8 Tips for Making Your Events Social by Design

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Peter Sena
Peter Sena

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8 Tips for Making Your Events Social by DesignMarketing has historically been separated into “channels,” with respective experts who would each tackle their individual offerings (TV, radio, print, digital, out–of-home, etc.). Unfortunately, this often results in multiple agencies operating in their respective silos, delivering a disconnected experience for consumers.

Research has shown us that the most effective forms of marketing are those that deliver cohesive communications and experiences across all mediums. Our society has already moved to behaviors that exhibit converged media consumption (often referred to as mixed reality) — where both the physical and digital worlds overlap. Interacting with camera-enabled billboards, tweeting and Shazaming while watching TV, tracking your run with your smartphone or using Facetime to contact a friend across the globe are almost second nature to many consumers. Still, this is just the beginning of these new behaviors.

Many people know about concepts like projection mapping and augmented reality. And who didn’t love Google’s skeeball?

Some of the Strongest Connections Are Still Made In-Person

Brands are quickly learning that at the heart of every digital effort is something tangible for consumers to engage with. Whether it is through omni-channel retailing, crowdsourced campaigns, live events or hashtag-driven cross-platform initiatives, the need to connect your physical and digital activities is more urgent than ever. Why? Without a connective tissue tying your marketing messages together, you risk giving your consumers a disparate, disorganized and even confusing experience. Plus, we know that people are consuming content everywhere, all the time and across multiple devices. It’s on you as a brand or marketer to deliver the best experiences possible.

Make the Physical/Digital Connections Simple With Social

Whether you’re planning for the upcoming holiday season or prepping for 2014, chances are your marketing mix will include a lot of channels: we’ve all seen how a 360-degree strategy can showcase the hundreds of possible places for your messages to live. Here are some ways to use social executions to ensure your physical events not only keep up, but also connect with your digital campaigns:

  1. Combine social with physical artifacts like a “social wall” or “interactive showrooms.” Planning an event? While everyone loves to hear what speakers have to say or see a new product launch, most people want to be center stage and feel like they are part of the experience. By creating a live Tweetboard or a connected installation based off of a well-publicized hashtag, you give the audience the ability to have instant (albeit fleeting) fame. Plus, the thrill of having their tweet, photo or video displayed larger than life is sometimes intoxicating enough that it makes them forget they’re also posting about your brand to their entire social network. This is already a pretty popular tactic, and I’d say that for many brands this is the first step to embracing social at an event. Add a social photo booth like the Bosco to the event, and you’ll be the talk of the town for days.
  2. Aggregate visuals online: Seeing is believing, and thanks to APIs that are compatible with platforms like Instagram, you can now “believe” an event through a multitude of different analog-looking filters. By creating a hashtag unique to your event, you can easily create an aggregation of Instagram photos, tweets and other conversation about your brand. If done right, this creates social currency for your brand and validates your brand from an emotional perspective. It also provides social signals to help improve your brand’s SEO.
  3. Create a digital hub: Digital is a powerful tool for the before, during and after of any event. A microsite should build hype before the event, while during and after the site can serve as the glue that holds all of your event’s digital outreach together. People use multiple forms of social media, so having one singular destination where people can find and memorialize all social information, registration info and multimedia is paramount.
  4. Use social registration: Make it easy for your event attendees to register for your events by engaging with them through social platforms (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or Google). Plus, by having attendees link their social accounts to register for the event, you gain a foothold into their digital lives, giving you an already-populated community for following up after the event. In addition to making things easy for consumers, you’ll have a great way to collect and mine data on who your audience is, so you can determine ways to engage with them long after the event.
  5. Give your users "buy-in": Crowdsourcing has become a cliché term, but the theory is still sound. Everyone wants to be able to have a voice and believe his or her opinion matters. A good example of this is how the Governors Ball Music Festival lets fans pick their “perfect” lineup for the festival. We found success in this ourselves by crowdsourcing a character of a video game prior to launch. Whether their choices will play into the final lineup or not, — who knows — but they’re still racking up plenty of engagement.
  6. Reward digital participation with physical artifacts: Social actions, whether they are tweets, “likes” or check-ins, don’t take a lot of heavy lifting. Such simple actions may not seem like much to an attendee, especially if there is a reward. Never underestimate what people will do for a free T-shirt.
  7. Make sure you have the right people: There are lots of influencer platforms out there, and they can really help you extend your event in the digital realm. Whether it be through Kred or Klout, find social media users who are influential in a field related to your event, and make sure they receive a personal invite. The rules of high school still haven’t changed: if the cool kids are at your party, then it’s a success.
  8. Create a mobile application: If your event has multiple speakers, locations or tracks, there is bound to be confusion. One way to alleviate that confusion and dismay is to create a mobile application just for the event. It will allow attendees to set reminders, choose the speakers they want to see and easily access FAQs or important information. If you’re worried about adoption rates, you can also target Facebook or Twitter ads toward users attending or interested in your event. There are template solution providers out there, such as Guidebook or QuickMobile, but don’t just stop at a downloadable app. Make sure your conference website is designed to be responsive using a framework like Gumby or Bootstrap. Users will be clicking on links from social media, emails and other announcements, so make sure they can easily access the information without pinching and zooming.

Regardless of how you engage your consumers through live events, the bottom line is simple: Connect with your audience using the platforms they use the most. Take the time to figure out what platforms or apps people are using, and give them a reason to engage with you. By making your events social by design, you’ll ensure you can reach your audience across all platforms. These days, a consumer’s experience will become how they ultimately view your brand.

Topics: Event Marketing

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