This week I offer you the first of a series of guest posts, this one focused on using social media to drive successful events IRL. Thanks to my good friend Francisco Garcia (no, not the one who plays for the Sacramento Kings) for taking time to share his experiences here on the blog.
But don’t just read his work, chime in! Please share your own experiences in this capacity so we can all learn from each other!
In the past, I’ve had the privilege of being asked to aid in the social media efforts of a few conferences, festivals and other events in Austin and the central Texas area. Naturally, it was important with each event to keep attendees informed and engaged, and while some tactics worked better than others, for the majority of the events mentioned herein it was the first time doing anything with social media. This post is meant to show what it was like doing live social media promotion with events and organizations new to the world of social networking.
Social Media for Music and Art Events
This October, I was asked by organizers of Art Outside to help them keep their Twitter account updated. With so much going on at the 3-day camping festival involving musical acts, performance artists, multiple stages, hundreds of volunteers and thousands of attendees, it’s understandable there would be a challenge to keeping up with the online community. There were plenty of people following @ArtOutside’s account and tweeting about what artists they planned to see when they got to the festival. While going through the #ArtOutside tweet stream, I knew I needed a way to keep the Twitter audience’s attention.
Enter CoTweet. Utilizing CoTweet’s tweet scheduling function was a great way to give followers a quick reminder about what kind of performer was going on (musical, painter, visual, performance, etc.), which stage that performer would be on, and what time the performance would occur. Tweets were scheduled for release 15-20 minutes before a performance, giving festival attendees plenty of time to get from their tent, another stage, or from any one point to another within the festival grounds at Apache Pass.
Of course, we took advantage of snapping pics of art installations and music acts whenever the opportunity presented itself. If ever there were a sudden change in schedule due to an artist gone MIA or the onset of unexpected technical problems, that was easily updated. Plus, it helped to be out in the middle of the woods [literally] and still have a great wifi connection.
But with Art Outside, your audience is a good mix of modern and traditional, so it’s important to take the same approach when promoting an event like this. An online platform is great for spreading the word, but having smaller events leading up to the big one is helpful for building that excitement. Giveaways for things such as promotional items or free passes to your event are always a nice way to keep attention.
Social Media for Nonprofit’s Annual Conference
Take the Texas Veterinary Medical Association’s Annual Conference. My former employer had me manage all the social media efforts for their 3-day conference in College Station during March of 2010. The conference is geared strictly toward TVMA members and focuses on opportunities in continuing education. Various members of the veterinary industry set up booths in the exhibit hall to display their products and services, and students from the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine were also in attendance, acting as moderators for various speaking engagements.
Now, like many other industries, the veterinary profession in Texas hasn’t totally caught on to social media. There are a few tweeting veterinarians out there like @SnoopyDoc in Houston or @AllanDaleVet in Austin, but the majority of the Texas veterinary industry is still figuring out that tweeting has become more than just “for the birds”. (Sorry, I had to.)
So, before the TVMA annual conference, I had to think of a way to get attending TVMA members to realize @TVMA was on Twitter and Facebook in the first place. Once we had a steady following on these sites, I started with the giveaways. The most successful was a giveaway for 2 pairs of tickets to the conference’s Casino Night.
The rules were simple, be the first to complete this sentence: “A legacy of ___.” TVMA’s slogan is “A legacy of service,” so this was a quick and easy one to win. The incomplete phrase was posted on Twitter and Facebook and both received responses quickly. One TAMU veterinary student responded on Twitter in less than a minute from the original tweet, and another student responded on Facebook within five minutes of the status update. Each winner came to the TVMA booth at the conference to pick up their tickets and take a photo with the prize, which was to be posted on the social networking sites. The contest actually led to a steady rise in followers on Facebook and Twitter during the first few weeks after the conference. Also, members of the veterinary industry started to follow in the footsteps of TVMA.
Social Media for Industry Association Symposium
Finally, there is the Southwest Veterinary Symposium (SWVS), who hired me to do some social media work for their September 2010 event in Fort Worth. There, I monitored both of TVMA’s social networking accounts, since the association is a partner in the conference, with updates on times and room numbers to continuing education opportunities for members. I also updated SWVS’s Twitter account with information on the day’s scheduled events.
The biggest draw here was SWVS’s collaboration with Rumr Marketing. The Rumr reps wandered the exhibit hall at SWVS with t-shirts promoting SWVS’s social networking presence: http://twitpic.com/2risvu. There was a contest giving away a free shirt to attendees who followed SWVS on Facebook or Twitter after spotting the reps. Once again, the freebies are what drew the conference attendees to social media. That, and it helped a bit that a 50” plasma television was placed at my social media station to display real-time tweets and status updates.
When passers-by saw the screen with a Facebook page or Twitter stream, it was a chance to approach them and ask how familiar they were with social networking and how they thought it might help their business in the veterinary profession. Some admitted to hardly ever being active online, some only used Facebook, and very few were familiar with Twitter. This all gave me and the people at Rumr Marketing a better understanding of who and what was working in terms of active online users.
Like the veterinary profession, there are plenty of industries out there that are trying to get a handle on how social media can benefit them. What challenges have you come across when doing social media marketing and promotion for a small business or event? How did you overcome those challenges? How might you handle working social media for an event or industry new to the platform?