Making real-life events a lasting online advantage

A physical real-life event is a great opportunity to build presence in social and to engage. Serving with new content it can make a rather dormant social channel come alive for a while. But to succeed in making a physical event a lasting online advantage, it’s important to remember that the audience isn’t actually at the event.

A real-life event is a great opportunity to engage online. The event serves with fresh content, presents a reason to activate earlier published content, allows to connect with interesting people and best case, allows to promote the company’s own speakers and experts. However, to make a real-life event relevant online there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • The audience is not the event visitors, but rather people who arenot at the physical event.
  • The pre-during-post event perspective to content.
  • While at the event – be present and spontaneous.
  • Set goals that are relevant to social, rather than to the event as such.

Starting with the audience, I often hear event teams satisfy with a micro site and an app to serve visitors to the event. Maybe so, but then limit the investment to deliver just that – a point of information. People who visit an event tend to be present in the ‘now’ at the event, talking to real people. If they visit a site it’s basically to check the agenda, the speaker, or the conference room. This can all be published in advance. Instead I suggest to focus the online event investment on the people who are not present at the event: People who are interested in the industry or the topic of the event, and who happen to be online.

An event presents a great opportunity to build a brand both towards followers and non-followers: Top content and frequent activity during a limited period of time. Consider to use an on-site social media engager responsible for sharing event impressions in real-time, efficient #hashtag usage to reach out to non-followers, and why not a smaller paid-media effort (boosted posts for instance) to take the good content a step further and potentially win new online friends?

Adapting a pre-during-post perspective presents a good opportunity to prolong the lifetime of content beyond the actual event days. A plan will be needed, but my advice would be to keep the plan short and focus not on the content, but on the why and on how to organize:

SM for events 1.jpg

 

Based on this plan, it’s time to focus on the content. The challenge is to stay relevant over time. The opportunity is to think about what the audience wants:

  • In the pre-phase,don’t be lazy and publish daily ‘Visit us at X show’–posts. Most of the online audience will not have the chance to visit anyway, as they don’t live close by. Instead focus on teasers or news already before the event to start building an interest in your messages. Furthermore, pre-event is a time for tweet chats and webinars on your favorite topics of the event. Your experts are available and you’re free to decide on the date. This could be a good time to introduce a # you’d like to own during the event.
  • During the event, your ”social media engager” should be…engaged. Here-and-now in focus. The content published should reflect what happens at the event, but with the mindset ‘my audience is not here’. This means for instance that quotes selected for publishing should preferably be accompanied with the speaker’s @handle so the online audience can check her up, and that photos and videos should actually tell a story. In short: Have a reporter’s eye, rather than just the eye of an impressed visitor.
  • Post eventno one is really interested in the event anymore, but it’s a matter of making the content stay relevant. Again, this is a time for tweet chats and webinars, but also a time when earlier published content can get a 2nd life. The market is in post-event buzz and your audience may be looking for more detailed information on news presented. Take the chance to be really active during 2-3 weeks after an event and there is a good chance to get your messages through.

Be present and spontaneous when at event. Planning event-coverage online, it’s easy to adapt the same thinking and process as when planning the physical event: Envision every happening, plan in detail, and pre-schedule most posts.
I’d suggest to change the perspective entirely!

This is the chance to give the online audience smart current content, in your own voice. It’s a chance to mix company messages with the hot topics of the market, thereby building the brand as an expert and leader. Do make a script in advance to be prepared, but allow the social media engager the freedom to actually mirror the event in a way relevant to the online audience. Ordinary marketing material can be published whenever, visuals used on-site and the number of your booth mean nothing to the online audience, neither do the exact time when your speaker is on stage (provided the speech isn’t web casted). What matters to the online audience is the current content: The here-and-now pictures, the fresh quotes by smart people, the conclusions made in a blog post. Let this fill your channel during the event days and you stand a fair chance of making a lasting impression.

Finally the measurements. Visitors to booth? Number of new followers to your social media channel? Sorry, in my mind the only relevant target in this case is engagement. Given that you’ve followed my advice above, you should have been more active than usual during the event days and the content should have been more current and hopefully more inspiring/interesting than normal. Then the expectation should be that the audience – followers as well as non-followers – will engage more than normal with the content, i.e. engage more with you.

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Summarizing this blog, being social at events certainly entails taking good care of visitors to the booth at the physical event, but it also means taking the opportunity to activate content online. Earning engagement online means social media actually brings value to the physical real-life event as well: The online activation supports the company’s event targets. And the best part: With this way of working, there is a fair chance that the investment made to make ‘online’ shine results in a lasting positive relation to the brand.

Also published on LinkedIn June 1, 2015