With the development of social media, the meetings industry has acquired endless promotion and sales channels that are practically free of charge, yet planners are still not taking full advantage of the opportunities provided by them. We keep forgetting that conferences are no longer confined to the actual conference room. Rather, the conference goals can reach a much wider public, as every single participant who attends our conference is a channel through which we can reach tens or even hundreds more followers!
Social media has also changed the duration of the conference experience by enabling conferences and their planners to have long-term interactions with attendees, including before and after the conference. In doing so, they have developed a stronger connection with every follower.
Before the conference
Whatever other marketing actions you may be taking, try to connect them with your social media strategy. Don’t forget to determine your target groups well, as they can differ from one social network to another.
Newsletters, e-mails and dedicated online “forums” are still the most popular online methods used to generate interest prior to the conference, but utilising social media can help increase brand awareness and overall engagement of your conference attendees. For example, start a Facebook or Twitter contest, or do something as simple as posting a poll to your fans or followers. It could be anything from type of music that should be played at social events to where to go on an excursion, or even what keynote speakers the attendees would like to hear from. You may get some insightful responses to help you in your conference planning and personalising parts of your conference to attendees’ specific wishes.
When you promote the conference, include links to social media so that people are able to find each other even before the conference starts. Display a tweet stream on your website home page, by doing which you will be inviting people to join and give their personal contribution to your conference planning. Besides early engagement, you will also be marketing your conference without any expense.
During the conference
Make people follow the conference.
The on-site experience is where social media really adds impact and gets people talking. Live posting during the conference keeps attendees up to speed and interested, but also creates a resource for people who are unable to attend. Don’t forget, they are the target group for your next conference. Designate a hashtag or open a discussion on any of the social networks you are using, so speakers and attendees can talk about their experience, while allowing individuals not attending to follow the conversation.
Get your attendees engaged in the programme
It is not enough just to get participants listening to speakers. Today, one of our main aims is to have them interact, so instead of the traditional Q&A model apply modern technologies. The traditional form used to face problems – discouraging shy audience members from asking questions – and there was no way to moderate the questions. There are often a lot of questions that attendees want to ask the speakers, but there isn’t always an appropriate time or means. Today, many conferences have adopted using social media platforms, especially Twitter, to encourage attendees to tweet in their questions with the conference hashtag. It makes it easier for attendees to ask questions in real time, increasing the social reach of the conference and allowing moderators to select the most engaging and appropriate questions to display one-at-a-time.
Monitoring and responding
Monitor and track your social media profiles during the conference. Also, make sure to respond quickly with an appropriate answer. This requires time, but your conference attendees will appreciate the attention and recognise your efforts. Learning about your audience is much more important than the number of ”likes” and ”shares”. Find out who is important by analysing the account types, gender, profession, interests and location of those talking about your brand and competitors.
Include Social Media Functions in Your Mobile App
The majority of conferences now have a mobile app available to attendees. It usually includes the schedule, map and general information about the conference, and might include social media integrations. It is so important to make it easy for attendees to connect with each other, and since people are frequently in the app anyway, that is the perfect place. This way, your conference is more interactive and has a larger social presence.
The last day of your conference is not a good time to stop talking about it. Share the outcome of the conference and thank everyone that was involved in making it happen. This is a great opportunity to learn what attendees enjoyed and to invite them to suggest ideas for your next conference. Did you use the conference surveys and session polling before and during the conference? If so, publish the results. Get testimonials from your attendees and share them on your conference social media channels.
Share photos from the conference and encourage your attendees to share them on their social media profiles. The more people tagged in the photos, the more visibility the photos will have. If you are sharing photos, try and make sure that these photos are high quality and represent the conference well.
Jasmina Bilać and Andrea Turić, ProConventa
Jasmina Bilać and Andrea Turić run ProConventa, a company specialised in organising all kinds of corporate events, business meetings and conferences. Their work in the congress industry focuses on implementing new technologies and modern processes, including active marketing through social media. They are active members of the Croatian Meeting Professionals Association.