Social media is a natural companion for event promotion and success. In itself, “events” as a program category is very broad — it can span galas, walks, runs, sponsored endurance races, virtual conferences, volunteer meet-ups and so much more. These have been broadly categorized in the industry by types, level of effort and/or fundraising requirements and sometimes the amount of participant “self-starting” attitude
While it would be impossible to run through all possible approaches to leveraging social media for events in one blog post, below are some broad proven practices and ideas for more popular events that can help your organization create the kind of experience that social butterfly participants and donors will want to return to year after year (and tell their friends all about).
Let them be social: The best thing an organization can do to integrate social media into events is to allow participants and donors to be social by providing easy, fast tools. It can be as simple as making sure any call to action is easily shareable. Take away the inertia and speed up momentum; a built-in share functionality is better than forcing someone to copy and paste links. Provide easily embeddable fundraising widgets (like the ones Kimbia provides with Peer-to-Peer) that can be posted on personal blogs.
Help them be social: This is an essential step that many often miss. It’s not enough to provide social sharing integration; organizations must coach and help their participants and donors with what to say. Sure, some social butterflies are already buzzing about proudly, but others may feel a bit at a loss for words on their social feeds. Give participants, especially if you have captains, suggested language across a variety of networks. Whether it focuses on character limit, the right tone (friendly vs. professional) or the right way to tell your story, giving participants and donors useful content they can use will ensure more of them do so.
Let them brag: It’s one thing to let folks share an action, but it’s another to let them share an accomplishment. Whether someone has reached a fundraising goal, recruited the most participants, just bought your largest gala table or started a fundraiser to get you 15 new trucks to deliver food, you should track, monitor and follow up on these actions by congratulating your participants and their donors and encouraging them to share. Provide avatars or widgets for them to post on their social sites, tag them when appropriate on your own social media properties and create social shout-outs.
Help them show their spirit: Event day can be the pinnacle of much planning, organizing and fundraising by participants. Especially for walks and runs, they come decked out — wearing their pride, their grief, their support and their commitment. What better way to celebrate this sense of community and spirit than to create photo sharing threads on sites like Instagram? Encourage participants to post photos and videos, create virtual photo albums and in some cases even sound notes. Also, think of ways to keep your audience socially engaged on the day of the event. Checking in on their phones at various rest points along a race, tweeting answers to quizzes during a luncheon or pinning photos of their favorite items at your auction will build socializing into the event itself, not just into pre- and post-event activities.
Help them be there: Not everyone can attend events in person. Virtual events, or opportunities to participate virtually in in-person events, can engage a distributed support network if an event itself is not accessible for everyone. Webcasts, live Twitter conversations and even virtual “ambassadors” who share their experience with the social sphere all help create more event reach and impact.
Let them see their virtual self: For those of you who’ve been to a conference or other events with a live social stream, you’ll know that feeling of “Hey, that’s me!” when your post comes up on the social feed. Think of it as just another way to make folks feel special. It shows you care what they are saying. If your event doesn’t lend itself to live social feeds, create a list or a special post about your favorite or most relevant social posts around the event. Even the negative ones. Remember, social media is all about a conversation with your supporters. Too much filtering and there will be backlash
Let them be special: Social media is a great way to create a sense of uniqueness and special access for your engaged followers. Create special discounts for your events found only on your social feeds or accessed from your social media property. Similar encouragement can be used if you want to drive mobile participation. Open a limited number of event tickets to social media followers or let them register early. Or consider special incentives. For example, anyone who buys a “virtual table” at your gala via a Twitter link gets a special benefit that on-site tables do not receive.