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.

What Can MemberSpeak Do For You?

How nice would it be to have a place where one could pose questions, ask for help, and connect with other communicators from around the globe?  It’s not only nice but also readily available at IABC through a forum called MemberSpeak. Free and accessible 24 hours a day, it is a bustling community full of questions and answers from IABC members. Topics range from employee communications, crisis planning, and media relations to the value of promotional products, podcasting, and social media. Before you put your online guard up, operating under the notion this is just another time waster, allow me to share a story.

I was the newly appointed community relations coordinator for a long-term healthcare organization. My boss wanted me to pitch a big news angle to local outlets. Although I had done this before, it was never with so much pressure. I had one chance to get it right, and my new job depended on it. Literally. As the stress mounted, I found I still had questions I needed answered before I could successfully launch the campaign. 

Desperate for answers, I searched IABC’s Web site for anything I could find, and came across MemberSpeak. I posted a jumbled question I thought no one would respond to, let alone understand. But a day later, a member from the San Antonio chapter responded. She offered her phone number and encouraged me to call her. During our conversation, she not only walked me through the nuances of what I was about to do, but she also gave me content I could use in e-mails and over the phone. Her advice saved my career (the organization landed on the front page of newspapers and network news stations). And she did this without charging me a dime.

So the next time you find yourself in a bind or fresh out of ideas, check out MemberSpeak. Far from being a waste of time, it could just be the ticket to your successful future. To find it, visit IABC and click on Communities.

How to Build Social Media Audiences

by Natalie Canavor

How can you build the right following using various social media? The question is important because like it or not, as communicators, we’re expected to lead the way in our organizations’ use of social media. Natalie asked a few “early adopters” to share their best advice. All are intensive users of social media, and also teach others how to employ it.

We’re Not in Mass-Media Land Anymore
Jerry Allocca is CEO of CORE Interactive, which helps companies, universities and associations build an effective Internet presence and use social media well. Often, avoiding mistakes is the first imperative, he says.

What kind of mistakes? “No. 1 is not having a plan, but diving right in and figuring it out as you go.” While the new media should be an extension of what an organization is already doing to market itself, it takes a totally different mind-set, he observes.

“Marketing is evolving, and trying to mass-broadcast to millions of people through Twitter, for example, is totally ineffective,” Allocca says. “It’s not about blasting a message to reach everyone on 13 channels of television anymore—the landscape is changing. Online communities and social media sites are really about one-on-one conversations. So you have to start conversations.”

How? Just as you would at a networking event, he says. Ask a question that evokes a response—a curiosity-driven question. Talk about interesting things relevant to your audience and re-tweet other people’s good posts. Come with a how-can-I-help-you attitude: “This is a give-before-you-get medium,” Allocca says.

Look for conversations, preferably about a shared purpose—or even better, a passion. Or look for conversations that will interest your prospects. “Do a search using keywords and phrases,” Allocca recommends. “For example, my universe is the Internet and marketing. I love talking about the Internet and want to see what people are saying.”

See which people engage your interest. Connect with and follow them. “Hopefully they’ll follow you back,” says Allocca. Consciously provide value according to your industry, and look for themes behind your product or service. If your product is a chair, for example, it could be seen as being about comfort, and there’ll be an audience interested in that theme.

And you can best promote yourself by being yourself—“Nothing is more transparent online than phoniness. You must have personality and authenticity,” Allocca says.

It’s Always About Branding
Arthur Germain is “principal and chief brand teller” of the Communications Strategy Group, an agency that focuses on branding clients through storytelling. In counseling clients on how to leverage social media as part of their marketing mix, he notices that “people start at the wrong end—how do I use the screwdriver to take out the screw? They jump on the tool rather than what they’re trying to accomplish.”

Germain advises his social-media-wannabe clients to conduct a marketing audit first and define their objectives: to connect with customers or employees? Improve customer service? Ask, how would you like social media to help you and become part of your marketing mix? What resources are available to you to monitor the online conversations and develop sharable information?

“Then think about where the people you want to reach are participating and what you can share. What great content do you have for this community—content that is noncommercial and high value?” Germain recommends a simple online survey to determine which media are worth your time: Ask the people you want to reach which networks they are active in.

Consider practicalities in cataloging your content: In what form is it available? Can it be searched? Can it be easily shared? “The key to viral communication is that there has to be a method for sharing. The content can’t be locked, and it can’t be too big, like PowerPoint presentations or a huge PDF,” advises Germain. (Although PowerPoint presentations can be shared via, he notes). If it’s online and linkable, it’s sharable.

Germain notes that a good way to find others in your industry on Twitter is to check out who’s active on a subject by looking up hashtags (see Conversely, hashtags can help you gain followers; Germain uses them when he comments as a webinar participant, for example.

Learn what works from listening. “Notice who’s popular on Twitter—it’s not the ‘here’s-where-I-am’ people, but those who offer value. They may tweet about a neat product they saw, or a show they attended, or an article they found interesting, and give you a link.

“Try to identify information gaps for a community. Fill those needs, and you will quickly and naturally gain followers and standing,” says Germain.

His direct advice to the hesitant: “You’ve got lots to say, you just haven’t thought it through yet.” He, too, suggests working to a theme: Figure out your best content, chunk it down into little pieces and feed it out, and eventually move on to another theme.

Foster Your Personal Credibility
Adrian Miller is president of Adrian Miller Sales Training and operates Adrian’s Network, a virtual business networking community. The core message for small businesses in her view: The Internet offers access to the same playground used by very large companies. She, too, advocates acting on objectives, “Do you want to use social media to generate attendance at your events? Use it as a credibility tool, or for communication? Determine this.”

With Twitter, spend those limited number of characters very carefully, Miller advises. “People will want to read your posts only if your writing is meaningful, so link to relevant news or groundbreaking web sites and combine that with a little bit of business, and you’ll start to be recognized as a real information source. Build your credibility until someone calls and says, ‘Maybe we should do business.’”

With media like Facebook and LinkedIn, she suggests exploiting the profile potential: “The more information you can add to flesh out your profile, pointing at your expertise and intelligence, the more you can get recognized as an expert at what you do and can be a provider of knowledge and an information resource.” Post articles you’ve written, link these platforms to your blog, make a concerted effort to update your status with items that indicate your professional activities.

It’s important to control how you present yourself to your audience and your market, and to monitor what’s posted about you by others. Don’t forget photographs—Miller regularly conducts a search of Google Images to avoid professional embarrassment.

The bottom line: Like traditional media, social media demands planning, strategizing, research, and—let’s not forget—the best writing you can produce: solid, well-chosen content, optimally presented and thoroughly proofread.

Sloppy thinking and communication techniques are not the ticket in a universe where there is so much information and so many ideas to choose from.


Natalie Canavor is a business writer and workshop presenter who teaches writing-for-results. She has been a journalist, national magazine editor and communication department director, and is a two-term past president of IABC/Long Island.