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Social Media & Event Promotion: Vying for Visibility
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Unless you’ve been in a coma the last 5 years, you’re probably aware that social media applications such as Facebook and Twitter have taken modern society prisoner and truly re-shaped the way we think and interact. Obviously as a business or a brand, visibility is paramount to attracting customers and achieving successful profits. Company events are a great way to get public attention, but an event is only as effective as the coverage it gets. In comes social media.
Social media applications have introduced new, inexpensive, cost-effective ways for companies and private parties to promote upcoming events by building buzz to fill those seats. Besides simply announcing and promoting upcoming events, companies often forget that social media is great for building your brand both during and after an event as well. In the following, we’ll explore the effective ways you can promote your event and expand your brand using three of the top social media applications available today.
Launched in 2004 as a networking site for college students, Facebook has since become a cultural phenomenon. Users who register with the site create a personal profile page to which they can add friends to share personal updates, photos, interests, links, videos…the list goes on and on. Other features include joining groups that share common interests, “checking in” to various locations you are currently at, and of course inviting people to events! If you’re one of the few people left on the planet who doesn’t know about Facebook, for additional background info please go rent The Social Network.
Using the Facebook “events” tab, you can create a page solely devoted for your event, posting information regarding the event, sending out invitations, and allowing others to see everyone who’s RSVP-ed. A good way to launch the page is to update your personal status (or the status of the business’ profile) with information about the upcoming event and a link to the event page. Have all other employees and event planners do the same as well. By creating a page solely for the event people are able to “like” it, not to mention you can add a “like” box to your company’s website or blog linking to the event as well. Furthermore, by enabling all access to the event page, people will be able to write on the event wall, post photos, links, and invite other guests, that way anytime someone edits the events page that item goes out into that person’s news feeds and that of their friends as well. Other ways of getting out into the news feeds include getting people to write a message when they RSVP, commenting periodically on your own event wall, and thanking people for writing on your event wall by writing on their wall.
The whole concept of social media applications as a promotional tool is based on the bandwagon theory: people want to be interested in what their friends are interested in, for fear of being left out or left behind. It’s important to have this in the back of your mind during the event as well, updating the events page with impromptu photos, exciting happenings, special guest speakers, or delicious edibles being served. By showing people what they’re missing, it will encourage them to come to the next event.
Finally don’t forget to blog about how the event went afterwards. Post pictures and tag people, and ask other people to tag those you don’t know. People like to see photos of themselves so as much tagging as possible attracts more viewers to your event, and in turn your company. Plus anytime someone gets tagged it appears on their wall, so anyone who is a friend of that someone tagged can see the photo as well, potentially capturing their interest and attracting them to the next event. The same can be said of videos posted to Facebook or even Youtube.
Along with posting event highlights, also ask for feedback or suggestions. After all the whole point is to get people talking about the event before, during, and even after. If you receive negative reviews, don’t immediately pull them down. Leave them posted and ask the writer how you could fix this problem the next time. They’ll not only appreciate that you acknowledged their opinion, but be more inclined to attend the next event. If it’s a positive review then great! Praise is an easy way to spread the word, because when people like something, others take notice as well.
It’s important to remember that when promoting with Facebook you should allow a reasonable time period to let the news of your event spread, most likely at least 2 to 4 weeks in advance depending on the size of attendance you want to attract. Target your audience appropriately, send out invitations, and continually post status updates. And remember don’t put all your eggs in one basket; Facebook is a great place to start, but you should also be marketing your event through your website or blog, LinkedIN (which similar to Facebook allows event pages), and even printed promotional materials.
Launched in July of 2006, Twitter has often been called the “SMS of the Internet,” allowing people to share short, text-like blurbs (aka “tweets) of up to 140 characters with their friends (aka their “followers”). Since its inception, Twitter has accumulated over 200 million users worldwide and is the second most popular social media application next to Facebook. People can post their own thoughts and experiences, share opinions on popular interests (aka “trending topics”), as well as follow their friends and even famous celebrities.
Promoting an event on Twitter should start by creating a hashtag for your event and using it as often as possible in your tweets. A hashtag is a keyword or phrase simply preceded by a hash mark (#), allowing the Twitter application to organize tweets by these keywords and topics, and thus facilitate searches for them. When thinking of a hashtag for your event, consider is your hashtag unique? Memorable? Distinguishable? Although you may create one official hashtag for your event, numerous other ones could be spun off of it. Make sure to put your event hashtag everywhere: event website, blog, Facebook, or even physical signage. Tell your followers to tweet with the hashtag and offer incentives for those that do the most, such as free passes to the event, special VIP access, free drinks, prizes, etc. Ideally the goal is to make your event a trending topic, which will attract huge interest by making people ask themselves: Why is everyone talking so much about this?
If your event is large enough, it might be even more beneficial to simply create a whole other Twitter account simply for the event alone. Whether using this method or the hashtag method, just make sure to tweet often and to mix up your tweets about the event, revealing little details each time to get people amped up and excited. Details like announcing guest speakers, entertainment, drinks, food, etc. Anything that will help give a clear picture of what the event is going to be like.
Also try to avoid tweeting the greatly overused “Please RT” (“retweet”). Instead focus on creating interesting and exciting tweets. If your tweets are good enough, they’ll be re-tweeted on their own. “Please RT” reeks of desperation, and can get annoying if overused and result in a negative effect, turning people away from your event.
Just as with Facebook, it’s important to try and tweet live from an event. Live tweeting creates buzz for those that couldn’t come by showing them what they missed, hopefully encouraging them to attend next time. In addition live tweeting can also give you live feedback, helping you adjust your event right away. For example, if someone tweets it’s too cold in your venue, you can reply right away that you just spoke to someone about increasing the thermostat. Of if there are complaints the lines for the bar are too long, you can try to add extra help behind the bar right away to speed things along.
Foursquare is a newer social media application that integrates geo-location technologies with a social network. Essentially Foursquare is the “checking in” part of Facebook, allowing people to “check in” wherever they are located based on satellite geo-positioning tracked through a cell phone. People can also see where their friends have recently checked in, leave tips about certain places, read tips from nearby friends, and add unlisted locations to the Foursquare database. Additionally Foursquare has the “badges” feature, which consists of unlocking special “badges” depending on where, when, and how often a person checks in to a particular location. Checking in somewhere often enough can make a person the “mayor” of that location, which could lead to potential business rewards for being such a loyal customer. Badges also come from frequenting one type of activity, such as eating pizza all the time, or hitting the bars frequently. Some badges are partnered with brands that are in cahoots with Foursquare, offering discounts and special deals. Best of all, the Foursquare app links to people’s address books, Facebook, and Twitter accounts, so no matter if a person’s friends have the app or not, they will be able to see where they have checked in.
Using Foursquare for event promotion is all about integrating social media as part of the event itself. When people check in to your event on Foursquare, it allows you to offer tips and inside secrets to them as a reward for putting your event on the social radar. Similar to Twitter, event administrators can use Foursquare to mention specific event features or deals to people who have checked in, like “check out the photo booth,” or “complimentary champagne at the bar for the first 100 attendees.” Administrators could also create special badges that serve as passes to restricted VIP areas, or special after parties.
In conclusion, when used correctly, social media applications like these can be a great addition to your promotion arsenal, putting butts in seats and getting press coverage of your event. In our modern interconnected world, its essential to use applications like this in an effort to make every event eventful.