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Social Media Smarts

Four common event social media pitfalls—and how to avoid them

By Connie Jeske Crane

In 2013, while at the PyCon 2013 computer programming conference in Santa Clara, CA, attendee Adria Richards reportedly heard male attendees making sexist remarks. Richards snapped a photo of two men and posted it on Twitter with their alleged comments. The story went viral, leaving organizers scrambling. Besides media storms, social media can deliver complaints, nasty comments—or just a giant shrug. But you can mitigate the risk. We asked the experts to share their tips on common social media challenges:

Online Negativity
The biggest risk is responding too slowly to social media feedback. “If they get no response, it can turn ugly really quickly,” says Scott Stratten, president of UnMarketing in Oakville, Ont.

Monitoring, adds Stratten, if a “full-time thing”. Devote a conference volunteer or third party to the job, says Meagan Rockett, director of client services at Greenfield Services Inc. in Alexandria, Ont. She recommends monitoring software like Hootsuite, plus having concise policies and procedures.

For gripes about anything from parking to coffee, Stratten says acknowledgement is key. “Reply back and say, ‘Our apologies. Let us look into it.’ You want to close that loop publicly. Otherwise, it looks like you’ve left them hanging.” Then, get the issue resolved. “In a way, it’s turning a negative into a positive— not only for that person who complained but others will see, ‘Hey they’re listening, they’re doing something about it,” says Rachel Stephan, president of Sensov/event marketing in Montreal. On the other hand, for nasty troll comments,

“In a way, it’s turning a negative into a positive— not only for that person who complained but others will see, ‘Hey they’re listening, they’re doing something about it,” says Rachel Stephan, president of Sensov/ event marketing in Montreal. On the other hand, for nasty troll comments, Amanda Austen, marketing coordinator for Bond Brand Loyalty in Mississauga, Ont., says, my best advice is to report and block.”

Hashtag Confusion
A unique event hashtag organizes the flow of posts about your event. But since hashtags can’t eb copyrighted, double-check to avoid confusion. We scour the Twitterverse to make sure that the hashtag that we’d like to leverage is one that’s open and available,” says Anne Bowie, director of live brand experiences at Bond Brand Loyalty. She also advises making hashtags memorable and concise and promoting them broadly.

Don’t neglect this step, says Stratten—otherwise people will likely make up their own hashtags for your event.

Being seen as inauthentic
“A common pitfall is to overshare,” says Austen, “to just promote and plaster messages and not replying, not retweeting, not engaging in conversations.” o eep ollowers appy, usten ecommends uthentic argon-free onversation. ollow he 0/20 ule here 0 er ent f he ime ou’re haring elevant ndustry ontent, nd 0 er ent ou’re oing irect romotion.

Lack of Engagement
Not seeing any event buzz online? It’s not a reflection on the event’s success,” says Stratten. Some audiences are tech-savvy, he says, while others aren’t.

But if you want growth, work year-round, says Rockett. She creates a marketing plan early on, plus social media toolkits for partners and speakers, and continuous engagement before, during and after an event. “Your Twitter activity shouldn’t stop just because the conference did.”

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