Integrating Social Media into Event Strategies

by Coree Silvera
Social media communication tools are proving to be a valuable resource for successful event marketing—they create buzz, increase attendance and foster interaction long after the actual event. While event marketing focuses on the face-to-face experience of attending, sponsoring and speaking at trade shows or industry meet-ups, social media facilitates shared experiences and creates brand advocates on a much larger scale.

Integrating social media into event strategies allows audiences to contribute to event content, promote the event to their friends, share the event experience through images and conversations, evaluate the event in real time, and extend the post-event experience.

When using social media to achieve these goals, you should consider the three phases of event marketing. Here are some recommendations for each aspect of your event.

Before the Event
Consider surveying your members or past attenders to ask them which social media platforms they use. Build your communities where you have the largest participation and cross-promote the event on all channels.

Make sure your customers are aware of your social networking initiatives by placing social media or video menus in a prominent place on your company web site. Create a page that lists all the event speakers, with their Twitter handles. Consider creating a Twitter list of all event speakers to promote the event. A Twitter list is a newer function of Twitter that allows a user to group together and name a list of favorite or industry-related users. The lists are given their own distinct URL, which can then be promoted and followed. There are even sites such as Listorious which allow you to publicize and promote your Twitter lists and gain followers.

As an event organizer, a Twitter list of all keynote speakers would allow you to easily track their updates and retweet to help promote your speakers to your followers and build an event community. You can also import your lists to Facebook and have those updates automatically feed into your fan page. You should also create and promote your event hashtag. Effectively using hashtags enables tweets about your conference or event to be organized and searched.

During the Event
When recently asked for his best tip in using social media for events, Jason Falls, well-known social media consultant and founder of Social Media Explorer, advised, “Stop thinking about events as a push (awareness) tactic and find ways to let attendees tell the story before, during and after.” Social media is about putting control of the message in the user’s hands.

Social media allows event attenders and those who are unable to be there in person to engage using micro-blogging sites like Twitter. Be sure to use the event hashtag in all tweets. Consider providing real-time footage of the event on Ustream, an interactive platform that allows anyone to broadcast videos through its web site.

Media companies often set up official tweeters and create Facebook pages for big events to foster dialogue about the event. NBC, for example, created an Olympics “Tweeter Tracker” to help viewers see the trends on Olympic-related twittering.

Provide a special area during events for bloggers, videocasters and podcasters, and allow them to use PR facilities to interview speakers and attenders. Ask attenders to post to your photo galleries, either on your site or on public forums like Flickr. Provide Wi-Fi and public computers at your event to aid this process.

After the Event
Just because the event is over does not mean the conversation is. A well-written and opinionated post by one of the event organizers on your event’s blog can move the post-event conversation to your web site. For example, if you take a look at the 2010 SXSW Interactive Festival web site you’ll see the recaps and reviews. Here is a good example of how SXSW organizers let their audience know why to keep coming back after the event:

“Now that the SXSW Interactive Festival has come to a close, you may be wondering where you can go to catch up with sessions you may have missed, relive talks you want to experience again, or, if you didn’t make it out to SXSW this year, get a glimpse of the 2010 event.”

Along with attenders, those who were not able to attend will want to read reviews, view photos and videocasts, and listen to podcasts from the event. Use the content to help build a house file for future events.

Continue to engage attenders on social media platforms. Comment on and retweet any blog posts or updates from attenders. Begin planning your next event by speaking to potential presenters, exhibitors and attenders while the iron is still hot.

Your events are catalysts for relationships. The roots of social media marketing are not found in technology, but in the relationships you develop within your community through collaborative conversations live and online. Nurture your community with events.

Case Study
Public relations company PR 20/20 was selected to manage local media relations for the 2009 Senior PGA Championship in Cleveland, Ohio. With only three months of preparation time, a goal was set to add 500 Twitter followers by the start of championship week. Several online tools were used to find and follow new contacts, including Twitter’s search function, a free online tool that allows you to compare your Twitter profile to millions of other users, and

Using the methods below, the organization was able to attract 908 followers in a three-month window. Each method is listed in the order in which it was implemented.

  • Researched and followed Clevelanders who listed golf in their profiles (using Twitter Grader). This was the least successful method.
  • Researched and followed Ohioans who listed golf in their profiles (Twitter Grader).
  • Researched and followed Ohio and Cleveland sport fans (Twitter Grader).
  • Researched and followed golf twitterers with the best Twitter Grades (Twitter Grader).
  • Started following all professional golf tournaments on Twitter.
  • Monitored and followed all twitterers discussing “golf,” “PGA,” “Senior PGA,” and various player names (using This was the most successful method.
  • Reviewed the followers of other professional golf tournaments and started following them on Twitter.

In order to gauge what Twitter followers wanted to see from the event coverage, PR 20/20 posted a tweet asking them. The overwhelming answer was pictures—images that they could not find on TV or in the newspapers.

Leading up to the event, photos of the golf clubhouse and course construction, media day, practice rounds, and player arrivals were posted. During the event, the organization posted photos of players, the course, media interviews, the putting green, the driving range and fans getting autographs. Each picture that was posted to Twitter would get between 20 to 30 views, with player photos generating the most traffic.

People enjoy having access to privileged information about events. If you have interesting content, and you share it in the communities that are appropriate and relevant, that message will travel and can be leveraged with social media.

Measuring Event ROI
According to a 2009 survey of 555 professionals in a variety of industries worldwide by Mzinga and Babson Executive Education, 84 percent of survey respondents who have adopted social media indicated that they do not measure their social media programs. Forty percent were not even sure they could monitor social media ROI.

Fortunately, there are a host of free or low-cost tools available to help companies and organizations track the social media effectiveness of their event marketing strategies. A few choices include Trackur, PostRank, Google Alerts, Social Mention or TechrigySM2.

Your event community should be the communication hub before, during and after your event. You want conversations to flow between attenders sharing ideas, networking with other attenders and discussing trends. The long-term effect will be a viral event community that continues to grow year after year.


Coree Silvera works in event community management and social media marketing. She is the founder of Market Like a Chick, and her blog focuses on presenting tips and tutorials in social media, event community management, and marketing from a woman’s point of view. You can follow Coree on Twitter as @marketlikeachik.