I find it interesting, and a little bit confusing that social media professionals often fail to exploit a live event for all its opportunities. It seems like “in real time” reporting of live events has become somewhat of a speciality, or subset, inside social media marketing. Let’s take a closer look at what it takes to properly, plan, develop and deploy social media/content marketing for a live event.
I can tell you based on hard-earned experience that you need to stage your content in a pre, during, and post format. That typically looks like this:
Planning Pre-Event » Deployment & Messaging:
“X” number of weeks (in some case months) prior to the event, you will begin by planning and developing some compelling teaser content such as the following:
- 15 to 30 second video – See Animoto and other tools for cheap and effective video creation tools (don’t forget to add a bumper that invites your audience to subscribe to the social channel specific to the event, as well as to “save the date”. Don’t forget to share this with those in your circles/industry that could benefit!
- Small micro-site capitalizing on basic event dates and details. Don’t forget to share this with those in your circles/industry that could benefit!
- Create a reason to return in a specified amount of time to get more information, exclusive content as well as the “on the fast track” for “behind the scenes” and related material. Guess what’s coming next? Don’t forget to share this with those in your circles/industry that could benefit!
- Introduce your audience to the hashtags that will be utilized throughout your live event.
- Create some type of data aggregation tools such as an e-mail collection, or social sign-up in which you can aggregate user data.
- Increase the level of the content necessary to build further excitement as you get closer to the event. Some suggestions might be: photos from last year’s event, testimonials, more video with voiceover describing why people should participate, etc.
- As the date approaches, write blog posts that include specific aspects of what the user will experience. This is an excellent opportunity for you to highlight sponsors, talk about entertainment and further break out any agenda that is placed on your program.
- Don’t forget to share this with those in your circles/industry that could benefit!
Create a defined calendar that outlines the dates and action items (daily breakdown) of the event, and gives a basic tone as to how and when you want to engage your audience.. Quick tip: if you’re laying this out in a spreadsheet, you may want to color-code based on social media channel and relevant call to action.
Within the context of this calendar, you also want to think about how much content can be created on the front end and repurposed throughout your event. If you get an opportunity to do a photo shoot, video segments or get a group of writers into the same room, challenge them with how much content can be put “in the can” prior to the actual event.
In the beginning, you may have something that looks very much like this:
- 5:00 am : Release YouTube video of host and overview of the day
- 5:30 am : Release breakdown of daily agenda (tweet / agenda @ 15 minute int.)
- 7:00 am : Street team (ST) shoot Instagrams of setup
- 7:15 am : Prep “man on the street” interviews with client (open with title slide; edit; bumper) get proper legal releases
- 8:00 am : ST begins capture at registration (create and upload to Facebook gallery) pull select images for FB, IG, TWT and interstitial PPT after keynote
- 8:45 am : FB, TWT w/ 15 minute alert to event open keynote
- 8:55 am : Engage your live streaming system; inform across channels “We’re LIVE!”
- 9:00 am : Start “live blogging” and publish interstitially
… and on it goes.
In the meantime you have any number of people manning a social “outpost” that is answering, educating and engaging the audience.
Planning During-Event » Deployment & Messaging:
- Much like the example above, you want to spend as much time as you can mapping what you can control prior to the event actually starting.
- Break down each day as an hour-by-hour deployment, and in many cases different trigger items within a specific hour.
- Your audience may very well change, and/or dictate that you need to get content or deploy engagement in specific areas you have not outlined. That is why your social outpost is incredibly important as they are listening to your audience, which may change the direction of your plan.
- Educate your social media street team to engage people face-to-face. Some people will give you great feedback online while others prefer to do it in real time. Therefore don’t forget to ask “have you been following the event online?” If so, “what have you enjoyed and what would you like to see more of?” It sounds simple, but getting a little bit of feedback from a small number of people is often enough to create quick optimization and improve on the overall product.
- Hold progressive huddles with your social media team as a whole. Make sure you take the time a few times a day to meet collectively and discuss what you believe is working and what you believe can be scrapped.
- As much as we try not to sell with social media marketing, remember it is also very important in the context of a live event to give proper love and attention to paying sponsors, select guests and celebrities.
- Pull out the gems when collecting content, regardless of whether it is photographic, contextual or video. There simply just isn’t enough time to make every photo perfect, nor sit in Photoshop to take out broccoli from the teeth of the guy with his suit jacket tucked in his waistband. Pick out the winners, crop out what you can, post and move on!
- When shooting pictures, lean toward wide, inclusive crowd shots over individuals and small groups. Because that translates to fewer photo releases. Therefore, for the photographers in the crowd: Depth of field is your friend.
Planning Post-Event » Deployment & Messaging:
Nothing bothers me more in an advertising campaign than to spend countless amounts of the client’s money getting people to care about a particular product or service, only to shut the door on all of them after the campaign is over. When was the last time you went to a convention, seminar or live event that you felt they did a great job following up after the fact and made you want to fall back into the content to relive how great it was? I’m going to bet that about 95 percent of you are shaking your heads right now.
So one of the things to keep in mind about post-event messaging is that you’re really teeing up attention as well as consideration for the following year’s event. But they have to want to stay with you throughout the year. There’s only one way to really do that, and that’s to give them valuable “actionable” information, education, and thought leadership until the next event arrives.
Here are some ways I like that to occur:
- Send out a survey and get some immediate feedback regarding everyone’s thoughts on the event. When creating your messaging, take time to consider the feedback you received throughout the event. Create questions that will set up realistic answers that have defined constructive criticism. If all you want to do is have people tell you how great you are, then you are in the wrong business.
- Invite everyone to participate in a social community setting. You can utilize a Facebook group; Google communities offer many third-party extensions that can be added to your web presence. What this allows you to do is construct an environment where you can have an ongoing conversation with the audience as a whole. From the very start, you need to make the collective aware that you want them to invite new people to participate in the ideation for the next event. Look to your community to provide new SMEs into the mix, and be gracious for their feedback.
- To a certain extent, you now drop into a “business as usual” content media mix. While you will be giving this community some of the same information that you will be the point across your social channels, you need to make this group feel elite. Therefore, take the time to construct additional creative content such as video, additional blog content, their own specific infographics or just let them in on some upcoming drop dates that the rest of the Web won’t be privy to until they happen. Create a sense that you have made them VIPs.
- Do the world a favor as well and construct an updated version of your event page with the following year’s date and information. If you don’t have it, that’s fine, but you can give a sense of the future and not just have a dead digital property until the next event occurs.
- Now that you have a group that you have nurtured through the process, utilize them as a think tank for the next event. By putting your trust into this collective, the byproduct is not only trust but a sense of ownership in the process. This is one of many ways to create long-standing relationships with your audience.
Circling back to the top of what we talked about with creating content en masse and then slowly distributing it across your timeline. Remember there is something to be considered by not “selling the farm,” even during your event. Be conservative with some of your great content so you can stretch it across the calendar year to lead into the next event.
Unlike a marketing campaign where you have a defined beginning and an end, and likely a media mix and defined budget, you must think of annual (even quarterly) events as somewhat cyclical and never ending. One way to test this theory is to look at your competitors and see if they have updated their website for the following year in a timely fashion.
It’s my hope this post is given you some critical information regarding best practices when it comes to constructing social media and content marketing for a live event. Please feel free to reach out to me if you have some of your own tested tactics, as I would love to hear/learn from them.
Oh and … “Don’t forget to share this with those in your circles/industry that could benefit!”