The challenge of event marketing is getting bums on seats and making those people remember your organisation long after the chairs are cleared. This is how social media can work alongside your content efforts.

With endless digital experiences at our fingertips, in-person events have a certain power. They offer richer experiences than the digital space, fostering a sense of community and connection. In fact, 80% of B2B marketers label events as ‘critical’ to their companies’ success.

At the same time, its best not to forget the digital world completely. Australia has 17 million active social media users, about 69% of the total population. With that reach, social media can work in conjunction with your content to produce a successful event. It’s no wonder Eventbrite found social media drives a fifth of the total traffic to ticketing and registration pages.

But putting together a few posts on Facebook isn’t enough to stand out. Organisations need a social media strategy to drive interest and push customers through the funnel. This is how.

Choose wisely

Before even drafting up the first of your posts, you need to make sure you are using the right platform. Different social media platforms attract different audience groups. A university student would discover the latest music festival on a different platform than a CMO looking for an industry conference.

The most popular social platforms – Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter – are a good starting place but you can also look for a more tailored selection.

Research which social media platforms your target audience use and how often. If your not sure, you can look at previous events ticketing and registration information or send out a survey asking attendees.

Platform

Summary

Unique Australian Monthly visitors (as of Feb 2018)

Facebook Widely used across the board, though highest usage among 25-34 year olds. Some research suggests slowing interest from Gen Z, the generation following Millennials 15,000,000
Instagram Popular among millennial women (though Australian users have a more even gender split) 9,000,000
LinkedIn Popular with educated, slightly older users. Unique among the sites as the only professional networking platform Approx 4,200,000
Twitter Most popular among information-hungry millennials Approx 3,000,000
Snapchat Most popular with the younger demographic. Approximately 60% of users are under 30 4,000,000 DAILY active users
Pinterest 30-49 year old demographic. 80% of Pinterest’s users worldwide are women 290,000

Source: Social Media News (Feb 2018).

But keep in mind, event organising is a hectic process. If you don’t think you can use the platform in a way that will feel authentic to other users, it may be better to wait until you have a better understanding – or risk alienating potential attendees and customers. Also, play to the strengths of the particular platform you are using. Twitter is good for quick-paced, timely information. It lends itself well to answering enquiries or engaging with different event attendees and speakers. On the other hand, Instagram raises awareness in a more visual way.

In the lead-up

Building excitement in the lead-up is the first of the three stages of event promotion on social. In a study of 25 million tweets about events, Buffer found that 40% of tweets take place before the event even happens. And that’s just one platform.

Anticipation and excitement around events can drive ticket and registration sales. But don’t just post a link to your registration page and hope for the best. Instead put your audience first and provide value.

Generally, at Mahlab we use this period to promote a mix of social content and amplify on-site content. The on-site content, for example, highlights interesting themes of the particular event speakers. For example, in the lead-up to OzWater Conference we promoted content on delivering safe drinking water to remote Western Australia a relevant audience on social media. This content contained a call to action linking to more about the event and the registration page.

Further, if your speakers are active on social media then it is also worthwhile asking them to share the content with their networks. A line-up of industry-leading speakers can become voices for the overall event.

What is most useful about amplifying on-site content is that we can track users for the purpose of retargeting. This is where the social content comes in. Targeted social ads run alongside the on-site content. These social ads can centre on topics such as early bird tickets going on sale, new speaker announcements and countdowns to the start of the event. We can discover who is a warmer lead who often interacts with the on-site content and target more bottom of the funnel messaging in remarketing, turning them into actual ticket buyers.

Then it is a case of keeping an eye on your results. Set up Google Analytics and follow the customer journey. That way you can make adjustments to your budget or optimise posts as you go. Experiment with the messaging on different platforms or the time you post or which pictures get more engagement. Eventually you will get a deep understanding of what works and what doesn’t – and build a frenzy of anticipation as a result.

In the spotlight

When it comes to the big day, the focus of your social media efforts should be on connecting and engaging. Live coverage through social media is a great way to capture the excitement of an event as it is happening. This is your day to interact in real-time with attendees (and speakers) to grow your audience. In fact, that earlier study of 25 million social media posts found the top strategies for getting event buzz on social media includes providing a photo booth and creating quotes as multimedia – both a form of live coverage.

You can use practically any platform at this stage, as long as it connects to your established strategy and brand identity. Twitter and Instagram stories (or Facebook stories) can provide an instant snapshot of what is happening. Livestreaming is also an option but requires extra thought put into how to maintain a high level of engagement and production standards. Less timely methods, on the other hand, aren’t a good look. Posting an avalanche of Facebook status updates will likely only annoy.

But engaging in real-time is not as simple as tweeting “great job” to the speakers after they have finished a presentation. You have to engage with the ideas they presented. This can sometimes be hard. It’s not easy to jump in on conversations with pharmacists, for example, and deliver insightful sound bites. But the effort can pay off by building a sense of trust and positioning your brand as a thought leader.

Cleaning up once its over

The saying ‘failing to prepare is preparing to fail’ rings true for every stage of event marketing. But lack of preparation for what comes after the event is a common stumbling block. Don’t forget the ability to use social media to maintain and strengthen connections made on the day. Keeping the momentum of your event going makes it easier to push people further along the sales funnel.

Post pre-planned social content and amplify on-site content from the actual event. This stage is similar to the lead-up to the event but will use different calls to action. Content that is amplified through social media can include interviews with speakers to find out what they learnt from the conference or photo albums. If you captured event footage well, then you can use that as a promotional video. Or you could even repurpose videos of a keynote into a webinar or tutorial and then distribute on social platforms.

At the same time, use social ads to try to keep the momentum of the event going. You could encourage warm leads to subscribe to newsletters, contact your salespeople or pre-register for a ticket to your next event.

Your social media strategy can complement wider marketing methods to ensure you generate buzz and continue to engage attendees, moving them along the sales funnel.

Hannah Dixon contributed to the writing of this piece.

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