Effective Social Media Marketing is About People
People are important to engineering conferences and trade events, but not for the reasons you first expect. The event needs the right quality of people to ensure that the speakers, the expo participants, and the ticket holders get what they need out of the event.
This is the second article in my series about social media marketing for engineering and trade events. I draw upon my experience from working with ad agencies in Perth, and from helping businesses DIY their social media.
Use this workbook
The Social Media Marketing Workbook is a useful tool for people moving into effective social media marketing. I even recommend the book for experienced and self-taught social media marketers. I relearned better steps with this book.
The author, Jason McDonald Ph.D., simplifies many of the assumptions we have made about social marketing. He gives practical exercises to help you build a streamlined social media program.
(Amazon gives me a small commission if you order from this link.)
Recruiting speakers and sponsors
High attendance ensures a profitable event, but the real reason people are important is the event is there to connect people. Social media is effective for finding high-profile people in your industry. By using social media to do your planning, you will also gain a better intuition of how to use it with your target audience.
Consider partnering with a trade media publication in your industry. These organizations already have contact with high-profile people from previous feature articles, interviews, and advertising sales. Many specialty publishers run trade events. Although making contact with an event competitor might feel wrong, you will often find many are happy to have another team doing the hard work of organizing and be happy to participate in the work of recruiting speakers.
Start thinking about how you will use social media to drive registration before you start recruiting speakers. If you are partnering with a publisher or partner in your industry, consider co-branding or using their name as a sponsor. Also, ask the brand to add a social media account for your event or use their existing social media accounts to drive attendees.
Mention your sponsor or co-brand to your speakers, and mention committed speakers to your sponsor. Set expectations on how these people and brands can drive registration by through their high-visibility commitment to the event. Write out your ideal situation and feel confident that you can optimize this plan in a final edit. Don’t let uncertainty stop you here.
Prepare for a Smart Event
Most of the work is preparing before the event. Effective social media is the intersection of a smart plan that takes the least effort to carry out.
Create a table of keynote speakers, sponsors, location, and media partners. Get ready by documenting their website(s) and social media tags and pages. Expect to add and edit to this table as the event progresses. Prioritize your list around 3-5 key people and brands each day. Get images (logos, pictures) and permission from brands and people to use their images.
Don’t overwork the details. Stay focused on your social media goals and maintain a cohesive story by limiting the players you plan to work with.
Effective social media also means you have a simple, minimalist operation. Good planning means you know where to access to information like the trade floor directory, but do not spend time researching the many of brands and people on the trade floor. In fact, talking about too many different brands and people tends to leave the drop-in, drop-out social media audience confused.
Look at using your social media channels like a loudspeaker in the event hall. Have some repeating announcements in the evenings before the event that remind people of parking, security, and access to the trade show. Give people advice on how to avoid waiting or what to do during idle time. Repeat the same advice a couple times outside of event hours.
Sequences of Social Broadcasts
Utilize a list of social media broadcasts about “why, what, and who.” For example, create a sequence of content ahead of time:
- “Do you need to know where the real profit is?”
- And then “Find Jason Skinner at 2 pm in Room 3 to get Easy Profit Forecasting”
- Follow shortly after that with, “Jason Skinner is a Director at Mac Equity Partners,”
- And “Mac Equity Partners sorts private equity and IPO programs for science, engineering, and resources”
Run through these scenarios in a table across your selected social media channels. The way you will handle LinkedIN will be slightly different than how you handle Twitter. Tactics will be discussed in a later article. Look forward to guidance on learning and testing a mix of social media tools and the native social media applications.
Create at least 4-6 sequences for each day or have sequences running in clusters every 15-45 min, depending on how many speakers or special events you have. If you have 5 seminar rooms going at once, make a choice to minimize the amount of detail in a single post. You can choose between promoting a link to the details in your online and print program, or luck of the draw and focus on 1 speaker.
The Loudspeaker Talks Back
Social media is more than a loudspeaker broadcasting event info. At this point you have to be ready to receive dialogue just as loud as the message you sent. Be ready for all the participants to see people reply. For example, you may see pictures of people asking colleagues to meet up at Jason’s seminar. Or, you may see fans of the other speakers express their frustration over having to choose between Jason and another favorite presenter.
Sleep at least one day before committing to the sequences in your scenarios. Where practical coordinate having the featured sequences included in the signage (digital or print) at the event. Ask participants to go to your social media channels for updates, or use a tag that you can track.
Initiate the Talk Back (Don’t Wait)
Start getting the message out to the people and brands you are going to feature in the scheduled sequences. Give these people the rough timing of when and what you will do. To initiate effective social media, send an email a message to Jason and the other featured speakers:
“We will be broadcasting sequences of 4-6 messages 15-45 min before each speaker’s scheduled time. Our goal is to drive attendance at the rooms. Please be prepared that some of the speakers we feature will be chosen at random. Have your teams ready to share and comment posts. If you manage your own social channels, then prepare your colleagues to share from their accounts.”
Have a few filler posts ready to go, such as maps of the expo hall or public service announcements about first aid and security. Don’t schedule these posts. You can use these posts to keep the program going if you have a speaker delayed or rescheduled. If you want to liven up the thread a little, vet a list of quotes and one-liners that can be used during the slower hours, such as times when the trade show floor is the only main activity.
You may want to add promotions to your plan. Be ready to dedicate one of your people part-time to running the promotion. Promotions can be stressful and consume high levels of labor during the crunch of activity right at the time the announcement.
Reasonable promotions for engineering and trade events can include a small group dinner with the headline speaker, copies of books written by featured speakers, or valuable products (but not swag bags or t-shirts) from the expo floor. Valuable promotional items are a full set of tools from a supplier, or 2 months of major advertising in the media sponsor’s print and online publications.
Write your ideal situation for promotions. Provide tips or guidelines to the expo floor companies with what types of promotions will be on your channel. Encourage expo floor companies to promote their smaller marketing collateral like bags of goodies (swag bags) and t-shirts in their own social media.
Effective Social Media Follow On
Think now about what you are going to do post event. You can and should schedule a tapering frequency of social posts. Write a mix of open-ended questions to the participants:
- “Who was your favorite speaker?”
- “How many hours did you spend visiting the emerging tech booths?”
- “What’s next after that announcement a by Stewart and Jason at the closing?”
After the event, you will also want to add a variety of thank you messages to the sponsors, speakers, and venue. The brands and people that gave the biggest impact or financial contribution should be mentioned 6-9 times over the 3-6 weeks following the event. Less influential speakers or smaller sponsors should be mentioned 3-6 times and can be mentioned in groups. Include links to the brands and people.
Share the Outcomes
Effective social media follow on is about open information about the outcomes. Write email directly to major participants thanking them and letting them know the statistics you saw. Share details like:
- How many people attended in-person
- 2-3 peaks in traffic by topic, day and time
- Which social media channels had the most conversations, and types of activity
- At least one positive, humorous social share or reply
Create a list of 3-10 recommendations for the next event. Choose items that went well, and recommend actions for issues that occurred during the event. Repurpose the statistics from the thank you letter you shared with your key participants. Add some internal information about the number of hours required before, during, and after the event.
If necessary, summarize or edit your plan in preparation for the next event. Make the changes within 2 weeks of the event, so the excitement and memories of the event are fresh. Identify which activities were wasteful or how to change activities to be faster to run. State what types of scheduling and automation to save time. Give advice on how critical items should be handled by people.