Using social media to market professional events

I have been invited to speak at the upcoming inaugural Social Media Week in Nairobi (SMWi) and in preparation for the event, I thought it a timely opportunity to share how best professional event organisers can employ social media marketing in building interest and ultimately increasing registrations at their events.

At the very least, online presence ideally on a dedicated event website is fundamental, as this is where potential participants will search to get a feel for your event. Unlike a coat or car that people can touch and test, an event is an experience which a potential attendee expects will bring them some kind of gain. People will want to know more about where the event will be, how they will get there, what’s in store for them when they get there, who they will possibly meet and how the event in general will be of benefit to them.
That said, it is still surprising how many events are promoted on channels like Eventbrite that sadly lack an online personality to robustly back them up.


The decision to attend a conference is also never an immediate one, so developing an engaged following that can eventually be converted into participants is key. Although most professional events take place annually or even bi/tri-ennially, it is crucial to keep your audience engaged as much as possible during the non-active period.

As said by Mark Kaigwa (Founder, Nendo) during the SMWi launch, social media is not all things to all people and indeed, not all social channels work in marketing professional events.

Twitter, Linked-in, Facebook and YouTube are most relevant here, and when to use what is explored further below.

In the days after the event…
On Twitter and Facebook:
> Thank attendees for participating and let them know that pictures and slides (if to be shared) will be coming soon.
> This is also a timely opportunity to introduce the new official event hashtag so if your present attendees returning they will know where to follow conversations about your event. Keep this short and simple and check that it is not already in use. (The best hashtags are those that are made from acronyms of the event title along with the event venue or year. For example,  for the African Artists and Sculptors Convention being held for the first time in Nairobi in 2017, I could use #AASCNairobi or #AASC2017). It is a shame to still see that many top events are still failing to employ this basic but indispensable marketing tip.
> Share your feedback form, including a section for testimonials which can be used in marketing the next event. Use the new hashtag alongside this too.
> Create a Facebook event photo album and a presentation repository and share this too. Keep using the all new hashtag!
> If the date (at least) for the next event has been finalised, create a ‘Save the date’ card and share. This is also another excellent opportunity to introduce the new hashtag.
> Edit the event footage and post to YouTube and share. Pick-out glittering attendee testimonials especially and share these separately too.

On Linked-in, Twitter and Facebook:
> Keep an eye out for mentions of the event in the press and share the necessary links. If you are lucky enough to secure multiple mentions, cleverly stagger these out to extend the interest in your event.
> Once the event stats are in, create an infographic report and share, including within it a link to the more extensive report.

On Linked-in:
> Publish a post covering the more extensive event report and share these in groups your attendees are likely to be in.

In the brainstorming stages of the next event…

Twitter is most useful here. Keep using the new hashtag.
> Once the theme (if any) has been decided, share it
> If you find you need some help in deciding between agenda topics, make use of Twitter polls.
> If you need some help with speaker recommendations, why not also put this out to your twitter audience?

During the active planning stages…

On Linked-in, Twitter and Facebook:
> Once the new event has some traction, share the event website, and publicise any abstract/speaker/poster application  and early-bird deadlines.
> You should also consider doing a press-release and again keep any eye out for any press mentions about the upcoming event and share.

On Twitter and Facebook:
> Share every new speaker or exhibitor that is confirmed.
> Connect with the speakers and exhibitors on Twitter and encourage them to share the event website with their own followers, not forgetting to make good use of the event hashtag.

> If the conference is complemented by a launch event, make sure this is well publicised before and after on social media too.

Over the last 12 weeks…
On Linked-in, Twitter and Facebook:
> Create a poster/infographic highlighting what will be the key take-aways for the attendees, including some of the top speakers and sessions with a link to the event website for further details.
> You may also want to consider paid advertising to reach even more of your target audience.

On Twitter and Facebook:
> It is best to create a posting schedule where you can alternate between featuring the event poster, the speakers, the agenda sessions, registration deadlines and any flash discounts, tips on attending, testimonials from past attendees and mentions about your upcoming event in the press.
> Also look out for any relevant top trends on Twitter that you can piggy-back on to create even more awareness for your event.
> All through ensure you continue to publicise the official hashtag which should be included in your poster too.

During the event…
On Twitter:
> Share proceedings as they happen including the event hashtag in all your posts.
> Re-tweet your top re-tweeters.
> You could also make use of Periscope.
> If your event is complement by live technology such as Livestream or Slido, keep sharing the relevant links so that both your in-house and Twitter audience are aware.

On Linked-in, Twitter and Facebook:
> Create a daily summary and share at the end of everyday.

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Planning an upcoming  conference? Share with us what works for you!
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Angela will be sharing her thoughts on the ‘Adventures in Hospitality and Marketing’ plenary session on Tue 13/09/16 at the KICC (Lenana Rm) at 10:30AM. See more here.

Angela is the Business Development Director at Mkutano Business Travel.

Mkutano Business Travel is the leading regional conferences and trade-shows bureau promoting conferences, summits, forums and expos happening around the East African region.
Mkutano Business Travel is also the publisher of the ‘Mkutano Monthly’ magazine, additionally covering networking events and training courses in Nairobi. Grab your free copy at a shopping centre near you.

What will you attend next? Browse upcoming conferences here.
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