The Ultimate Guide to Social Media for Meeting Planners

Do you work on meetings, conferences, conventions, trade shows and exhibitions? You could dramatically improve your event results and exceed your event goals by leveraging more effective social media strategies. If you want bigger results at your events, follow these tips!

In this post I’ll tell you how to use social media to:

  1. Get more people to register for your event
  2. Create more value for your sponsors and sell more sponsorship opportunities
  3. Boost attendance at sessions and mixers
  4. Get attendees more engaged during the event
  5. Get attendees to give you positive feedback you can use to tell a successful event story

Note that I’ve recommended ways for you to increase buzz with social media advertising. The fact is that unpaid social media reach can be limited. If you really want to be sure people see you in social media, the best way to do that is to advertise.

It doesn’t have to be expensive. And it’s 10x more effective than posting and tweeting without ads. You don’t need a huge social ad budget to make a big difference. Even if you only had only $500 to spend on social ads, you’d get at least 100,000 more views of your Facebook posts and tweets. And chances are you’re going to make your money back in registrations.

And you’ll see below that there are ways to get sponsors to pay for some of the social advertising. It’s a win-win when you team up on this.

Also, don’t just post and tweet to your event attendees. Email them during the event, too. One or two emails a day isn’t too much. Still, make sure they have an option at the bottom of each email to opt out of these emails.

Oh, by the way, here’s my speaking video, because you should hire me to keynote your event!

…but back to the article… :-)

1. How to Boost Event Registrations

Identify influencers and engage them in the process.

  • Who in your industry has a lot of social media followers? Who has the most clout?
  • How influential are your speakers?
  • Are your speakers’ followers also your potential customers? Or not?

The answers to these questions may or may not affect how you select your speakers. Keep in mind that 100,000 followers may not be a big deal if that speaker’s followers are not your customers. In addition, know that some people buy fake followers.

Look for 5 or 6 different things that tell you the person really is an influencer. These include things like:

  • Total followers on Twitter and fans or followers on Facebook
  • Number of LinkedIn contacts
  • Published books in the last 2-3 years
  • Columns on popular websites like Inc, Forbes and Mashable
  • Columns on websites and in magazines in your industry
  • TV appearances in the last 2-3 years
  • Number of interviews they’ve done with media (Google their name + interview)
  • YouTube videos with thousands of views

You need to create an event hashtag early in the process. Twitter is the real-time social media platform of choice, and hashtags are required to organize all the event tweets, to display them in a stream, and to count the impact of those tweets after the event.

  • Keep your hashtag short… don’t try to put more than three words in it.
  • For the love of God, make sure it doesn’t also spell something unfortunate. For example, #SpeedOfArt also spells “Speedo Fart.” If you don’t tend to see those things, run your hashtag ideas past someone who does.
  • Capital letters don’t matter. I recommend you don’t use any. People will waste time on their mobile phone trying to get it right. Then they won’t be paying attention to the event.
  • Make sure no one else is using your hashtag idea. Search Twitter and to see if it’s in use.
  • If you do this event every year, put the year’s last two numbers at the end, e.g. #consumerbuzz15
  • Your hashtag is as important as the event name itself. Make sure it’s everywhere:
    • On the front and back of your event booklet
    • On attendee name tags
    • On pre-session slides,
    • At the bottom of every slide in your slide template

You can get great video testimonials from attendees for this year even if you didn’t collect them last year.

  • Do a Google live “Hangout on Air” with previous attendees who loved the event- you can have 5 or 10 show up at once if they’re willing to give you 30 minutes. You don’t have to invite an audience, and chances are almost 100% that no one will see it while you’re recording.
  • Give each attendee 30-60 seconds to talk about the positives of the event. How did it benefit them? What did they love about it? Why would they go again?
  • Keep it fast and positive.
  • Google hangouts get recorded to your YouTube channel right away. But you can make it unlisted if you want. You can download it with, edit it and re-upload the final version. True story: I only use the Windows MovieMaker app for my videos, and it’s fine.
  • Your event needs a cool video intro- you can make some for free or cheap here with Flixpress.

Very important: tell them to use direct internet connection not wifi, and make sure they are dressed well and lit well.

Get the speakers to hype up potential attendees! Do a similar quick video hangout with those who will speak at the event, especially keynoters. Have them give a quick preview of their talk. Tell them to use 3 minutes max. Ask them to focus on the benefits of their talk to the audience: what will it empower attendees to do?

Excited potential attendees with a contest! You can boost your live event attendance dramatically with this Facebook contest technique. Create a post that offers two free tickets to the event, and ask them to like the post and tag the person they’d give the other ticket to if they won.

WIN ‪#‎FREETICKETS‬! We’re giving away 2 FREE TICKETS to the Consumer Buzz 2016 Conference in Las Vegas from November 11-15th, 2016. Come learn and grow with us! Here’s how to enter:
1. LIKE this post and
2. COMMENT with the name of the friend or peer you’d bring if you won
(Facebook TAG them- to do that, type the @ symbol, then their name, and when their name comes up in the drop down list, click on it!)
You need to do BOTH things in that order to be eligible. The ‪#‎winner‬ will be randomly selected on October 2nd at 6pm!

Also, SHARE and let everybody know!
* This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed, administered by or associated with Facebook.

You can easily get hundreds of responses to a post like this. The tagging pulls in more people. The contest gets people excited about going. It gets them to visualize going. If they don’t win, they feel like they wanted to go. That makes them more likely to buy.

Don’t forget to make the event sound attractive in your contest post:

  • Why should they come?
  • What will they get out of it?
  • How will it improve their life or business after the event?

Then you must promote your contest post with Facebook ads to accelerate the process.

  • Do it! Going without ads isn’t a viable option anymore. Facebook posts without ads only reach 10% or less of your fans. They’re just not effective enough.
  • Use Ad Manager. Don’t use the “boost” option, because it’s not powerful enough. Learn to use ad manager. And no matter what you hear elsewhere, you don’t have to use Power Editor for 99% of Facebook advertising.
  • Target. Target your fans, your email lists and other things like job titles.
  • Test. Create separate ads for each targeting option. You need to create at least 3-5 ads for each thing you promote, just because you never know which targeting will work best.
  • It’s worth it. It may cost you $50 to advertise this post, but you’ll get at least 100 people thinking seriously about how much they want to attend. You will reach thousands- maybe 10’s or 100’s of thousands, depending on how you target and how much you spend.

IMPORTANT: While the contest is ongoing, those people won’t buy because they’re waiting to see if they won. Make sure to end the contest at least a month or more before the event so that you’re not freaking out about attendance too close to event time. And don’t make people think you might do another contest later. If they still think they might win it free, they won’t buy.

When the contest is over, comment at the bottom of the post something like this. Facebook will notify all the entrants that you’ve commented:

We have a winner!  [winner’s name] contact us at [email] by 7pm on Oct 5th if you want your two free tickets! If you didn’t win, we’d still love to have you at the event! Come on out to the biggest consumer marketing conference in the world and learn how to improve your B2C business in every way! You can buy tickets here: [link] 

That message is the one that tells people, “Ok, you didn’t win. So buy a ticket!”

And THAT is a Facebook contest strategy that reliably boosts event attendance. :-)

If your organization doesn’t already have an email list of more than 1,000 people, you need to start doing lead gen to grow your email list. You want to do this at least 6 months before your event, so you have time to email them several times about the event. We recommend:

  • Use squeeze pages: They’re called squeeze pages because they have few options and often little information. You should only write what’s needed to tease an email out of them. The more options they have and the more time it takes to understand your squeeze page, the lower your conversion rate will be, and the higher your lead gen costs will be. By making the page simple and clear, you lower your lead gen costs. These pages can be created easily with services like leadpages, clickfunnels or
  • Use conversion optimization- you should be testing at least 2 or 3 versions of your squeeze page. You often find that one page is 3-5x more effective than another. This will cut your lead gen costs by at least half.
  • Offer something free like an ebook, webinar, member poll research report, or instructional video series. You can use an influential thought leader to help you create that content. If that expert is going to speak at your event, even better! Most thought leaders will do content like this for anywhere from $1,000 – 15,000, depending on the content type and how in-demand they are.
  • Get traffic to your squeeze pages with Google, Facebook and Twitter ads for this:
    • Google is good for people who are already looking for events or organizations like yours.
    • Facebook ads can reach your ideal prospect who isn’t looking yet and get them involved quicker.
    • Similarly, Twitter ads help you reach the followers of your industry’s big influencers.

Email marketing is at least as important as social media. Do both!

2. How to Create More Value for Your Sponsors

The tweets, retweets, favorites, comments and shares will create more buzz and exposure for the event and the sponsors. With those numbers, you can tell sponsors a story like this one:

Our 700 event attendees tweeted 1,284 times during the event, for a total reach of 435,395 people. On our Facebook page, 3,347 people liked, commented on and shared event posts, for a total reach of 836,923 people.

That increases the value for sponsors. Exposure like that makes them feel more satisfied about having participated. And it makes them more likely to continue next year. It might attract new sponsors. It might allow you to raise the cost of your sponsorships.

Another smart thing to do is include in your sponsorship packages options like these:

  • Sponsor a session-specific prize worth $25-50.
  • Sponsor a content track with a sub-hashtag; for example if your event is #customerbuzz15, you might have a special HR track hashtag called #customerbuzz15-hr [note that the subtag includes the original tag so it’s still counted in hashtag searches]
  • Sponsor a Facebook post co-written by your organization and the sponsor that will be targeted to attendees during the event. Perhaps your sponsor wants to motivate more attendees to come to their booth or to a mixer they’re sponsoring, and you can create a Facebook post that will tell them why they need to come. Then you advertise that post to fans of your Facebook page, fans of their page, and both of your email lists (subtargeted to people who are presently in the city of your event).

Any sponsorship opportunity that leverages advertising will boost social media visibility. And results like that make it easier to sell sponsorships.

These options give your sponsors the opportunity to get more out of the event, and help you fund the prizes and advertising that will boost the buzz around your event.

3. How to Boost Meeting Session Attendance

Once people are at your event, how do you get them to come to specific sessions, keynotes or mixers? You can

  • Do another Facebook contest like the preceding. Announce via social media that they could win something at a specific session.
  • Post and tweet the speaker videos you got ahead of time. Tell them where and when that session is.
  • Ask your speakers and panelists to post and tweet about the session. They can do it several times:
    • The morning of
    • An hour before
    • 5 or 10 minutes before the session.
    • Make sure they always use the hashtag.

And if all else fails, candy is pretty irresistible. Post something like “A few lucky attendees of the 2pm Leadership session will find candy on their seats! Get them before someone else does!” with a picture of candy on a seat.

4. How to Create Engagement from Attendees

The way you start the event and sessions has a big effect on how attendees behave during them. What should they be thinking about? What do you want them to do? You get to choose some of this. But you have to tell them what it is.

In the intro to every session, encourage attendees attendees to tweet during and use the hashtag. This can be done with pre-session slides and by the panel or session leader. It can be as quick and simple as this:

Feel free to tweet your thoughts or quotes from speakers during this session and please use the hashtag #consumerbuzz15.

Another way to say it is:

We consider social media activity about the session content to be a great form of participation. Interact with us about this talk on Twitter and Facebook and use the hashtag #consumerbuzz15!

Put hashtag activity screens around the conference area. You can show this in session rooms between sessions, too. Seeing all those tweets makes people want to show up in the stream. That increases the number of tweets people do. Make sure people know they have to use the hashtag to show up in that stream. It’s ok if attendees use it to post links to their blog posts or social info- it’s all good engagement. And people have to get something out of interacting. Don’t deny them that, or you’ll discourage participation.

Why do people tweet or Facebook post? And why do they share or retweet? There are several key reasons, proven by research. Make use of these in thinking about what you’ll post or tweet:

  • Giving- something free
  • Teaching- how to information
  • Inspiring- great quotes from speakers
  • Motivating- positive thoughts or quotes
  • Funny- something funny that was said, or a cartoon that’s relevant to a session topic
  • Warnings- What pitfalls do people need to avoid? What mistakes do they make?

Speaker tweets: You might not require speakers to mention their twitter handle, but you can strongly recommend it, and remind them.

Having their twitter handle on every slide of a presentation is a smart way to go. You can issue a powerpoint template customized for your event that includes the hashtag on every slide.

Encourage speakers to monitor what attendees have tweeted to them and respond within an hour or two, max.

If you have a session that has Q&A, the panelist can ask for questions via Twitter. This is a great way to get questions submitted ahead of time AND control which ones get asked. If this isn’t your first rodeo, you know that there are bad questions, the worst of which can turn the room’s mood instantly negative.

The session leader can:

  1. Introduce the session and ask that they tweet questions during the session.
  2. Choose the best questions that come in during the talk.
  3. Ask the speaker those questions without having to give a mic to the audience.

Walk around your event with a video camera and ask attendees if they’d like to get into the social media posts for the event. Ask them to speak for 30 second about one thing:

  • What they’ve enjoyed most at the conference
  • Anything inspiring,
  • Something they learned

Walk around for 40 minutes, then review them, upload the best ones and post them immediately. Do this at least a couple times per day.

You may need at least one person dedicated to monitoring and replying to social feedback and questions. If that person has other event responsibilities, make sure they check the social activity at least once per the morning, afternoon and evening. Every hour is even better.

5. Create Positive Feedback From Attendees

Similar to the last one, walk around with a video camera. Find a happy attendee. Ask if they’d like to tell future attendees why they love the event. Give them 30-60 seconds. These videos will help you sell more registrations next year!

That’s it! As you can see, these ideas ask for more from you. You want more from speakers, more from the audience and more from the sponsors. That’s how you create an event people will never forget. And that’s how you succeed year after year.

The social advertising part can be difficult. There’s a big learning curve and most beginners make the same mistakes. For more info on how to do them, contact us!