May 25, 2010

Social Media and Event Planning #smbclt

I set my site on Charlotte and headed North on I-77 for a Social Media Charlotte breakfast (#smbclt) and panel discussion about using social media in event planning. I was hoping to learn a little something that would help in my work primarily with Charlotte-based TroutU -- maybe they can sponsor a flyfishing expo or flyfishing twitter meet-n-greet, some sort of event, but I also knew I'd learn a little more about using social media for a variety of my other customers and, I admit, I wanted to do a little networking. I'm a member of Social Media Columbia and I wanted to schmooze a little with my twitter friends in Charlotte. I met a lot of great, friendly, helpful people.
The panel consisted of Wayne Sutton (@waynesutton), the passionate "Technology Evangelist" from the Raleigh-Durham area. Wayne's currently buzzing about a little sump-sumpthin' called TriOut.
Also on the panel, Jason Keath (@jakrose) from New York, NY, founder of SoFresh, excellent one-day conferences.

Ted Boyd, Charlotte's @GreenMarketGuy also served on the panel. Ted manages and promotes uptown Charlotte events.
And the final panelist: Nathan Richie (@nathanrichie), Social Media Breakfast CLT's chairman and all around Trade Show Guru who, upon seeing my caffeine-fueled social media passion and vibrancy, quickly misidentified me as a morning person, something he most likely won't repeat.
Also I want to give a shout out to Becca Bernstein (@beccabernstein), hostess extraordinaire and fellow Content Developer who validated my parking pass, I am forever in her debt. Great event, Becca, thanks for all your work.
Enjoy the following snippets, quotes and tweets from the breakfast meeting. There's some good stuff here to help you utilize social media in planning your next event, such as, say, my birthday?
Social Media has changed the playing field for Event Planning. On the one hand, you are already overworked preparing for an event & feel like you can't possibly put any time into social media. Or perhaps you are one of those running around piously or ignorantly saying “I don't have time for twitter or facebook, I have to work.” On the other hand, if you're not utilizing social media, you're making your job a lot harder, why don't you just beat your head against your office wall a few times a day.
Tip #1: Get Started Early

1. Start thinking about social media long before you start other preparations for the event
Find like-minded people on twitter to get the word out, draw them in on the planning process. These are "Brand Champions" of "Members of Influence," people who can "get the word out." This core group will tweet and blog about the event and get the buzz out for you. Having a good team here is crucial.
2. Invest, on a personal level, in this select group. Build a relationship, don't let the conversation die, talk with them every day.
3. Advertise. Google and FaceBook ads can be modified in several different ways, you can direct your ads to just people local to the event or to people with like interests, you can zero in on people who have visited particular websites, you can almost hand-pick who sees your ad. Take advantage of this. Use an ad in cities that you aren't well-connected in.

Tip #2: Use Your Members of Influence
This requires organization and strategy.
1. Have a place for them to pull everything together -- Website, FaceBook, Evite, TriOut, Guestlist, Twitvite, etc. You want a central site with all the details, so you don't spend time repeating conversations with each person.
2. Plan with purpose. Wayne said he has found that some parts of the country (west coast) use facebook for events more than others, such as the Raleigh-Durham area, which is using TriOut more. Pick the social media that event locals are using.
3. Personalize the strategy for each event. Some event materials you can duplicate and some you can't (hashtags), you may have to tweak your "Members of Influence" or landing pages, find people who are either local to the event or passionate about the subject, this may vary per event.

Tip #3: Strategize

  • Have a strategy and an ability to track your results.
  • What is your goal for the event?
  • How do you measure it?
  • How will you aggregate the content?
  • What will be an effective hashtag?
  • Should you incorporate social gaming?

Tip #4: Hashtags

  • Help with marketing and promo
  • Aggregate content
  • Find people with like interest in different cities, build a community relevant to your industry or product
  • Use as a customer service tool - monitor attendee experience
  • Helpful for physical navigation during the event
  • Useful for pulling all the info. back to review after event
  • Collect user information, track your demographics
  • On-site communication, everybody's walking around events now tweeting
  • Informative, convenient and generous for people at home who could not attend the event

Tip #5: Reward Your Customer
Play trivia on twitter using your hashtag and offer prizes. Use social gaming -- big right now is Foursquare. Issue foursquare badges and points. Points can earn them a hot dog or drink or something. Event check-in can earn them a badge and points can be earned setting up a booth, etc.
Final Advice:
  • Everybody has a network on some level; you just have to be creative how you utilize it.
  • The personal touch – investing in people, building relationships is too crucial to ignore. If you ignore your customer, I guarantee you, someone else won't.
  • If you're doing a small, intimate event, make it feel big to everyone who came. If it's a big event, make it feel small.
Social Media Tools:

Jason Keath's 14 Essential Social Media Tools for Event Planning.

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