In an increasingly digital world, social media now plays a central role in how most people experience events. In the UK alone over 58% of the adult population use social media, with that number rising to a phenomenal 67% of online adults using Facebook. These staggering statistics represent a wealth of opportunities for marketers like you to get more from your event marketing strategy. Leveraging social media marketing is a high-return, low-cost strategy that can boost attendance and event exposure, and is scalable to any budget. Here, we look at how you can successfully incorporate the benefits of social media at every stage to boost your event marketing strategy.
Stage One: Before the event
Research & Planning
Analysing your social media metrics is a useful tool to help inform the focus and direction of your event marketing strategy. Look at follower numbers and engagement levels across each platform to identify the primary social channels on which your content performs best. If possible, dig deeper into the data and pinpoint the key demographic using each platform. Investing the time to plan a well-considered social media promotion strategy using this knowledge will ensure your efforts are targeted to the right audience, within budget.
Whilst you’re still in the planning stages, reach out to your followers directly and get their input on the content they’d like to see at your next event. You could run a series of short polls on Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat to gauge interest on a particular topic or location. You’ll receive free, authentic insight and your customers will feel valued in the process.
To ensure a good turn out for your event, it’s important to build interest leading up to the event date. Social media can be a great way to help build some buzz around your event to drive attendance. Here’s a few tips on using social channels to build hype.
- Create a hashtag: Creating an event hashtag is crucial to tracking social interactions and monitoring engagement throughout the event. The hashtag should be unique, recognisable, easy to spell, short and appropriate. You don’t want your campaign going viral for the wrong reason! Be sure to include it in all relevant social posts such as an event page and on any physical promotional materials such as posters, t-shirts and bags.
- Use targeted social media campaigns to market to your niche: Boost a post and tailor it to the audience you have in mind. For example, for a beauty marketing event in Manchester you might target beauty professionals in the local area. Try playing with a couple of different posts and monitor engagement levels to see which works best. Planning your event promotion costs in advance will ensure you stay within budget – the fees are small per boost but add up quickly!
- Tap into influencers: Harness the growing advertising power of so-called social media influencers to promote your event to a wider audience. Typically there is a fee involved, but it still works out as a much cheaper option to expand your reach than traditional advertising methods. The key here is to partner up with individuals that serve a similar target audience to your own and closely align with your brand ethos. LUSH took this one step further and placed influencers at the centre of their recent product launch. To celebrate their new range of vegan lipsticks, the organic beauty brand hosted a ‘think tank’ on self-care, including a panel discussion hosted by social media famous bloggers and industry experts. The influencers involved promoted the event beforehand and provided exclusive coverage to their followers during and after the event.
- Go Behind the Scenes: Build buzz for your event by teasing followers with behind-the-scenes sneak peeks, countdowns, giveaways and competitions. Regulars on the British festival scene ‘Bestival’, maintain a steady stream of curated content across multiple social media platforms to engage their followers and build suspense throughout the year.
In 2017, they announced exclusive headliner news on Instagram for this year’s event, invited followers to ‘guess’ the act depicted in an abstract photo and ran frequent competitions on their ‘stories’. They also ran a weekly competition asking followers to send pictures of their Bestival experience, with the best picture bagging a pair of tickets. Be sure to tailor your content to each social media platform but make sure the messaging is consistent and on-brand throughout. All of Bestival’s posts were in keeping with that year’s theme and used the relevant illustrations or colours.
Stage Two: During the event
After months of careful planning and hard work, the event is finally here! Continue the consistent momentum of media messaging that you’ve maintained in the run-up to the big day during the event. The goal here is to invite visitors to share their experience on social media and encourage on-site interaction.
One option is to incorporate social media specific exhibits or stands into the physical space of the event. To celebrate the launch of their newest smartphone offering, Google hosted ‘Curiosity Rooms’, a marathon five-week event jam-packed with panel discussions, workshops, artisanal food, music and even live podcasts alongside free, interactive spaces. As part of this sensory bonanza, Google built large installations inspired by key features on the new phone such as ‘Top Shot, Group Selfie Cam and Google Lens’. These interactive installations were designed specifically for people to photograph the experience and share the results on social media. Clearly most businesses aren’t working with the same mammoth budget as Google, but incorporating social media into the physical structure of the event can be as simple as creating a small photo booth with on-brand props.
As another example, at Fast Company’s recent Innovation Festival, ‘Prudential’ placed a photo booth at the end of their recent escape room inspired experiential event. Manned by professional photographers, the booth included a host of props with slogans that related to the event such as ‘Only The Savvy Survive’. This was tailored carefully to cater for the event’s instagram obsessed target audience and resulted in playful pictures for the benefit of both attendees and the brand. If you’re using a hashtag or slogan for your event which is evergreen, considering getting it made into promotional items like enamel badges that could be given away at the event. If people love the event they will continue wearing the badge. Your hashtag or slogan can gain ground offline as well, and out of curiosity people will Google it and seek you out online!
Another idea to encourage social media interaction during an event is to create a custom ‘Geofilter’ on Snapchat. A geofilter is essentially a filter overlay created specifically for a location, or event. This tool allows users to share pictures to their friends with custom illustrations specific to your event. Snapchat allows you to create your own filter directly on their website or you can enlist the help of custom geofilter design services for a professional finish.
Stage Three: After the event
It’s important to evaluate the performance of your social media strategy after the event. Did your targeted ads reach the intended audience? Have you had an expected level of activity on your hashtag? Which social media platform, and individual posts performed best? This data is easily obtained using the analytics tool available on each platform. Analysing these metrics will help inform your next round of event marketing, as you can adjust your strategy in accordance with the results.
Keep up your consistent social messaging to continue the conversation with followers after the event has finished. Use your social media pages to upload videos and pictures of the event, inviting followers to tag themselves and share it on their own profiles. Likewise, use your event’s hashtag to find content posted about the event to share on your page.
Taste of London, a week-long festival showcasing the capital’s finest restaurants, asked festival-goers to vote for their favourite feast from the event by using the #BestTasteDish hashtag on Facebook, with a £70 Tacos El Pastor voucher and a pair of VIP tickets for the next event up for grabs. The results provided authentic feedback regarding the event, but also valuable content for their social pages.
Ultimately, whatever the scale or budget of your organisation, investing in a thoughtful social media promotion strategy is key to hosting successful events that engage with your audience. The trick is to experiment with different platforms and content to determine which ones perform best for your business.
I'm SEO specialist and certified Adwords consultant. I have been working in Search Engine Marketing for over three year. In addition working in SEO, I love writing about the subject and contributing to forum discussion in forums about various aspects of Search Engine Optimisation from link building to content development. Read more about me here