There’s a lot of apt criticism of social media snake oil salesmen — including this terrific Onion video (embedded in a good sendup of TED). But social media does deliver news, shape opinion, and forge connections in important ways.
In the forging connections department, in-person events remain vital. As much as digital platforms enable you to listen to and share ideas, the value of face-to-face connections has not been eradicated. Facebook was supposed to kill reunions — in many cases, social networking has whetted appetites for the in-person kind.
So, how do you set the stage for online social media to support a well-orchestrated offline event? A few thoughts:
- Clarify the ground rules. Is your event on the record, or off the record? If it’s not specifically stated to be the former, some would-be tweeters or instagrammers might think keyboarding or holding up a camera are out-of-bounds.
- Form your social strategy based on your event goals (and yes, that means clarifying your event goals). Is it networking? Then you’re going to make your attendee list public early, and shout out to as many people as possible. Thought leadership? Then you’ll select and link to as many relevant resources (in-house and third party) to put whatever content you’re serving up into context.
- Create a concise and relevant hashtag. Character counts are tight, so don’t insert your organizational brand if it doesn’t make sense.
- Define your non-attendee strategy. What can or should the experience be for those who are interested in the event, but who can’t attend?
- Before: communicate the hashtag to registered attendees and seed it with content. A week or so prior, thank registered attendees, remind people of speaker bios, and point to related news items as appropriate.
- During: provide additional value — and this requires a quick and content-savvy resource on the ground. Did your speaker just mention the marshmallow experiment? Make sure attendees get the reference. Where possible, get advance copies of prepared remarks, and pre-select supplemental content.
- After: follow up with any wrap-ups (generated by you or any prolific attendees), and any photos/video from the event. Find ways to aggregate and publish the content created by attendees (tweets, posts, photos, video – maybe a Storify?). Thank guests for attending.
Photo credit: Zach Hamed