How to Socialize an Event

by Guy Kawasaki

Date

October 21, 2013 at 11:00 AM

guy-kawasaki-1In the past month I’ve spoken at Moto X launch events in Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Chile, and the United States. I began the tour with a laissez-faire and idealistic attitude that if the Motorola team and I provided interesting content, social media would pick it up. 

I ended the tour leaving nothing to chance and determined to take total control of the social media exposure of each event. I learned that it’s possible to ensure that an event is covered in social media -- even trending as a hot topic with an event with only 100 attendees -- if you know what you’re doing. Here’s how.

1) Pick an evergreen hashtag.

We could have picked hashtags like “#MotoXBrasil2013,” “#MotoXMexico2013,” and “#MotoXPeru2013,” and this would have been delusional -- did we think that the events would be so popular that people will use the hashtag until the next event called MotoXBrasil2014?

Get real. A hashtag like #MotoXBrasil2013 would last for two days, best case. Instead, we picked a short, generic, and evergreen hashtag: “MotoX.” The other 363 days of the year this hashtag represents whatever is happening with Moto X, but for two days it was the event in Brasil.

The big picture is that you want a hashtag that’s constantly in people’s faces, trending, and consistent, whether it refers to an event in Brazil, Mexico, or Peru, or new television commercials.

2) Tell everyone what the hashtag is.

From the moment you start promoting an event, the hashtag should be in place. This means on your website, in advertising, and all electronic correspondence including your email signature. Your program should mention it on the cover. The introductory slides should publicize it in sixty-point type. Every employee, speaker, vendor, and guest should know what it is.

3) Ask attendees to use the hashtag.

It’s not enough to pick a hashtag and tell attendees what it is. You need to ask attendees to use it, too. The “voice of God” should mention it when he/she is making announcements. Your host should exhort people to use it. Toward the end of the Moto X tour, I began my keynote with a request that people tweet that they were at the event and use the hashtag #MotoX, and I waited while they tweeted. You cannot pimp your hashtag too much.

4) Broaden what socializing an event means.

The audience for the hashtag is not only the people at the event. The audience is anyone in the world who’s interested in the product or company. Thus, a tweet such as “Not in Brasil? See this review of #MotoX to see what the excitement is all about: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CJTlB_S7ct0&hd=1” is appropriate. This kind of post with a high-value link is more likely to be retweeted and reshared.

5) Assign the socializing task to a person.

There’s a lot going on at an event: audio-visual production, facilities, babysitting speakers, guest registration, food and beverage, press coverage. If you truly want a socialized event, you need to assign one person at the event to do nothing but manage social media coverage. Expecting people to time slice other activities at the event won’t work.

Done right, this person is the busiest person at your event. Before it, he or she will schedule promotional posts about the event. During it, she will live tweet what’s happening and take pictures and video of speakers and guests. During breaks, she will post these pictures and videos to Google+, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest as well as retweeting and resharing other people’s posts about the event.

After the event, she will post more pictures and videos and try to ensure people who are in these pictures and videos know that that they are so that they spread them, too. Trixie and Biff, the PR people from your PR agency, cannot do this well if they are concerned with journalists and bloggers and taking care of the needs of speakers and executives.

In the case of the Moto X launch, the founder of Pegitas, Peg Fitzpatrick, ran the show for me. The social media success we achieved was simply not possible without her.

6) Livestream video coverage.

Think of all the money that you’re spending to make the event happen. Why wouldn't you broadcast video? Are you afraid that too many people will place orders? Get real. If you're announcing a product in Bogota, you want a blogger in Moscow to write about it, too.

Livestreaming is obvious for a product announcement, but what if people are paying to attend your event? The fear is that people decide not to attend your event because they can watch if for free. You could charge people to watch the livestream if that makes you feel better, but I would make the case that people who make this decision would not have attended anyway. 

Also, if watching your event is as good as attending it live, you’ve got a bigger problem. I encourage you to think big: Livestreaming an event encourages people to attend in person the next time.

7) Provide real-time updates.

If you’re not livestreaming video, at least have your social media person provide blow-by-blow updates. Outfits like The Verge provide outstanding live coverage of events such as Apple announcements, so learn from what they do and learn. This isn’t as good as livestreaming, but it’s cheaper and easier. 

8) Display the tweet stream.

There are services that display the tweets that contain a hashtag in real time. Displaying these tweets encourages more interaction and use of your hashtag. For some people this is like seeing their picture on the big display in Times Square -- they’ll find it irresistible. You can find many tools to do this by searching for “stream twitter hashtags” on Google. 

There is a downside to this. First, tweets could get ugly if your speakers suck or your announcement isn’t impressive. Second, speakers must compete with the tweet stream for the attention of the audience. You can always turn off the feed if necessary. 

9) Provide fast, free, and unprotected wireless access.

If you want your event and hashtag to trend, you need to enable guests to post fast, free, and easily. Again, you’re spending a lot of money to get people to come to an event, you’re pounding the hashtag into them, and now you’re not going to make it easy to post by providing wireless access? 

What alternate marketing universe are you living in? 

And don’t password protect the wireless network. Are you afraid that somebody is going to host his website for five hours using your network? You should remove all the speed bumps to promoting your event. The upside of open access to a wireless network is much more social media exposure. The downside is … I can’t think of any. 

10) Provide a place to take pictures.

After the initial Moto X events, I requested an area for taking photos. The area needed good lighting and a backdrop with either the Motorola logo or “Moto X” printed all over it. Think of the pictures of celebrities at the Academy Awards -- they're standing in front of a backdrop with the Academy Award graphics.

motoxphoto-1

I also learned that people will use this designated area by themselves and pose with their friends. They see the backdrop, and they think: “Let’s take a photo here to show we were at the event. Let’s pretend we’re Paris Hilton or David Beckham.” Roughly 100% of these photos get shared on social media -- hopefully, many with your hashtag. The bottom line is that every picture is a branding opportunity.

Power Tip: You can use a product such as Adobe Lightroom to watermark your photos with your logo. This means that no matter where the photo is taken, your logo will appear. 

11) Require your executives to be available for pictures.

At most events, company executives speak and then rush off to a limited access press conference or individual interviews. Then they might make a short appearance at meals but are surrounded by their "people" to protect them. 

Give me a break. Tell them to press the flesh.

They should not only be happy to pose for pictures, they should proactively ask people to be in pictures with them. Roughly 80% of your guests would like to have a picture with the CEO of your company or your keynote speakers. No one is going to turn you down if you ask them to take a picture with your CEO. Roughly 100% of these photos get shared, too. 

12) Take and share candid pictures.

Document your event as much as possible by hiring a photographer. He or she might cost $1,000/day, but this is roughly what you’re spending on the thumb-drives with your logo to give away. 

The follow-up action is to distribute the pictures. I’ve spoken at hundreds of events. Most of them have paid photographers intruding at every instance, and yet I seldom see any of the pictures. Where are they used? Does the company not own the rights to the pictures so that it could freely distribute them? 

We took candid photography to an extreme at the Moto X events. I posed with anyone who asked (and asked anyone who didn’t) in front of a backdrop with “Moto X” plastered on it whenever possible. My goal was that everyone who was at the event was in at least one picture. 

After the event, we sent an email to guests telling them where they could find the collection of photos. We encouraged them to download the pictures and, of course, share them with the MotoX hashtag. 

13) Make a slow-motion video.

I discovered one more useful tool to socialize an event: slow-motion video. Whereas pictures require too much clicking to view and regular-speed video moves too fast, slow-motion video is a perfect way to capture and share the images of dozens of guests. Just turn on your camera and walk through the crowd. Watch this video of a book party to see what I mean.

Power Tips: First, walk fast. When viewed, slow-motion video is approximately six times longer than regular video. Second, YouTube lets you add music to the video, and music makes a slow-motion videos sing. Third, grab the long link address for the video in your browser address bar (not the address you get by clicking on Share) and add “&hd=1” to it. This will ensure that people see the high-definition version. 

14) Cover the earth.

Once you have pictures and video, share them on Google+, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram with your hashtag. (Click on “Google+” and “Instagram” to see examples of what we did.) You can get away with posting as many as ten pictures per day from an event, so take your best shots and then provide a link to the rest of the album. 

Nothing that I’ve mentioned is hard or extremely expensive, and none involve paying for social media services, but these actions can expand the impact of any event. Give them a try for your next event. I’ll be watching what’s trending to see how you do. 

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