loader image


3 Step Social Media Planning for Event Professionals


From the Moscone Center in San Francisco to ExCel in London

Written by Simon Geraghty.

Life’s travels can often be circuitous. I recently spoke at the Confex Exhibition in the ExCel centre in London to a group of Event Professionals. Back in 1995, I spent a summer working in San Francisco juggling multiple jobs one of which included acting as a security guard for a company called Maloney Security. My first mission with them was to supervise the exhibition stands in the Moscone Center [sic] for a Semi Conductor conference. The exhibition centre was named after the former mayor who was shot alongside Harvey Milk in 1978, ironically George Moscone opposed the development of the area.

Little did I realise, as I endlessly paced the halls of the Moscone looking to uncover suspected industrial espionage at every turn, that the semi-conductor industry powers much of what I’m involved in today. Back then I didn’t even know what a semi conductor was…. But ask me about where to go for the best Mexican food and pitcher of Marguerita (in the Mission district), the best way to spend a Sunday afternoon (at the infamous Sunset Parties over at Berkley), the best area to pick up vintage clothing stores (the Haight-Ashbury, of course) or how amazing it was to tread in the foot-steps of Kerouac, Ginsberg and Burroughs in City Lights bookstore in North Beach and you couldn’t shut me up.

Back to today’s audience, , marketing managers and directors at many of the UK’s leading event management companies. While my speaking slot was billed as using LinkedIn for B2B events, I felt it was important to open the conversation to a wider set of Social Media channels. For this purpose of this blog article I will keep my focus on the planning stage. Before we get there I want to broadly outline the three key strengths of social Media for promoting your event. These are:

  1. Adding value to your event via participation
  2. Opening a back channel to aid event operations
  3. Social Media as an event promotion tool

1. Adding value to your event via participation

Events themselves have progressed themselves beyond a top-down, linear  sharing of knowledge, to one where all attendees can potentially become participants. Attendee is almost a passive term in itself, your visitors now have, and will take, the opportunity to comment, critique and publicise your event to their circle of friends, followers and contacts.  Adding value to your event involves actively providing these opportunities to participate.

This willingness or need to participate now offers Event Organisers the opportunity to crowd source content and sharpen the agenda for an event ensuring your event hits the mark in terms of what the audience wants to hear and see more or less at the event.

2. Opening a back channel to aid event operations

Social Media also creates a back channel to aid in the management of the event itself. At last year’s Dublin Web summit they were able to re-jig who was speaking in which auditorium by tuning in to comments on Twitter suggesting the originally allocated room would be become mobbed when the founders of Twitter and Linked in took to the stage later in the day. Rather than have to watch their Twitter and Facebook feed become inundated with users complaining about not getting in to see key speakers on the day, the only ego slightly bruised were those speakers demoted to the smaller marquee space.

3. Social Media as an event promotion tool

This is the most obvious benefit. Social Media has recently been described a WOM on steroids, so in terms of promoting your event, getting key opinion shapers and leaders in your sector to promote your event on their social media channels provides you with exposure to tens of thousands of their followers. The cost of targeting this number of targeted of impressions targeted views in the timelines. Social commenting around your event is constantly contributing to publicity for your event. If you are not part of that conversation for your event to trend on Twitter for example shows it is worth taking not of next time around.  Key to success is treating social media as exactly that, social. Engaging in the space is not an outward broadcast about you and your event.

If you go no further, here are 5 quick wins to promote your event via Social Media:

  1. Add social sharing buttons to your event registration website.
  2. Add the Facebook comments plug in.
  3. Add your Twitter timeline to your homepage.
  4. Promote registrations via your social channels.
  5. Sharing is caring, post slide decks of key speakers, Videos, Photos across YouTube, Flickr and Slideshare or Prezi.

The social media component of your activity should not be an after-thought, nor should it sit outside the rest of your marketing activity.  There are three key phases to your Social Media planning:

Step 1. Establish your basecamp

Step one in the event planning process is the development of the event registration website, this is the beach head or base camp and all your marketing activity should be geared towards driving visitors, attendees, and exhibitors to this destination site. If you are running a spin off event around a larger event you may be using a blog, Facebook or LinkedIn event page instead.

Step 2. Choose the appropriate channels

Before choosing your social channels what information do you have about your audience? Who are they and more importantly where are they? As the full gamut of social channels is ever growing it is important that your effort is targeted accordingly. A predominantly B2B audience leads you to LinkedIn, but is your target market in the B2C space? Well you need to look at building in Facebook, the planning stage needs to establish where your audience is, and where they are active.  If you are targeting design/ creative industries do you have a Tumblr presence? Photographers , small retailers are you on Pinterest? Choose your channels accordingly, but only as many as your team can actively manage and monitor. You don’t need to be everywhere, just where the lion’s share of your audience is most active.

Step 3. Develop a plan of content

Once you’ve selected your channels, not excluding email marketing, ads in relevant trade press, search and blogging, you need to develop a plan of content that mirrors your event cycle. What do you have to say? How often should you share information?  How soon is the event? To this end the event cycle is broken into its constituent parts:

  • Before. What podcasts, videos, photos and slide-share decks do you have from your last event? You want to demonstrate the high calibre of content generated at the event. This is your best marketing tool for selling your next event. What are the speaker bios, what is the structure of the day,
  • During. Adding value on the day. What is the running order of speakers for the day, what changes have occurred to the schedule based on unforeseen events, no –shows illnesses etc. Respond to questions; engage with users excited about your event…..
  • After – More sharing, Slides, Videos, Photos across Slideshare, Prezi, YouTube, and Flickr.

Here’s my full Prezi deck from the day, for best results view in full screen mode.