4 Steps to a Successful Live Event Social Media Strategy
For a social media marketer, every live event offers a unique opportunity to elevate awareness and engage an audience. Whether you’re attending a conference or hosting one, sponsoring an activation, or promoting an event or partnership, you’ve made a business decision with an objective in mind. You may not consciously be aware of those objectives, but identifying why you’re participating and what your desired outcomes are will be key in making your social media involvement a success.
So where do you start? It's easy to set out—and get lost—on the yellow brick road to live event social success, so here are four necessary steps to ensure an effective live event social media strategy while keeping the detours to a minimum. Moreover, find additional best practices in our Social Media Pocket Guide.
Step one: define your purpose
In order to create a solid foundation for your strategy, first determine who your audience is and what you want to achieve with them. Are you looking to engage with an existing audience, create a new audience, inform an active audience, inspire a potential audience, etc.? It’s easy to “participate” in a live event by using a hashtag, but what are you trying to accomplish with your post? Defining that purpose is key.
Once you know who you’re talking to and why, clearly outline goals for how you’re going to accomplish your objectives. Goals can include:
- Initiating and participating in discussions
- Answering questions about your initiatives or event
- Raising awareness of your brand affiliation
- Engaging audience members by using an event hashtag
- Driving ticket sales
- Making a call to action
Whatever your goals are, make sure they have measurable outcomes that validate the “why” of your purpose. Additionally, your goals will help you determine which metrics to track and report on after the event. A large number of hearts on your Facebook Live stream or likes on that Instagram post is great, but that data may not demonstrate the value of your efforts if your goals were ticket sales or website visits.
Step two: plan content
A good content plan is the crux of any social media strategy — it’s the biggest load to carry in the process because it’s the who, what, when, where, and how of the messaging you’re delivering to an event audience. Some people confuse a content plan with an editorial calendar. If your content plan is the road map connecting your purpose to your goal, then think of your editorial calendar as the turn-by-turn directions.
There are three main stages of content plan development: advanced, real-time, and post. These stages help you organize objectives and focus your editorial calendar.
Advanced planning seems to be the part most organizations have figured out, mainly because multiple teams often contribute. The creative, strategy, and brand teams frequently collaborate with marketing and social teams on concepts and collateral in this initial stage of content planning. Content that’s developed at this stage is often used to generate awareness or drive attendance. It lends itself to scheduling in “advance” of the event on networks such as Facebook and LinkedIn. Advanced planning also includes:
- Identifying your social channel mix
- Confirming content types and asset needs such as page headers or promotional images
- Outlining SEO terms to aid in post discovery
- Preparing content that will be posted during the real-time stage to highlight or promote scheduled occurrences.
Most of us have followed a brand on social media that heavily promotes an event in advance, sharing promotional posts on all its channels, and then goes radio-silent during the events it's been hyping for the last two weeks. That’s probably because they skipped over stage two: real-time.
Real-time content planning is all about capturing moments — those actions of note within the event that can inspire or inform an audience. Twitter is the best real-time social network for informing, while Instagram Stories and Snapchat are both excellent for sharing experiences and inspiring. Even though the nature of real-time is instantaneous, not everything has to be captured or shared in that manner. You can:
- Schedule posts on Twitter during a real-time event to promote what’s coming up next
- Preemptively review speeches and agenda topics or speculate on outcomes to create visual graphics to support those in-the-moment occurrences
- Schedule celebrity or influencer take-overs
- Conduct livestream broadcasts to provide a different perspective from the event as it happens.
Preparing for real-time content allows attendees or followers unable to attend to keep tabs on the event and engage with opportunities they might have missed. Remember to provide insights and access your audience can’t see just anywhere, and they’ll remain engaged and interested.
Stage three of developing a content plan — post — is arguably the most missed opportunity in live event strategy. After doing an excellent job promoting an event in advance and engaging with an audience during an event, many brands just move on to the next event on the calendar, abandoning great community development opportunities.
Plan for follow-up content after the event. Use Twitter Moments to share a community experience. Download a Snapchat story and reshare it as a recap video on other social channels. Poll the attendees about their favorite experience. Interview presenters and guests and share those interviews in the weeks following. There are a plethora of ways to leverage content after an event is over, just make a plan for the reuse of the assets you gather and share. Continuing the social media conversation can exponentially increase your ROI for participating in the event.
All three stages of content planning should create post-event ideas and a timeline for content execution. These posts can then be outlined in a chronological editorial calendar synced to your event agenda to make sure your team doesn’t miss a moment in the chaos and excitement of the event.
Step three: use technology and access to your advantage
Now that you’re armed with objectives and a fully vetted content plan, your team is ready to leverage everything this event has to offer, right? Well, almost. There are a few more things to consider to make sure your content delivery goes off without a hitch.
How many times have you been at an event, ready to take that amazing picture of the stage or share an awesome story to your blog and realized that your battery was low or the lighting was awful? Be prepared with backup battery packs and portable charging options to remove the threat of missed opportunities. Have a small set of accessories such as portable microphones, iPhone lighting clips, and stabilizers to give you the ability to produce on-the-spot videos with a polished feel. Test network access and be prepared with a personal hotspot to prevent a failed live stream or spotty audio due to connection issues.
If you're a sponsor, host, or VIP attendee, take advantage of your unique access. Consider where you will be or can go that an average attendee or audience member cannot. Gather images or content from those areas to support the objectives and deliverables in your content plan to provide the most value to your audience. Arming yourself with the right technology in the right places can be the difference between just another post and engaging, viral content.
Step four: measure and report
The final stop on the road to a successful live event social media strategy is reporting. Post-event reporting is an important tool to determine the success of your participation. Measurement metrics need context to create impact. Be sure to use some of your post-event recap materials in your final report to highlight key moments and describe how metrics convey success in your goals. Here are a few ways to consider relating metrics to goals and objectives:
- Did you increase buzz and awareness for your company or brand? This can be measured with mentions, tags, direct messages, website traffic upticks, and fan and follower increases.
- Are there new influencer relationships within your community? Did you engage with an influencer or did an advocate or influencer mention you and create an opportunity for future engagement? This can be highlighted with reach and impressions of a post.
- Were there an increased number of engagements on your social posts compared to your average engagement? Use a comparison chart combining all engagements, likes, shares, comments, reactions, etc., or a percent change chart to highlight increases.
The most important thing is to be transparent. Not every number you report will be a glowing success. However, the visibility into what worked and what didn't will provide the most value to your organization and will set you up for greater success in the future.