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The power of gathering people
The power of gathering people
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by Tamar Satov
Some conferences trend on Twitter and Instagram, while others never see the light of day. Now more than ever, it’s crucial to leverage your attendees’ networks to spread the word. Check out these innovative strategies for getting delegates—even virtual ones—to promote your events online.
A dry and technical medical summit may not be the type of event you’d expect to see trending on Twitter. But when the World Congress of Gynecology and Obstetrics, the largest global congress on maternal and infant health, was held in Rio de Janeiro last October, it not only made headlines on social media, but also in traditional media outlets, including newspapers and radio.
“We created a ‘virtual march’ against female genital mutilation with the hashtag #everywomanmatters and lots of delegates embraced the cause,” says Juliano Lissoni, managing director for MCI Group in Canada, an international professional conference planning firm.
By pinpointing what was important to the conference’s attendees—namely, raising awareness about inequality and violence against women in developing countries—MCI got delegates to put the event in the social media spotlight. “You need to find out what’s relevant for the community, not just for your event,” says Lissoni. “That’s the secret sauce.”
Here are a few more winning tips to encourage delegates to become “brand ambassadors” for your events:
Do your homework
Well before the event, learn about their preferred social media platforms, how often they post and which technologies they use, says Rachel Klar, CMP, senior events marketing manager for Intuit Canada, a global accounting and financial management software provider.
“It won’t help you to put up a tweet wall if none of your audience is on Twitter,” agrees Andrew Wall, CEO of Toronto- based accounting firm CPA4IT and frequent attendee at Intuit’s US and Canadian conferences.
Identify influencers and make them feel special
In 2015, Wall was invited by Intuit to attend the company’s second annual QuickBooks Connect in San Jose, California.
Of course, he wasn’t selected at random. He was very active on social media and had about 10,000 Twitter followers at the time—significantly more than his Canadian accounting and bookkeeping peers, which the company hoped to reach.
Intuit offered Wall and other “influencers” perks such as exclusive meet- and-greets with company VIPs and speakers (which make for awesome selfies in front of a branded wall),
and hosted them at a pre-conference dinner so the influencers could get to know each other (and therefore be more apt to like, share and comment on each other’s posts).
The result? A huge bump in targeted social media activity. Wall alone, who now has 72K followers on Twitter and more than 41K followers on Facebook, had about two mil- lion impressions on his QuickBooks Connect posts in San Jose last year.
“Because I can reach people in the specific community that they’re after, they get 10 times the value from my posts than with other people,” he says.
Smaller-budget conferences that may not be able to offer free attendance to influencers could instead invite pre-selected delegates with a strong social media presence to a special breakfast or cocktail hour, suggests Wall.
Use your internal resources
It’s disheartening for delegates to Instagram or tweet their little hearts out, and all they get is crickets. Be sure to prep event staff to follow delegates’ conversations on social media and go for the trifecta of good engagement—like, share and comment—in a timely fashion.
It’s not good enough to go back and do it at the end of the day when you get home, says Wall. “Twitter’s algorithm is based on how quickly people respond. If 10 people like a post within the first 10 minutes, it will get a boost in people’s threads,” he says. Plus, if you wait, your delegates may stop posting altogether.
Lissoni recommends preparing ready-to-use material on social media dashboards, as it can help them participate in the conversation more easily.
Give delegates a reason to engage
Most people are competitive by nature, so use that to your advantage. A social media leader board that singles out top posts could be incentive enough for some people to engage. Others may respond to contests, such as prizes given for the best photo posted, or a social media version of Bingo.
The latter worked well for Klar at Intuit’s Get Connected event in Vancouver. Participants had to complete tasks, such as posting selfies with the company’s executives or getting a product demo, that appeared on their Connected Bingo card. The first to complete the card won a swag prize pack.
The game not only encouraged attendees to interact with each other, but also pushed them toward sharing their experiences on social media, says Klar.
Keep the conversation going
Just because an event is over doesn’t mean it’s time to retire the hashtags. Keep the event alive in delegates’ minds—and possibly attract new ones to your next event—by sharing content online.
Lissoni suggests posting podcasts, white papers and video record- ings from the event in an online portal and promoting that content through social media. “This will engage new people in the community who can see the relevance of your event and increases the chances they’ll attend next year.”
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