Everybody wants the same things when using social media at events: a larger audience, and the right connections to potential partners. But one key detail that most people overlook is that it’s not just about how many connections you’ve made at an event, but how strong and genuine is the connection you’ve made with the right person.
Real-time engagement is the Trojan horse of social media that allows you to cleverly embed your brand and message into what people are already talking about in order to create the ultimate viral package. The essential element here is that both you and the audience are sharing the same conversation. The common experience introduces to your content or brand to the audience in a way that didn’t start with a sales pitch.
When people aren't being sold to they let their guards down and become more receptive to your message. That’s just the nature of conversation in general. To make the right impact with your event audience, provide a method for people to have those conversations. The best way to create those avenues is by adding an element of fun.
1. Show it to grow it. Hashtags are used to organize conversations on social media, especially on Twitter and Instagram. Today, it’s just a given that the good events will have an event hashtag. But the best, most successful events use visual displays that stream the live social media content surrounding the event hashtag.
Using this method allows you to give your audience a ‘highlight reel’ of the best-quality content from peers and provides visual reminders that everybody can, and should, join the conversation. Have a moderator go through the content so that you’re approving quality posts from the audience members that others are most likely to listen to and follow suit.
Remember, the more observable you make content, the easier it is for your audience to imitate it.
2. Bring out the toys. Third-party platforms allow you to take the conversation to another level. Share social analytics periodically with your audience so they see how much impact their contributions are making. People will drive more posts around your event hashtag when they know they’re an integral part of an important conversation.
Gamification can be your best friend. Track who is posting and highlight your event’s top influencers. You can create a visual leader board to give kudos to your social contributors while introducing some friendly competition. Give your audience the love and the credit they deserve. They’ll give it right back to you with continued positive exposure.
3. Play-by-play. Live-tweet and apply a consistent personality, so that people will want to hear the highlights from you specifically. Your personality allows people with similar traits to connect with you. Embrace that. By providing a consistent live-stream of content, people will look to you as a leader who can translate all the ins and outs of the event.
When you connect with your audience on an individual basis, you can make each message more personal to instill a deeper, longer lasting connection.
4. Keep ‘em going. It’s only a matter of time before your audience’s phones or devices run out of battery. To keep them engaging back with you in real-time, make it easy for them to charge their devices. That is a helpful show of gratitude for their participation.
On the flip side, not providing something as simple as a charging station will leave your audience hanging. At that point, the possibility for engagement is over and feelings can shift. It’s a simple tip, but it gets your audience back to the social conversation faster and keeps them excited and focused on participation.
5. Old school for new school. Don’t forget that your hashtag can live outside the digital world! Besides sharing on social networks and your event website, you should be printing it on your banners, including it in the registration process, placing it on stickers in strategic places (even the mirrors in the bathroom work!), and much more.
Verbal reminders also help to keep the flow of conversation. Hosts and panelists should remind your audience members before each session. There are tons of offline ways to remind your audience and encourage less socially-savvy members to join for the first time. Don’t leave out the people who may have missed the digital memo.
Using social media to stand out at events is the same as socializing in person. To be truly in the moment, you need to make it less about you, and more about the common experience. When you can connect in a meaningful and fun way, people will respond. Real and powerful engagement is that simple.