A survey by Media Technology Monitor reports that one in three Anglophone Canadians use social media every day, with 63% of these users stating that they read Facebook posts, tweets and/or LinkedIn updates every single day. Another study shows that American adult use of social media just slightly surpasses ours at 72% (Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, 2009).
We hardly need to see these statistics to know that as a society we are glued non-stop to our computers and handheld devices. As such, it seems not only fitting, but necessary to consider incorporating social media into your annual conference.
Before you jump headlong into the deep end of social media, consider the following two questions with regards to the demographics of your attendees:
- Does the association/organization already use social media? An organization with an active Facebook page or LinkedIn group is a great sign that their stakeholders would “follow” the activities of your conference.
- Is your group of attendees likely to be active on social media already? For a really interesting review of user demographics for major social media outlets, check out Social Media in 2013: User Demographics For Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest And Instagram. This article gives a clear outline of which outlets most appeal to which demographic and may help give you an idea of where you might want to invest your time.
If your attendees are good candidates for social media, then you are ready to get started. Keep in mind that this is not an undertaking to be taken lightly: if you want people to like you on Facebook or follow you on Twitter, you need to have a solid plan for action. The last thing you want to do is start a campaign and produce sub-standard or inadequate content. We recommend to our clients that they have a designated Social Media Coordinator (volunteer or paid) who will be in control of all content and posting. Ensuring that a consistent message is released in a timely way can be a lot more work than it would seem.
Here are a few tips to getting organized:
- If using Facebook, start by creating a page designated specifically for the event. It can be advertised and linked to from the organization’s page but should be its own entity. This helps to create a buzz for the event on its own as well as presenting a clear message and goal.
- If using Twitter, designate a hashtag so delegates and speakers can easily spread the word about the event. Do your research to ensure that your hashtag is unique and pick one that represents your organization and will allow people to follow the event as it progresses.
- Advertise like crazy leading up to the event that you will be posting information on the event on Facebook and tweeting live updates – get people excited about it! Once your event has begun, continue to spread the word to keep up the momentum. Randall Craig, author and social media guru, suggests handing out postcards at registration so that people have instructions in hand, as well as having an expert demonstrate to delegates how to participate.
- Prior to the conference, have an agenda of tweets and Facebook updates drafted so that your Social Media Coordinator knows when to post updates and what to say. This of course does not preclude spontaneous messaging of interesting happenings, but will aid in keeping the message consistent.
- Post a lot of photos! Delegates love to see pictures of themselves and their friends enjoying the conference. Encourage people to tag themselves in photos and further extend the reach of your advertising.
Finally, find ways to incorporate the social media posts into your conference. Live tweets can be shown on your screen in the main plenary room via a service like twitterfall.com. This allows delegates to participate and see their comments live in between sessions, or even (if your speakers are flexible enough) during the sessions. Again, this can take a lot of work to monitor, vet and post, but works to reinforce the use of the conference hashtag, as well as creates recognition for those that participate.
There are many benefits of incorporating social media into your conference, the major one being that it makes your delegates feel more involved and connected to the event. With all of the benefits associated with social media, you have to ensure that you are willing to do the work to set it up to be successful.