Living events through social media

Social media is now more mainstream and part of our daily lives. People are now finding ways to use it to enhance aspects of what they do everyday. It is now a way that we can share elements of our lives, drawing us together in communities of interest. And it is now forcing a rethink in the way events are managed and communicated to ensure we are taking advantage of the opportunities.

I had one such opportunity recently when I was asked to use social media to promote and support an event taking place. I focused on using Facebook and Twitter to provide updates about the sporting event, the running order and the results. But it had to be much more than that, the updates had to provide a flavour of what was taking place so people could feel they were part of the event. The communication also had to give anecdotes that only someone attending would know. This was a challenging task and took a huge amount of time.

Social media was used throughout the three-day event but the purpose of why it was being used changed during those days. The first two days were about encouraging people to make the effort and attend the event, the final day was about providing updates and information and building the interest for next year.

What was clear was that using social networks in this way requires a significant investment. Realistically it needs at least two people who can work throughout the duration of the event and provide the updates using video, audio and photographs to bring things to life. It is an investment that some are starting to make. Recently a one day event (horse activity for those who don’t know) took place at Kelsall Hill, Cheshire and the PR company involved posted regular updates of the scores, progress on the cross-country course and results. It was  well executed and the use of social media as well as the sporting event became a talking point.

The return on investment in using social networks during an event can be seen when people get involved in the conversation. The retweets, updates, and additional posts that help to keep the conversation going are incredibly powerful. I was delighted when the posts I put out were met with more than silence on both Facebook and Twitter. And it was clear that people appreciated being given the updates, particularly if they were not going to be able to attend, because they said so.

For anyone organising an event the use of social media has to be a central thread to communication and the way the event runs. As people have access to smartphones, iPads and other devices they will want updates on the move whether at the event or not. You can use this interest to build your reputation or you can ignore it and risk alienating your customers.

The investment can be substantial but what is there to gain? For one thing you should be able to encourage people to come along to the event whether it is the next day or next year. But also you can build your reputation and get people talking about the company, business or organisation long after the event. Live updates on social networks are now for more than just conferences, they should be part of our sporting, social and other events. The question is are organisations ready to make that investment?

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