Social Media Makes Your Conference Tick

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Conferences are all about getting like-minded people together and sharing an experience. They supply us with information, give us a forum in which to push across out points of view, and act as a catalyst for new ideas and methods.

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We would be lost without conferences and gatherings, but in an age when we can have global communications in the blink of an eye, there are many more ways to get a message across, and conferences can actually start way before anyone gets in the auditorium.

As well as creating a bespoke website to raise awareness of your event, social media has a fantastic series of tools that can do much than help promote your conference and venue, and falls into three distinct parts; social interaction before the event, during the event, and after the event.

With the on-line tools available to the conference organiser, the symposium can become a much wider and more meaningful program. So just how can an organiser create a buzz about their event and get the maximum benefit from the power of social media?

Before the Event
Plainly you will want to get its presence known about, and even the best advertising executives will tell you that work of mouth is one of the best means of passing a message across. Start a buzz within a group and it will spread like wildfire.

You are going to want to start with the obvious tools like Facebook and Twitter. Start a campaign on both of these staples and word will soon begin to spread. If your conference involves professional people, do the same on sites such as LinkedIn and create a buzz on there too.

Produce a specialist Facebook page and assemble a page on Twitter, calling it hashtag(conference), and push it hard. If possible, ask your main speakers to tweet questions and comments about the event, encouraging participation.

As well as advertising your event, you can effectively use social media beforehand to canvass attendees on any particularly controversial points or items that you know may arise in the proceedings. This gives your audience time to consider and even prepare counter arguments before they actually get through the doors of the conference hall, and leads to a much more constructive event.

With social Media, you can post a proposed itinerary, a list of guest speakers, and highlight any side events that may be attached to the main conference.
Many potential attendees may not have much interest in the main event, but could find some of the periphery events more to their interest. You can tweet updates and further information as you get it and the conference firms up, potentially drawing even more attendees in.

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During the Event
RSS and other live feeds are easy to set up and maintain on your main website. You can set up a live video feed from different parts of the event to broadcast and have points and comment being uploaded to Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and other real-time feeds.

Use social media alerts to conference goers mobile phones and tablets to keep them up to date and aware of what is coming up. If you have got people to sign up for live updates, you can send reminders and updated directly to their devices, keeping them informed as the event continues.

Social media can also help those who can attend the actual event from participating too. Speakers can take real time questions from Twitter and other network feeds and be able to respond appropriately. Distance and cost sometimes puts conference goers off attending, but using the full weight of social media means that anyone from around the world can attend and participate.

At most conferences there will be TV screens and/or a projected screen. Consider using these for Twitter and Instagram feeds.

There are many Twitter Wall applications out there, such as; Livewall, and Zoomph, all with different charging structures from free to quite pricy. You can also crowdsource images from your event to display by combining Instagram with Twitter. Specialist companies in this area can help with this, or go it alone.

Whichever route you go down, make sure the wall is moderated. I doubt you will want a photo of someone’s backside showing on a large screen!

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After the Conference
Once you are wrapped up and clearing away, you can keep the buzz going by Tweeting comments and placing information on your Facebook page. If it is an ongoing issue that your conference dealt with, keep your social media outlets going, and continue to populate your Pinterest page.

Video hosting sites such as YouTube will allow you to post lengths of video from the conference which you can then link to in your other social outlets getting the maximum coverage from only a small amount of effort.

The key to making your event a success on social media is to keep it interesting. You have the ability to reach a huge number of people, and if you draw them into your event with well-designed and thoughtful content, then you will create much more of that word of mouth buzz that is potentially your most powerful advertising tool.

There are many free listening tools to help you manage you different social networks all at once and keep track of conversations and trends about your event. Start by signing up with Hootsuite, SocialMention and Google Alerts and monitor the impact that your media is having. This will give you an idea of how your campaign is going, and whether you need to increase content, or even change the direction of your advertising.

There are many facets to social media and with no such thing as bad publicity, you should try them all.

All photos copyright of the author: Philip Atkinson from Ignite Images

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