Imagine promoting an event without ever opening Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. It almost goes without saying that social media is one of the most accessible tools for understanding and engaging with your potential guests. But with ease of use often comes misuse.
Social media has convincingly earned its place in the event planner’s pantheon of great planning tools. Before the event, it’s often the fastest and most effective method of promotion and Q&As. During the event, “insta-worthy” moments are a highly coveted currency on social media. And after the event, you have a wealth of photos, moments, interactions, and ideas to make your next cycle of social media promotions even better.
That is, if it’s used well. If used poorly, social media can (at best) fail to translate into event turnout, or (at worst) drag your brand name down into the realm of compilations like this one.
Here are a few key tips to help avoid that unenviable fate and get the most out of social media event promotions:
Do invest in paid social media advertising
Sponsoring posts on social media is not as taboo as it was in 2012. People have come to expect ads on their feeds, and now that ad standards are higher, even appreciate well-designed ones that are relevant. An effective social media advertisement should be visual, upfront, and have a clear call-to-action.
Here’s an example of an effective ad campaign for a festival on social media.
A quick, one-line promotional statement highlights the key reason to attend: in this case, the headlining acts. The important decision-making info is listed as well: the dates, location, and price. And finally, there’s a clear call-to-action to make that important decision: “Buy”. Of course, the same principle applies to RSVP-only events.
Don’t forget about your audience
Because social media reach is expansive, it can be easy to slip into the mindset that “more is better”. Yes, you want people to show up to events, but don’t lose sight of your core audience that you know will make your event a success.
Like any other marketing campaign, you should target your event to a certain audience based on your goals for the event. Not only does sponsoring content for unintended audiences clutter their feeds, it wastes time and money you could be spending on cultivating your key guest audience.
Social platforms make it easy to tailor who your sponsored content reaches. You can target by age, gender, whether they already like or follow your page, and where they live – which, if you keep track of social analytics from past events (never too late to start!), should be easy to set up.
Do create a unique hashtag, and use it widely
First, take a moment to familiarize yourself with some critical hashtag etiquette.
Next, try and pick a hashtag that concisely captures the essence of your event while still being memorable. Having a memorable and easy hashtag is the best way to spread the word before the event, and engage your audience during the event, and can even generate a wealth of photos for the next event.
A great example of a well-used hashtag is #EEBAFTAs, which was used for the British Academy Film Awards in early February. EE was the sponsor for the event, and BAFTA is the acronym for the title of the event. The official BAFTA social media channels widely used the hashtag #EEBAFTAs before, during, and after the event. Guests would’ve been more likely to just use #BAFTA if the event hadn’t made a strong effort to promote their sponsor through their hashtag on social media, and it worked. A quick Instagram search of #EEBAFTAs brings up over 12,000 results.
Once you’ve picked a hashtag, make sure you use it, but don’t spam your guests with it. Newcomers to social media are quick to bulk up their posts with hashtags, hoping to attract a wider audience, but can easily come across as too eager or contrived. Never a good look when you’re trying to attract discerning guests.
A good way to vary it up is to hold social contests or quizzes that make use of the hashtag, and to incorporate it visually into other ads or promotions. When you’re thinking of a hashtag, try to imagine the different ways you can use it, and how people might want to repost it and make it their own. If you’re having difficulty coming up with answers, you probably have a hashtag that’s either too specific or too unnatural.
Don’t stop engaging
It can be easy to slip into a “promotion-only” mindset when you have an event upcoming. But this is the most important time to create an engaging dialogue with your existing audience (and hopefully future guests). Remember, social media isn’t a bulletin board or loudspeaker – it’s a place for conversations. That doesn’t change just because you have something you really want people to know about.
A great way to keep up a friendly and engaging tone while still promoting your event is to utilize Snapchat and Instagram stories. While most social calendars will focus on scheduled Facebook and Instagram posts, more “behind-the-scenes” type content on real-time platforms is a great way to get guests excited about all of the must-see things you have planned for your event.
If you have a strong social media presence, your accounts will be the first place guests turn if they have questions or concerns about the event. Make sure you have people who know the answers ready to take questions on social at all times. No one wants to feel like they are talking to a robot (or worse, being promoted to by a robot).
Strong engagement strategies often involve building rapport with guests, which, depending on your event, can take start to happen much before your guest even walks in the door.
Now get out there – your guests want to hear from you!