In all aspects of our home and professional life there is no escaping Social Media. Whether we personally like or dislike it is now not the question; the question is “How do we embrace it and use it to its best advantage?”

When planning your event it is becoming increasingly important to have a social media strategy to ensure its smooth running in terms of marketing, promoting and measuring success.

“Social Media is the answer to the prayers of [event] planners that are looking for unique and creative ways to enhance engagement… It gives a new voice to participants and allows for new dimensions of communication.” Jessica Leven in Social Media and Events in 2010

Social media sites are internet pages where people interact freely, sharing and discussing information about each other and their lives, using a multimedia mix of personal words, pictures, videos and audio. They appear in many forms including blogs and microblogs, forums and message boards, social networks, Wikis, virtual worlds, social bookmarking, writing communities and scrapbooking.

For the Event Manager, social media (SoMe) provides exciting tools that can be used prior to, during and after the event.

Prior to an event
By utilising social networks such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, you can create a real buzz for your event whatever it may be. Well planned tweets and posts can build up excitement surrounding your event as well as sharing useful information such as joining instructions, registration deadlines and onsite tips.

They also enable people to connect online prior to the event. SoMe can help to promote your event, conference or seminar by empowering others to spread the word for you. You are no longer reliant just on your own databases but now have exponential networks working to promote your events. People may also register for your event if their contacts are attending. This form of promotion is both fast and cost effective.

During an event
As long as you have the right technology in place, using social media can be extremely effective during the event itself. By using a microblog such a Twitter, you can monitor the audience’s reaction to the event or speaker. The Event Planner can also gain honest, live feedback which they can act on to improve the experience.

A hashtag (#) is a way to unite global Tweets around a particular topic. In short, these are tags that help those who seek similar content discover your Tweets. Use Twitter Search before you create your hashtag to ensure it is unique: for example #FF is a well-used hashtag for “Follow Friday” when users recommend other accounts to follow.

Top Tips on using your hashtag
Place your event Twitter username (eg @eventcourse) on all print and electronic marketing material.
•Create a Twitter list of your guest speakers or entertainers for others to follow (see our “Events We Love” list)
•Ask all speakers or those who introduce speakers to remind the attendees about the conference hashtag.

Hashtags can also help connect people who are interested in the content of the event but cannot be there in person or are watching via a live stream.

After the event
SoMe creates an environment for experts to share their expertise long after their presentation ends providing a legacy for your event. It has created platforms for continued learning and has made it easier to stay in touch.

Events need now not only be one-off entities, but instead have the potential to become communities that will last for weeks and months. It is also possible that new events will emerge from online communities. In conclusion, social media has transformed the events world and given the Event Manager an amazing tool to work with and a whole new world of creative opportunity.

Bear in mind however that the emergence of such networks means that attendees have higher expectations. They now expect to connect with other delegates before, during and after the event. Effective facilitation can broaden the horizons of an individual creating a new connectivity that has the potential to benefit organisations and productivity.

Used wisely and with careful planning, social media can be an event planner’s most powerful tool.

How can blogging be a useful tool?
“It was obvious from the start that it was revolutionary. Every writer since the printing press has longed for a means to publish himself (herself) and reach – instantly – any reader on Earth” Andrew Sullivan,

In its simplest form, a blog is an online journal where the entries are published with the most recent first. It allows an event manager to publish instant updates about an event to all attendees who are following the blog. There are a number of features that make blogs noteworthy and different to websites:

Tone – blogs are written in a personal and conversational style. They tend to be informal in their approach. Make sure that the tone of your blog suits your audience.

Topic – bloggers tend to define what they are writing about and will focus on a particular topic. Take a little extra time defining your event and the post will flow better. You will develop something that matters to your readers.

Trackbacks – it is easy to insert links to other websites and blogs. Try to make Trackbacks relevant and engaging for your audience – keep their interest.

Comments section – blogs provide an effective message board for your articles so that you can answer questions and engage with your readers. Ensure you don’t leave any comments or questions unanswered – always reply promptly and keep the conversation alive.

Five reasons why event planners should blog about their events
1.Blogging is one of the best ways to build relationships with attendees and ambassadors for your event. It is important to share information that is interesting, useful and relevant to them. You can post before your event to create a real buzz and build a community around your event.

2.You can also post photographs that showcase your event. Make sure you take lots of pictures at all of your events. Photos from previous events will give future attendees an idea of what to expect and they help to add interest to your blogs.

3.Search engines love blogs and using the blog format can help bring in search engine traffic. Blogging makes it easy to build trackbacks; it is very easy to insert links to other websites and blogs. When creating your blog ensure that you include keywords and tags to increase SEO (Search Engine Optimisation).

4.Blogging can help you build a fantastic reputation and you may even be recognised as an expert in your field. Bloggers gain popularity, employment and even new clientele by blogging as an expert. We see bloggers on news interviews and hear radio shows speaking with bloggers to get expert opinions on the subject at hand.

5.Event planners can also blog live to monitor the audience’s reaction to the event, the speaker and to generally get honest, live feedback which they can act on to improve the overall experience. Live blogging requires a bit more preparation and you will need to check that the venue has the facilities you require. The most important thing, of course, is internet access for the event.

Blogs are a great way to keep everyone who is interested in your event up to date with the latest news and important information. But you can also leave a lasting legacy not only for your event but also your organisation. Blogs can create an environment for experts to share their expertise long after their presentation ends, attendees to comment on and expand on event content and future marketers to build upon already solid business foundations.

Often the real action happens once your post is published and being interacted with by readers and other bloggers. Taking time to respond to all the comments can be very fruitful and leave you feeling, quite rightly, like you’ve done your job well.”

Vicky Kemsley has over 15 years experience in communications and training, specialising in email marketing and social media. She works for a number of clients including dotMailer, a leading email marketing service provider. Vicky is also Online Marketing ... (Read More)

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