Inside Meetings & Conferences
Use social media to build, maintain event buzz

Many say the social media phenomenon really isn’t anything new, it’s just new and better technology. With origins most likely born from e-mail and instant message correspondence, social media is rapidly moving from an emerging communications medium to the mainstream of marketing.

There are numerous definitions of social media out there and some that could totally befuddle the average minds, but Joseph Thornley, CEO of Thornley Fallis has one that clicked for me.

“Social media are online communications in which individuals shift fluidly and flexibly between the role of audience and author. To do this, they use social software that enables anyone without knowledge of coding to post, comment on, share or mash up content and to form communities around shared interests.”

Videolink is a marketing/communications/technology company in the business of bringing people together, face to face, whether it’s through transmission services, video or live meeting and events. Social media has added a new dynamic to how we communicate before, during and after meetings and events. The meetings we produce fall into two categories: customer-based/user groups and internal company events like national sales meetings. When addressing a customer’s group, it is a huge benefit to use social media for audience acquisition. With an internal group like a sales team, the attendee base is more or less fixed, but you’ll still want to create the buzz. To begin, we recommend that larger companies create new tabs off their existing network page (i.e. Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, etc.). For others, perhaps new to using social media, we suggest that they create an account for the specific event.

The traditional “save the date” notice, once delivered only by e-mail and direct mail, is a great introduction to using social media. But Patrick Kleinen from Peak Productions suggests kicking it up a notch: “Don’t just save the date — make sure you talk about the ‘buzz’. What’s going to be the hot topic at this meeting? Who’s going to be there? Give them a reason to go tell others.”

To build and perpetuate this buzz, make sure you leverage your own blogs, forums and other social media channels. This will enable your members to share with others. Don’t just “talk” about the event or your products, embed links to a specific site, video or forum. Don’t be afraid to use catchy tags, which will be more engaging and promote more sharing. Now you’ve begun to build an awareness about your event that will continue to engage your attendees in real time dialog. Don’t wait; start months before the event.

Okay, you’ve created record-setting attendance for your event using social media — now what? First, make sure your venue is well covered with high-speed wireless. This will ensure that attendees will be able to use Twitter and post to blogs and other sites more easily.  Take special care of active bloggers you’ve identified, perhaps by providing them with special seating at the general sessions. But remember, it’s not a one-way street: The most dynamic aspect of social media is that you have the ability to interact with your attendees. So don’t forget to proactively respond to conversations before during and after the event.

Also, to maximize your ability to connect with attendees, ask that your registration group collect your attendees’ online profiles. It’s valuable data mining. Once you have their information, you can invite them into your groups, blogs and forums.

Finally, you’ll want to extend the life of your meeting or event. This begins with the strong interactive, online community you built before and after the event. But your commitment to engaging them in ongoing conversation is a worthy investment. Actively pursue the tweeters, bloggers, messagers and commenters after the event with information they can’t get anywhere but from you. Build a thriving online community that keeps coming back for valuable insights, interaction and info and you’re on your way to making social media work for you.

It’s the latest and average tool of mainstream marketing and, if you’re not in the flow, you’re just standing on the banks getting rocks in your shoes.

Alex Frisbie is creative director for VLCreative, the strategic communications group within Videolink in Boston.

To view the article in MassHighTech, click here