SocialMediaThe Landscape

The social media landscape is flooded with networks and is getting more so every day.  With hundreds of platforms to choose from and the momentum of social media, it’s easy to become overwhelmed, but don’t let that thinking slow you down.  That’s just the fear of change talking; we all have it. Social media for events has proven effective if done the right way.  The important thing to remember is that social media is the future, and that train has already left the station.

Ever-increasing expectations have supplied the need for more consumer-focused and personally engaging business interactions.  It’s no longer enough to be just a business.  You can hide behind that logo all you want but if your business is going to survive, it’s time to get humanized again.

When approaching your social media for events planning, you should first decide what your goals are; otherwise you will never reap the benefits.  So before you start spouting off any tweets, pluses, posts, etc., let’s work on coming up with a game plan first, and then we can get tactical about each tool.

Decide on Your Goals

There are lots of reasons to engage in social media, but simply choosing a platform ‘just because’ is not a justifiable goal.  This will only generate thoughts of disorganization about your company.  A good foundation to getting your social media strategy started is to map out your goals by aligning them with your business objectives.  If you are not sure which goals to have regarding social media, then you want to ask yourself, ‘What are some of the social media goals others have in my industry?’, ‘Why are they doing it?’, ‘How has having the right goals in place helped them succeed?’

The tools that you choose should flow out of your goals, so that you can match appropriate content with the appropriate tool.  We surveyed a group of planners in a recent Webcast, “Beyond the Tweets and Likes: Advanced Social Media Techniques for Event Planners”, and here were some of their goals:

  • Awareness/Buzz

  • Long-term engagement

  • Networking

  • Information distribution

  • Increase attendance

Devise a Plan

So, we’ve identified some important goals based on audience feedback, but what do they mean in terms of turning a profit for your business?  The goals above are great a capturing the big picture, but we have to break it down a little more, so we’ve laid out some relevant goals, pros, and cons of each platform to help you make an informed decision as to which will work best for your organization.

The most obvious goal when thinking about social media strategy is viral marketing.  You want to generate that buzz for your next event that gets everybody talking about it.  One person tells another, that person tells two more people, and then three more, then four.  That’s viral marketing. The more people are talking about it, the more people show up, and the more credit you get, and the more……well, you get the idea.

 A single well-liked Facebook post or re-tweeted post from Twitter has the potential to be seen by hundreds of thousands of people and it can be virtually free. This is why viral marketing through social media is so critical.

 

Relationships Matter

The other key goal around social media from a business perspective is regarding relationships.  Essentially, you are creating a face for your brand when you’re interacting with social media, but being a brand isn’t just about a logo.  It’s about incorporating the most important beliefs and values of your organization and incorporating them into everything you do, say, or post, but without sounding like a robot.

Humanize yourself with genuine relevant responses and interactions in your social places so that people get a sense of who you are, not just what you do.  If people feel like they know and trust you, then they will decide to do business with you.  Unlike social media, this is not something new.  The most important of all human motivations is the need for relationships and belongingness.  This sense of belongingness is what drives people to engage and become loyal members your brand.  Whether they are members of a community, fans of a team, or attendees at an event, they will want to associate with you if they feel like they are, in some way, a part of what you do and who you are.  So, make them feel welcome!

 

Social Media Service Adoption

Now that we have addressed the core needs and benefits of using social media, it’s time to decide which channel is best for you.  Before you start leaping into any one tool, let’s take a look at what the media landscape looks like today, based on total number of users.  While this list is not exhaustive, there are no questions about which networks are the most popular.  Here is a breakdown of the Top 10 Social Media Sites used in the U.S. :

1.    Facebook:  1 billion active users

2.    Twitter:  over 500 million users

3.    LinkedIn:  200 million active users

4.    Google Plus:  135 million monthly active users

5.    Tumblr:  112 million blogs

6.    Instagram:  100 million users

7.    Tagged:  20 million unique monthly users

8.    Foursquare:  nearly 30 million users

9.    Pinterest:  over 25 million users

10.   Reddit:  nearly 70 million monthly unique visitors

Facebook

The stats don’t lie.  It is pretty obvious that the most popular social networking site on the planet is Facebook, with over 1 billion active users.  For a growing number of people, Facebook is the news/internet.  Rather than watching CNN or some other news source, this is how many people keep track of their friends and how they stay up-to-date on current events. There is a constant stream of activity, thoughts, and readings of people you know.  If you post something and it’s compelling enough to others, there’s a good chance that the viewership of that post will double.

So Facebook has the numbers game beat, but does that mean it’s right for your social media strategy? It’s like the old saying, “just because your friends are doing it, that doesn’t mean you have to”, or something to that effect.  There are times when a Facebook post can cross that proverbial line between appropriate and inappropriate, but you will have to decide where that line falls for you, because it’s different for every organization.   Now, I can’t tell you where to draw that line, but I will say that last weekends’ booze cruise pictures probably will not bode well for your professional reputation.  Taken out of context or not, things that are questionably and/or blatantly inappropriate for the business place, will have a lasting impact on how people interact with your brand.

Relevant Goals:

  • Awareness & buzz

  • Long-term engagement

Pros:

  • Best penetration

  • News feed > viral

Cons:

  • Not as professional

  • No deep conversations

So if you are thinking about using Facebook as part of social business strategy, know that you will definitely reach a lot of people, but it may be wise to do a social inventory on those who are already connected to your brand as early as possible.

 

Twitter

The power of Twitter is the viral marketing opportunity.  With over 500 million users, Twitter is different in a key way from Facebook and LinkedIn.  News agencies like CNN, NYT, WSJ, etc. quote Twitter instead of Facebook and LinkedIn.  With Facebook and LinkedIn, news feeds are drawn from your individual network, whereas with Twitter, everyone can see your tweets.

Twitter users can perform searches using a Hashtag to help identify the context of messages posted or if they are looking for something specific.  They can also follow a Hashtag, meaning that they will be notified of new posts related to that particular Hashtag.  To follow the popular #eventprofs Hashtag (for meeting and event professionals), you are actually performing a Twitter search.  People checking out #eventprofs activity may see your tweet from a week ago or even a month ago.

Relevant Goals:

  • Awareness & buzz

  • Information distribution

Pros:

  • Real-time

  • Highly viral

Cons:

  • Shallow

  • Lower penetration

  • Short-lived

LinkedIn

With 200 million users in over 200 countries, it’s no wonder that over 95% of recruiters use LinkedIn as a recruitment tool.  Similar to Facebook in that people can create a profile, add connections to their network, and have a daily news feed, but LinkedIn is a professional network, whereas Facebook is a personal network. You have friends on Facebook and business contacts on LinkedIn.

Historically, LinkedIn has been skewed towards job-seeking rather than relationship seeking.

Its growth came from job-seeking, but it has evolved over time.  What was once considered the “resume-builder” of social networking sites has now come to pass with its Company Pages feature and stronger Groups offering.  Armed with this, brands have the ability to build a community of strong advocates through awareness, recommendations, and referrals that are purely based on shared industries and/or interests.  These are not only key drivers of online business but for offline business as well.

Relevant Goals:

  • Awareness & buzz

  • Long-term engagement

Pros:

  • Professional

  • News feed > viral

Cons:

  • Hiring & deal-oriented

  • Lower penetration

Pinterest

According to Pinterest.com, the site’s goal is “to connect everyone in the world through the things they find interesting”.  Users can create virtual bulletin boards of interesting ideas from the web, such as images, videos, etc., and they can pin them with a link back to the website.  It’s an idea board that you can reference when you’re brainstorming.  It’s attractive and visually compelling, because it’s geared more toward visual elements than anything else. While it may not be the most effective to build engagement around an event, it may offer some wonderful stage design, and site decor ideas.

Relevant Goals:

  • Awareness & buzz

  • Design brainstorming

Pros:

  • Emotionally compelling

Cons:

  • Requires visuals

  • Less professional

Google +

Google + is a relatively new platform in the social media arena. It has not yet gained the popularity of some of the other social networks, but it most certainly picking up steam, and fast! Google recently announced that they will be tying search ranking or search engine optimization (SEO) to one’s Google Plus activity. Those links that are pluses by anyone from your circles are given priority in search results.  Similar to how Yelp is a platform for rating local businesses, Google Plus is like a rating system for websites and online content. When you run an online search query, Google will first poll links from those websites and blogs you or anyone in your circles has already plused.

There are also many other useful functionalities embedded in Google Plus and which you can use for educational purposes and information gathering.

Relevant Goals:

  • Buzz

  • Information distribution

Pros:

  • Integration with Google services

Cons:

  • Low adoption

There are a lot of commonalities between different networks, and there are important differences too. If you understand those differences, you can choose tools that meet your specific goals.

 

Tips & Tricks:

  1. Use an Editorial Calendar:

To keep all of your content projects planned and organized, you’ll likely want to develop an Editorial Calendar.  Your editorial calendar is going to differ depending on the type of content you produce and what is important for you to track. You can use open-access programs like Google Spreadsheets, or for more privacy, simply create a word or excel document that you can share across your content creators internally.

  1. Tools to Make Your Life Easier:

  • Tweetdeck:

    • Twitter dashboard
  • Hootsuite:

    • Social media dashboard
    • Pre-schedule posts
    • Analytics
  • Buffer:

    • Pre-schedule posts
    • Analytics
  • Optimizely:

    • Run experiments on your website/blog
    • Measure and optimize your presence on the web
  • Moz.com:

    • Marketing dashboard
    • More than just social media
    • New version in private beta
  1. Ask questions:

If you want people to post, then give them a reason. Everyone likes to be smart and would love the chance to show off their knowledge on a particular topic or subject.  By asking open ended questions, such as: “What’s your favorite social networking service, and why?”, you can get deeper conversations going, but on the flip side, simple, yes/no type questions get more answers.  It would to strike a balance between the two; if possible, so that your followers feel comfortable contributing to discussions whether they are open or close-ended.

Take Aways:

  • Decide on your goals

  • Devise a plan

  • Relationships matter

  • Decide on which networks would be best for you as a company depending on your goals

  • Create an editorial calendar and distribute amongst your team

  • Measure and compare your social media success using your tools

  • Continuously ask questions to stay relevant and to keep the conversations going

There are no right set of tools than there are a right set of goals.  Social media is viral marketing, and if there is an emotional connection from your brand, you can reap the benefits in a lot of different ways.

Social media offers significant advantages for businesses of all shapes and sizes by providing a more engaging customer experience.  As you’re creating and developing your social networks, keep in mind that it is not just a matter of setting up a Twitter or LinkedIn account and then going wild with your posts.  It is about providing real value to your respective communities with content that is purposeful and meaningful to their lives. Those who invest and embrace the values of social media and the values of their communities will see the payoff and soon so will you.

To learn more about changing trends in social media and technology, join Julius Solaris, editor of Event Manager Blog and SignUp4 for a FREE webinar on Wednesday, July 24th 10am to 11am EST.

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