Extending The Social Channel During Live Events

Live events, what a great way to keep your brand front and center with your key audiences. Sponsorship dollars are allocated, creative executed, even your experiential team is on deck, but social still seems to be on the back burner for these events.

No surprise that smartphone-carrying fans and visitors are using social feeds but sometimes this is one part of the puzzle that brands omit. The average Facebook user has 245 friends, according to a Pew study, meaning an event attended by even just 50 people has the potential to reach 12,250. That's not even counting Twitter, Tumblr, or Google+ followers and friends.

So if the dollars are already allocated, here are a few tips for leveraging your audience's social circles during a live event to increase engagement and generate revenue:

 1. Develop a unique hashtag
Let's say you're the event planner for Lady Gaga's next concert. Your hashtag should be unique for that specific tour or concert. Don't use hashtags like #LadyGaga or #LadyGagaConcert. Both are too general and probably have loads of photos already. Develop a hashtag that is easy to remember, not too long, and unique to your event. For example, #GagaTour2013 if you want a campaign for the entire tour or #GagaAustin2013 if you want each stop on the tour to be its own campaign. Also, make sure you search for your own hashtag in Twitter and Instagram before committing to it. You don't want to realize too late that a hashtag you thought was unique is already in popular use.

2. Give clear instructions and information
Make sure it is easy for your audience to find your hashtag, Twitter handle, or other social media information they may need to participate. Promote the campaign before the event on your social media platforms and by sending an email blast to attendees who opted to receive communications from you. During the event, you can promote information using a large screen, with business cards handed out to attendees, or by even making announcements. If your campaign includes specific instructions like a photo challenge or Tweeting a special phrase, make sure those instructions are clear and easy to understand.

3. Showcase online content during the event
Having online engagement actually be a part of the live event is a fantastic way to encourage users to participate. Let's go back to the Lady Gaga example. How exciting would it be for users to have their tweets or Instagram photos show up in real time on a large screen next to their favorite singer? Event organizers are now using solutions that leverage photos on Twitter and Instagram with a unique hashtag and have those photos featured in real-time on a large screen at the event with the ability to moderate any content that doesn't fit in with their message.

4. Be part of the conversation
Don't just leave users feeling like they're shouting into the void. Reply to tweets, like Instagram photos, and post favorite responses to your Tumblr and Facebook. By developing a personal relationship with your customers, you're encouraging engagement.

5. Continue engagement after the event
Your campaign doesn't have to end just because your event did. You want to remind your audience about the amazing time they had at your event. There are plenty of ways to do this using email or social media platforms like Tumblr, Pinterest, and Facebook. For example, highlight favorite responses as photo sets on Tumblr, create a pin board of shared photos, or send out an email summarizing the event while including user-generated content. Don't let the conversation around your event end, and make sure to show users that you appreciate the content they shared with you.

Audiences are already bringing their phones into venues to snap photos and live-tweet events. The content is being created by users, so it's now up to event planners and brands to harness its power.

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