If you are having an event and do not have a social media strategy, you are not only behind the eight ball, you are going to lose. The type of event does not matter, whether a conference, tradeshow or even an internal sales meeting, having a sound strategy is crucial to your success.
It is a hard fact, but one that is very true. Marketing and communication has changed. Attendees and potential attendees no longer rely on direct mail, email newsletters or phone solicitations to learn about an upcoming program. Direct mail is never opened, email newsletters are lost in a sea of unwanted junk and phone solicitations are…… well, I won’t even go there.
Don’t get me wrong, people still want event information, but they want it on their time, in their way. They no longer want one way communication, they want a two way street. Attendees no longer want to be talked to, they want to interact. They want this from their associations, their employers and even their candy bars. Think about this, Coca Cola has over 5,000,000 fans on facebook. 5m people have become fans of a consumer product and have given their blessing to be marketed too…….as long as they can participate in the message and become a part of the brand.
Event professionals can use this same methodology. Open the lines of communication and attendees will tell you all of their hot button issues, their likes, their dislikes and their fears. If you listen, you can create an event that has buzz, relevance and importance, an event that will have them talking and will have a life of its own. You can now create an event where the attendees choose the topics that are most important to them, not what you think is best for them.
Attendees may be connected via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or any of the 500 social media options and this is where you have to reach them. By engaging and listening you can learn so much about your attendees that you can create an unforgettable experience that will live on long after the lights have gone down and all have gone home. Your event can leap from on-location to online keeping the lines of communication open and keeping you ahead of the competition.
Do not be complacent and look at social media as a passing fad, it is one of the most important tools to hit the meetings and events industry in a generation. Do not be afraid of it, embrace it, this is an event marketer’s dream, attendees becoming part of the event and your brand, helping drive the message.
Have someone whose job is social media. Someone who understands your industry, your group, your market. Have them engage and get conversations going on all of the social media platforms, not just one.
–A word of caution, do not just go through the motions. Social media goes both ways and your audience is looking for a relationship with your brand, not just one liners and tag lines. They will know the difference. It is better not to do anything than to do it badly.
Go and listen to your audience, they have a lot to tell you.