6 things I Learned from Planning My First Social Media Event

/ May 7, 2013/ Event Planning/ 0 comments


I planned the backchannel for an academic conference, but the principles can extend to other events. Here are six things I learned in the process.

1. Start early Start earlier than that.

I started planning three weeks before the event, and if you’ve got one person who can dedicate all their time to this task, it can work. Even so, I’d recommend giving yourself at least three months. One month to understand the general process, one month to form a plan that’s right for your event, and one month to prepare your fellow event attendees. Of course more time is always better.

2. It’s all a set up.

A perfect social media event should look organic, but even organic vegetables must be planted, watered, and cared for in preparation for a perfect harvest. Having a social media event adds another layer of the experience of event participants, but the only way to get that supplemental experience started is to assign roles and provide incentives. First, create an original and short hashtag. Next find out who will be likely to particpate in the event using Twitter, and recruit them to your team. Get your team to commit to participate in measurable ways, and provide incentives for others who can help build that community. These active participants will model what supplemental connections can be made via social media, and will help motivate others to be involved–whether at this event or a future event.

3. Put it on paper.

Some people have evolved quickly to the digital age, but most of us are still hybrids–using digital and print media. And some of our event attendees may not yet become able or willing to use social media at a live event. Print materials containing your event hashtag, institutional Twitter handle, and other relevant information (including QR codes) are vital for introducing your event attendees to what is going on online. Some will join in the backchannel, others will check out the Twitter or Storify feed, others will note that social media is being used and plan for a future event, and still others will never follow up on this information. But print materials encourage attendees to use social media, and ensure all your attendees know that yours is the kind of organization that uses social media.

4. Display it live.

As mentioned in numbers two and three above, social media provides supplemental experiences, but it’s also a great marketing tool. Add a widget to your website displaying the live feed of your event hashtag. Project the live feed in a few locations at the event (HootFeed is one option). Remind attendees in real life that there is a whole nother realm of experience waiting for them online. Convince them that this experience is worth investigating and participating in by showing them how meaningful the discourse taking place online is.

5. Archive everything.

Hashtag search results are only visible on Twitter for a short time. Make sure that if your major event takes place in November that people interested in that event in September are able to see what goes on. Make use of sites like Storify, and publish those stories after the event on your social media platforms. People who did not attend the event now have a way to catch up on some of what they missed, and those who did attend but did not participate on social media can see what they missed and how they might have interacted. And those who did participate want to see an overview of what took place. Hey, and they’ll get a kick out of being cited.

6. Keep it going–transition to the next year.

Long after everyone’s gone home, the conversation continues. Part of the challenge for a social media team is to find a way to enable that conversation to benefit more people. We can facilitate some of that conversation by asking questions, reposting followup discussion, encouraging the use of the event hashtag after the event has ended, and using the hashtag for the next event long before that event begins. It’s important to keep your followers engaged in the weeks surrounding the event, but also engaged and aware about the conversations taking place afterward and as they prepare for the next event.


In this series: Organizing a Social Media Event for the First TimeHow I planned a Social Media Event in 3 Short Weeks6 things I Learned from Planning My First Social Media EventResources for Planning Your First Social Media Event, and My Plans for #mmla2012.

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