Using Social Media to Manage Your Conference


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How do you use social media to manage a conference? Read this white paper to learn how you can use social media at your next conference (for both conference managers and attendees) to boost your social presence and improve your business prospects.

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Using Social Media to Manage Your Conference

  1. 1. December ’11Astek | The How of Social Media: Engagingvia Social Media at Events and ConferencesThis white paper provides an overview of utilizing social media platforms to market and engagewith individuals during a conference or event. It showcases why social media are relevant andimportant to event management, and reviews the social media and digital platforms available foruse. It also highlights a live example of a client in the publishing industry who Astek worked with fortheir conference in 2011.Rachel YeomansMarketing Director | Social Media, Astek | 3580 W. Belden Avenue, Chicago IL 60647
  2. 2. Event Management & Social MediaConferences and trade shows are pivotal events for both businesses and associations.They are important for networking, connecting with existing business contacts, andmaking new ones. However, technology advancements and social media have extendedthe typical services one can expect from a conference.The big question often asked is "How" social media can benefit a conference or a tradeshow. Also, how does social media benefit you as an attendee? Social media are newand exciting, but often are viewed as an add-on that aren’t necessary to growing abusiness or featuring at an event. Sure, events can get away with not having socialmedia presence now. And you dont have to engage in social media while yourelistening to a keynote speaker. However, will you be left behind if you dont?Heres what social media can do for your conference: 1. Market to gain more attendees 2. Allow both attendees and non-attendees to join in conversation about conference topics 3. Provide real-time customer serviceHeres what social media can do for you at a conference: 1. Market yourself as an expert in your industry by sharing news and tips from your conference experience a. For example, did you write an article about one of the conference topics? Why not tweet or share the article and include the conference hashtag or post it on the events Facebook page? You may not be speaking, but others you can get the same notoriety if not more from an active social media presence. b. Are you speaking at the conference? Share the news! Join Twitter chats about your hosted topic. Write a blog post or newsletter recap. Host a tweet-up during the conference itself. Take the spotlight for more than just your hour-long panel. 2. Join in conversation about conference topics and share your insight with both attendees and non-attendees (i.e., networking, but online) 3. Take a fun approach to providing tips and even customer service. a. If you have a trade show booth at the conference, create a Foursquare check-in for your booth. Everyone who checks in can then be entered to win a prize. You get more people to approach your booth and can even make some potential new clients or business partners.773.486.6666 | © 2011 Astek Consulting LLC 2
  3. 3. Event Management & Social Media b. Do you know that the line at the Starbucks across the street is shorter than the barista stand within the conference itself? Sharing it via Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare Tips, etc., will spread the word and cause attendees to perhaps even rely on you and reach out to you with other useful tips!This can be a very exciting advancement to embrace with your next conference —however it can also be a scary one. Because...what if it doesnt work?There are ways that you can incorporate social media into your next conference, but youhave to have a few things squared away before embarking down the path of hashtagsand check-ins. 1. Know your audience. Your audience and industry will tell you how crazy you get with your conference social media presence. If you are in an industry of innovators and developers, then sure, feature that Scvngr campaign with food trucks and all. However, if you are in an industry that isnt quite there yet with social media, try starting with the basics and move your audience into the social realm slowly so you dont scare them away. By having social media active at your conference, you can encourage people to join in the conversation, but you can also turn them off with information overload or by posing too great of a learning curve. With that being said, how do you know how social your audience is? In order for you to find this out, you can use a few different techniques. The first is to ask them. Send out an email or conduct an online survey asking your audience what social networks they use, how engaged are they on these networks, and if they would find social media presence at an event useful? The second is to do a little stalking. Search via Google and related social media platforms to see if your clients and partners are also on social media. If they are, then it may be time for you to be too. If youre hosting the conference, are the registered attendees and speakers on social media? Do some research and find out — you also can glean that information during the registration process. Third, do it yourself! Most of the time you dont know if you will engage profitably on social media unless you get on social and take it for a test run. Launch a Facebook Page, open a Twitter account, start a LinkedIn Group, and start interacting with people and see how they react to you. 2. Plan ahead. If you only have two weeks before your conference begins, dont plan a big social media strategy. This is especially for businesses that dont have a large following on social media platforms. The last thing you want is for your brand to be the only one contributing to the online conversation purely because your attendees didnt know there was a hashtag with which to tweet.773.486.6666 | © 2011 Astek Consulting LLC 3
  4. 4. Event Management & Social Media 3. Dont ignore other marketing efforts, and consider pay-per-click (PPC) advertisements. Social media are tools to boost engagement and conversation, and are indeed great marketing resources. However they should not be used to replace your other marketing efforts nor advertising. When you start engaging via social media, you are mostly conversing with those in your network. Yes, with outreach efforts you can reach others, but not nearly as effectively as with a combination of both push and pull marketing efforts. "Push" marketing fits within Facebook and LinkedIn ads - where you find people by keywords, industries, etc., and you push an ad out to them. "Pull" marketing works as a method of advertising to people who are actually searching for keywords within that ad, such as Google Ads. Both are important, and can help leverage all the options that you have when it comes to online efforts. 4. Have a social media resource. Come the day of the conference, you will most likely be organizing details, answering questions, working with exhibitors, and of course handling those inevitable last-minute details. You will not have time to stay behind a computer screen and tweet during the conference, retweet others, and encourage others to tweet. And thats only talking about Twitter! Designate one or two people (depending on your social media coverage needs) who are solely responsible for social media moderation and outreach during the conference. How you divide their responsibilities is up to you; what you most need are people who know social media and can multi-task and produce content quickly (i.e. blogging, video editing, etc.). If you dont have the resources or the knowledge level within your business, see if your conference management team does. If they do not, hire an agency to assist you short-term. For those who are attending the conference, youre not expected to be a social media powerhouse, however you need to be consistent. Dont tweet actively at every panel the first day, and then be completely inactive the next. You never want to overpromise and under-deliver. Also, dont be spammy. Yes youre trying to market your products services, but make sure your information combines both useful and promotional information. For example, if you have published copy that is directly related to the event content, then say so and ask for others feedback. Social media are about engagement, so be engaging and be engaging with others. Ask questions, provide thoughts and feedback, and be yourself.773.486.6666 | © 2011 Astek Consulting LLC 4
  5. 5. Event Management & Social Media 5. Have fun! Social media may be new territory for some, but they wont hurt you, I promise. In fact, you can actually have some fun with it! Social media provide you with opportunities to engage with people and dig deep into discussions. You can joke, you can inform, you can use social media to show the personality behind your business. So dont be afraid to let loose a little bit! That doesnt mean you should curse or tweet about your lunch. But you can show people that you are someone they want to know, and a brand theyd like to follow, simply by having a quality conversation.And of course, there is the “Why” of social media. Why would you bother engaging withpeople at your conference? Why would you want to multi-task using social media whileattending a conference? In the end, what is the ROI?Social media is probably the strongest branding tool outside of word-of-mouth marketing,into which it directly ties. If you are hosting the conference, social media are othermarketing tools for you to get individuals to attend. If you are selling any publications ormaterials at the conference or as a recap to the conference, social media can assist inthose marketing efforts and drive sales. You can track the effectiveness of this by simplycreating trackable links that you use in your social media messaging. Formore in-depth analysis, create Google Analytics codes to tack on to your links as well.This also pertains to those exhibiting at the conference. You want to stand out amongthe other booths? You need more than a pen giveaway. You can get people to come toyour booth by engaging with them, inciting them via games and contests, and alsospoiling them with on-site power cords and maybe even coffee or donuts. Once they arethere, put your sales hat on and work your magic. For those who are on social mediaand they notice your online activity, they can still interact with you from afar, giving youthe potential to be effective at the conference both on- and off-line.A conference is an event that takes place for a short amount of time and is held at asingle location (most of the time). For those who host and run conferences, you not onlymarket your conference beforehand to gain attendees, but you also engage during theconference to spread the buzz and build upon the attendees buzz to spread the word inone of the fastest ways possible. This will advertise and market your conference for you,dramatically increasing the likelihood of future attendees or even potential clients. If yousend out a tweet during the conference and it is retweeted by just a few people whohave 100 followers each, your business was just shared between 300 to 500 people.What you get out of it: Brand recognition. If you put a strategy and a goal behind socialmedia, then youll work towards achieving that specific goal. ROI is what you make out ofit in this case. If you just tweet to tweet, then you have some great brand recognition.However if you tweet strategically and regularly about a specific subject pertaining to agoal you want to reach, your chances of reaching that goal just increased. Plus if youengage with others about that subject matter, the chances of others sharing yourinformation also escalate. Social media give you the chance to be inventive with whatyour want your ROI to be. Come up with some goals and strategies, put them into play,and then youll be given the numbers youve been looking for to put to practice for thenext time!773.486.6666 | © 2011 Astek Consulting LLC 5
  6. 6. Event Management & Social MediaNow...lets get to the platforms! Im going to go through a number of social mediaplatforms that you can use both to market to and engage with your conference audience.TwitterIf you use any social media platform at a conference, it should be Twitter.There are two ways Twitter works with your conference platform: 1. Engagement - People attend conferences mostly to learn news and information and network. You can achieve both of these acts also through Twitter. Now imagine taking both online and on-site education and engagement into one conference! You could be listening to a panel while following the designated hashtag on your smart phone or tablet. You could comment on what the speakers are saying, you could ask questions, and you can actually have conversations with others in the same room about what is being said on the panel! Better yet, you can technologically eavesdrop on what is being said in the session next door to yours through Twitter. One of my favorite examples of Twitter really taking conferences to the next level is from the social media presence during SXSW (an annual interactive, art and music conference in Austin, TX). I would be tweeting while listening to a panel, and the moderator would ask the panel questions based on what was coming in through Twitter. Also, people that I followed on Twitter who would also be at SXSW would see my tweets, and then reach out to me directly and see if I was free to grab a cup of coffee in between sessions. 2. Customer Service - Have you ever wished that you could just raise your hand and shout across the room that the microphone for the keynote needs to be turned up? Or which coffee stand had the shortest line? Twitter can provide conference attendees real-time customer support from questions as simple as "What is the hashtag for this panel?" to "Am I in the wrong room for this session?" and so on.Now, the looming question: How do you create a Twitter presence at a conference?773.486.6666 | © 2011 Astek Consulting LLC 6
  7. 7. Event Management & Social MediaHere are some steps to follow to ensure and encourage conversation through this socialmedia platform. • Create a hashtag specific for the event. No, you dont have to register the hashtag or create it through a software system. All you have to is type the phrase with a "#" symbol in front of it, and you just created a hashtag! • Announce and market the hashtag before the conference. If people dont know that youre on Twitter, they wont tweet. Make sure on all promotional materials, you include verbiage to start following and engaging with the conference hashtag. • Have an on-site Twitter kiosk. There are many people who havent yet jumped onto the Twitter bandwagon. Make sure you have one central location at the event that is clearly marked as the place to go if you have questions on how to use Twitter, if you have any feedback, etc. • Host an on-site Twitter chat / Tweet-Up. At that same Twitter kiosk, make sure to include an in-person Twitter chat or Tweet-Up in the conference itinerary. This is a great way to add a fun networking piece in the middle of the event, plus it encourages those who couldnt attend the conference to contribute to the chat. Also, for the Twitter account of the business hosting the conference, Twitter chats are one of the best ways to grow and increase brand engagement. Your statistics will multiply! As I mentioned earlier, this goes to exhibitors and attendees as well! Just because it isnt in the official agenda, it doesnt mean you cant host it! • Have a Twitter Wall! If people see it, they will tweet (at least theyll be enticed to do so). Make sure to feature at least one Twitter Wall in the main area of the conference showcasing the latest tweets. This can be a great place to project announcements and to call out the Twitter power users at the conference. Also it is recommended in each conference room, to show the live Twitter feed by simply projecting it on the presentation screen.773.486.6666 | © 2011 Astek Consulting LLC 7
  8. 8. Event Management & Social Media • Host a contest. It’s not a requirement, but hosting a contest through Twitter during the conference is a great incentive for those to contribute. If you are in an industry that still doesnt fully embrace Twitter, this is a strongly recommended tactic. The simplest incentive is to award a prize each day or at the end of the conference to a random winner who is at the conference and who tweets the conference hashtag. • Say thank you and continue engagement. The conference is done. Its time to put up your feet and put your Twitter client to rest, right? Dont fall into this trap! Your Twitter engagement was probably never this high and people are still talking to you and about you. Make sure that you thank all of the Twitter account users who tweeted during the conference. Feature them in a follow-up e-newsletter. And most importantly, continue to engage with your Twitter audience on a regular basis so as not to lose your social media buzz status. • Track results. There are plenty of social media tracking tools that you can use to show how many tweets with the hashtag were published, who published them, what session was the most active, etc. Make sure to compile this data with your tracking tool of choice (the popular ones include Radian 6, Social Mention, Sprout Social, Hubspot, etc.), and then make sure to have it accessible to your conference attendees so they can access the information and read it after the conference has concluded.FacebookFacebook is probably best used for marketing your conference or trade show throughmessage posting and ad campaigns. Also, if you are presenting at the event or have atrade show booth, you can even advertise your presence at the show.773.486.6666 | © 2011 Astek Consulting LLC 8
  9. 9. Event Management & Social MediaA more high-tech use of Facebook is to have a tab on your Facebook page set up forlive streaming videos and panels at the trade show. is the most widelyused video streaming application. This application can also be hosted on your website,but if you have goals of growing your presence on Facebook, this is a fun and "social"way to show the video, plus have people comment and interact with others viacomments and chat.Just as you want to take advantage of the conference traffic to boost your Twitterengagement, you can do the same with Facebook. Consider incorporating Facebook intoa scheduled engagement platform. Work with your conference speakers and keynotes,and have them be available at a certain time during the day to engage with people whocomment on a status update on Facebook. And as for you, conference speakers andkeynotes, you can have your own Facebook campaign as well! As youll be marketingyourself at the conference, feel free to take matters into your own hands to get peoplethere to listen to you (or to know how to listen online!).Videos and photos are also great fodder not just on tabs, but on the Facebook Wall aswell. Create photo albums during the event and post the videos on the Wall from yourYouTube channel. The one thing to be wary of, that one should not post to Facebookmore than twice per day. So plan your engagement well, and spread your informationout before, during and after the conference.VideoIve mentioned video a few times, and its a very important medium to consider. If youhave a video presence at your conference, you have to commit to it. Have a person orseveral people dedicated to shooting video clips from each panel or featured panels andkeynotes, and also to interview conference attendees. Make sure the camera is goodquality and that you have an exterior microphone to avoid background noise overtakingthe audio.This individual should edit and upload these videos (keep them short: 2-5 minutes max.)as soon as they can so people who arent attending the conference can keep pace. Postthem on either a YouTube channel or a Vimeo channel. YouTube has higher rankingswith search engines, but Vimeo features higher quality for commercialization. In fact, youmay want to consider using both.773.486.6666 | © 2011 Astek Consulting LLC 9
  10. 10. Event Management & Social MediaAn enormous advantage of online video is that it greatly influences Search EngineOptimization (SEO) ranking. When uploading your videos, make sure you includekeywords in the title, description, and tags. Then when people type those keywords intoa search engine, the likelihood of them seeing your videos greatly increases.PodcastsPodcasts are a growing phenomenon when it comes to live events. Podcasts arerecorded "shows" that you can listen to on demand either through a website, RSS feed,or iTunes. Podcasts can range from informational to comedic. They also are available asaudio, video or both.If you or someone in your industry hosts a regular podcast, you may want to considerhaving a live recording of the podcast at the event. Similar to the in-person Twitter chat,it creates engagement, and it adds another layer to your conference presence. Plus, itsjust fun.Having a podcast presence at your event is very similar to having a video presence.Make sure if you host a live podcast recording, that you have the equipment and staff torecord, edit and produce the content appropriately, efficiently and effectively.MobileYou may have noticed that many events and conferences provide a featured mobileapplication that you can download to your smart phone or tablet. These apps usuallyfeature schedules, maps, news, and session information to help you keep up with theconference without having to carry around a brochure that may be out of date by thesecond day of the event.Apps are very handy tools, but they are an investment. If you decide to build an app tosupport your conference, make sure you have the development team available to773.486.6666 | © 2011 Astek Consulting LLC 10
  11. 11. Event Management & Social Mediaeffectively test and monitor the app, especially during the conference in case it crashesor other things that need attention.Geo-LocationYou may have heard certain terms being thrown around such as Foursquare or Gowalla.These are geo-location services. Individuals can sign up for an account through eithertheir smartphones or online. You then download an application on your smartphone soyou can "check in" to places that you visit. Foursquare is the most widely used geo-location service with more than 10 million users as of early 2011.Foursquare also works with businesses in very inventive ways. A business can create aFoursquare business page, which individuals can follow. This business page can leave"tips" at businesses that relate to the business industry. Therefore if your business ishosting a conference, its business page can leave a tip at the conference venuereminding people to use the conference hashtag during the event. Or better yet, the tipcould be an announcement that if conference attendees check in to that venue duringthe conference, they have the chance to "unlock" a special.The special is another great feature of Foursquare. For example, if you check in themost to the conference venue, you become "Mayor" of the venue. The business behindthe venue could decide that during the conference, whoever gets the title of Mayorreceives a free drink at that evenings networking event, or they receive 15% off ofregistration the following year. You also have the chance to earn badges that appear onyour profile to show others the overall themes of your activity.Foursquare is free to use and fun to engage with. You can have conference attendeescheck in to trade show booths, specific breakout sessions, etc. It takes the concept ofsocial gaming to a level of on-site B2B networking.773.486.6666 | © 2011 Astek Consulting LLC 11
  12. 12. Event Management & Social MediaCase Study — SIPAIn June 2011, the Specialized Information Publishers Association (SIPA), hired Astek tomanage its Twitter presence during its Annual Conference in Washington D.C. Astekperformed the following services: • Created and moderated content during the three-day conference beginning 30 minutes before the daily keynote and ending one hour after the final session. • Created the hashtag #SIPA2011 and separate hashtags per conference session. • Organized and messaged an iPad giveaway to a randomly selected winner who tweeted the hashtag #SIPA2011. • Delivered in-depth analytics each day with an over-arching analytic overview and summary following the conclusion of the conference.Highlights included: • Ranked a Trending Tweet in D.C. area the first day of the conference. • 10 Direct Messages on conference information and questions • 34 Mentions asking technical questions and engaging in conversation throughout the conference • 45 Mentions included photos and/or video • 1574 Mentions of #SIPA2011 • 723 Mentions of individual session hashtags • @SIPAOnline received 76 new followers773.486.6666 | © 2011 Astek Consulting LLC 12
  13. 13. Event Management & Social MediaYou can see the full case study on the Astek SlideShare account: Next?You now know the tools available to you both as a conference attendee and as thebusiness behind the conference. Your first step is to become familiar with the platformsand decide which ones suit your needs and business goals. Then, take thattechnological leap and start tweeting, Facebook-ing, checking in, etc.!The industry of social media is still quite new. You have the opportunity to be among theleaders and early adopters in this field. Dont be afraid that youre going to "do it wrong"or that youre going to embarrass yourself. Reach out to your resources who know theseplatforms, join forums, and dont be afraid to ask questions. Even those of us who are inthe social media industry learn something new in the field almost every day.Perhaps, the next thing we’ll learn is at your conference! Well tweet with you there!773.486.6666 | © 2011 Astek Consulting LLC 13
  14. 14. Event Management & Social MediaAbout the Author: Rachel Yeomans is Marketing Director | Social Media for theinteractive Web marketing firm, Astek. Her background in Journalism and New Mediaprovided her great experience working with companies such as Sears Holdings Corp.and McGraw-Hill Publishing. In 2009 Rachel published her work fashionblog,, which received a Forbes recommendation in 2010.Along with writing about work fashion and consulting on social media, she also proudlyserves on the board of local theatre company, Promethean Theatre Ensemble.About Astek: Astek is a boutique interactive agency with publishing expertise, apersonal touch, and the ability to get it done. In addition to social media training andconsulting, Astek helps you connect with your readership using engaging websites,mobile apps, SEO/SEM strategy, and email campaigns. From consulting to production,our proven solutions integrate rights-managed CMS, e-commerce, podcasts, webinars,custom database applications, and emerging technologies to fulfill your publishing goals.Astek is an active SIPA member, an “A” rated BBB member, and has been in businesssince 2003. Please give us a call if you have any question regarding this white paper orAstek’s services.773.486.6666 | © 2011 Astek Consulting LLC 14