience.That’s using social media to actually market the event. Lucy ran a competition in the last couple of days, saying there was 80 minutes to go, to a full a conference and you just had to retweet this message to win. You’re reaching so many more people and letting so many more people spread the message for you, that it’s not just you doing the hard work with social media. That’s using social media to actually market the event.
- Hashtags – There’s a really cool way to enhance the onsite experience of the delegates by using what’s known as a hashtag. You basically nominate a hashtag and a code for your event. If you let people know and they filled out that code when they tweet, you’re able to see a real-time display of what people are saying at the conference. That’s a way to enhance the onsite experience for the delegates.
We’re all fairly familiar with Facebook and whilst it may not be appropriate for people in their experience, I would like to talk about a case study today – the Singapore Tat2 Show. It started last year and it’s not a conference that I spoke at, but it’s a really good example of how Facebook can really work to build a virtual community before the conference takes place and then form a platform for people to stay in touch to maintain those valuable relationships well after the conference is finished.
- Page Name – What the organiser of the conference did, was set up a Facebook page three months before the event and he didn’t call it the Tattoo Conference 2009, because that would date and people aren’t necessarily passionate about the conference itself. They’re passionate about what the conference is talking about and the people they’re going to meet and their hobby or their work. So he called it Tattoo Pride for Tattoo Artistry because that is a group that can live on after the conference as well.
- Start Early – There’s 6,300 members and before the conference last year there was about 5,000 members, so there was people already meeting up and already keen to catch up during the conference. By the time the conference came around there was 15,000 people who registered for that event and that was in part due to the fact that he’d set up that group so early that people had the chance to form genuine relationships and build that buzz, all without him actually having to do a whole lot. He set up the frame work and planted the seeds and the delegates, the exhibitors and the speakers all got together and help do the rest.
- Upload Photos – People would take a photo of their tattoo and put it up on the facebook group page. There was about 5,000 photos on there. It’s a great way to keep that relationship going with people before, during and after the conference. Then of course next year, they’ve already got the 6,000 active members (people who attended last year) and that base number of people who already know about the conference, to then make it easier to sell tickets.
I’ve found that Youtube is often overlooked with organising conferences. The reason why it should be considered is that it’s such useful and easy way to help sell tickets. I was recently at the National Growth Summit in Sydney and they did it really well because rather than just having the brochures and registration forms, they had videos as well. They filmed the keynote speaker, Verne Harnish and on the homepage of their website they put a 10 minute clip of him explaining what would be coming up in the conference. You could hear right from the horse’s mouth what would be happening and that was really good because as a delegate in this situation, I could watch the video, find out was going to be spoken about and make a decision to attend.
They also put a video of rave reviews from past delegates which is a really compelling way to convince people to part with their money and come to the conference.
You might actually choose to film the speakers as well, as a resource. There’s so much information that people get during a conference, it’s hard to remember it all. If there’s a few little highlight packages put onto Youtube after the event, then that’s a great way for delegates to find out more information.
This is where I’ve got the most resistance but its probably the most valuable. The reason is, everyone says “where do I find the time to make a blog, I’m so busy with everything else, this is too hard”, and i get that. But look at it a different way. It doesn’t have to be you making the content because as I’ve said, it’s the delegates, it’s the speakers and the exhibitors who are really keen on the topics and they’re the ones who are keen to produce the content for you. All you need to do is set it up early enough and let them do the hard work for you.
I’m sure every single speaker would be happy to make a blog post about what they talk about. They get a backlink to their website and they get to position themselves as a thought-leader. All of a sudden you’ve got at least 10 or 15 posts you can start with.
The exhibitors, they’re paying top dollar to put their trade booth at the conference as well and want more bang for their buck. If they can produce a blog post as well, then I’m sure they’re going to take you up in that offer.
Finally, if you’re really short on content I’m sure there’s a few guest posts you can get the delegates to write, maybe along the lines of what they hope to get out of the conference or who they think their favourite speaker is going to be. So, doing an event blog doesn’t have to difficult. WordPress is free to install. You can set it up a new website really quite easily but set it up early and let other people do the hard work for you.
Ad:tech developed the ad:tech brain. It’s essentially just a blog, but they’ve designed it so that you can interact with the ad:tech community. What’s so good about that is, that brain’s been running for a couple of years now. Each year the speakers write blog posts, the conference organiser conducts interviews or gets video testimonials from the delegates after the event. It all goes on to this ad:tech brain.
You could describe it as a Facebook for work. Here you might choose to go with LinkedIn over Facebook if you don’t have the time. Their functionality is much the same. The example I’d like to show you is Networks Events. They run monthly networking events and they formed a LinkedIn group. It’s all about getting real people into a community that starts online then translates to meetings and conferences and events. So the delegates and the attendees, they form genuine relationships. It facilitates discussions as well.
One final comment about social media is, it’s a real good listening tool. If you’re promoting a conference, you’d ideally like to to know when people are talking about you when it falls out your own social media channels. What I would recommend is getting a Google Alert centre for your conference. It would be really useful to know if somebody’s blogging in Sydney about coming to your event. You then get notified of that by Google so you can visit that blog, maybe comment on it, point them in the right direction, contact them and thank them for blogging about your event. It’s those types of people, the bloggers and the tweeters and the social media advocates, that are really going to make your life easier.
Your social strategy: I suggest setting your social media profiles up nice and early, think at least 3 months. Then secure the custom URL for each and post some good, useful content. Get speakers, exhibitors & even delegates to write blog posts for you or even record a video interview and post to You Tube.
Then open it up to the delegates to connect, communicate and build genuine relationships online which will then (hopefully) generate buzz and registrations for the actual event. Your job then is to monitor, listen and join in appropriately!
The first thing I would do, is set the pages up early. There’s no point setting up a Twitter account or a Youtube channel a day before the conference and expecting it to work. Set it up well in advance and secure your URL. Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter all allow you to secure a custom URL. I would recommend securing that ASAP. Then the key is to plant the seed with good content.
Upload engaging content
With your blog and your Youtube channel, get a few videos on there and get a few posts on there, because that’s what’s going to attract the delegates and the speakers and everybody into the social media channels you’ve set up. If the content is good enough, if there’s enough reason for them to get involved and enough other people in there then they’re going to do the hard work for you. All you’ve got to do is monitor it with those Google Alerts, listen in to their Twitter conversations, listen to what’s happening on the blog comments and just join in where it’s appropriate.
If people are looking for more information or have some value to add, then there’s an opportunity to chime in with your own two cents worth. As that evolves, an intermediate strategy is really just letting that whole thing snowball. You start off with the good content to help inform, entertain and persuade people. That’s what’s going to attract the delegates in and the delegates are going to build genuine, valuable relationships. That’s what’s going to drive registration and word-of-mouth and you keep that whole process snowballing. The sooner you start, the better it’s going to work for you. The good thing is that it carries onto the next year and the year after so that you’re laying the foundations to market your event next year.
I did mention that it’s important to have all your social media channels consistent and the good news is it’s really easy to do that. You may know from Linkedin and facebook that it’s very easy to sync your blog into your facebook page and the posts come through as a news items. It’s very easy to sync your Youtube videos into your facebook page and that way you’re getting that consistent message across all the channels.
The future of social media for marketing events and conferences
Ad:tech are practicing what they preach. They’re the first in Australia, I’m led to believe, that’s developed an iPhone app for their conference. It’s free to download. It’s been a really hit wuth the delegates and the speakers, a lot of people are talking about it on Twitter and there’s alot of reviews on the blog. What they’ve done is that they’ve set it up so you can look at the sessions. You get a schedule wall on your iPhone and you can click through to see who the actual speakers are for that screen. You can see the speaker bios and their Twitter handles, so that if you want a to comment about that speaker then you can. If you click a different button on the iPhone app you can get live feeds of all the Twitter comments. It’s the way I see the future going for using social media for events. It’s in everybody’s pocket and it reduces the amount of print stuff you might have to do.
Feel free to share the slides, videos & blog post with any conference organisers or colleagues who you think will find it valuable. You can also follow me on Twitter @Franklin_Adam.
Here’s the ACEB slides:
Many thanks to everyone for their superb questions, kind feedback and testimonials.
Here’s a few rave reviews from ACEB attendees:
Susie Christie – Global Speakers & Entertainers
Peter Sugg – AST Management
Social Media Speaker: If you’d like Adam Franklin to speak about social media in a way you can understand, call 1300 258 394.
Social Media Packages: If you’re organising a conference and need a hand getting your client’s social media set up, Bluewire Media can help you on 1300 258 394.