By Karen Geier
We live in a world where you probably know more about what your friends had for lunch than you do about some of your extended family. Social media has disrupted so much of the “old way” of doing things that it comes as a surprise most branded events are still very analogue.
Luckily, there are some very simple ways before, during, and after your event you can enhance it and increase your engagement with clients and customers.
Before Your Event: Publicise and Build Excitement
The easiest way to integrate social media with your branded event is to get people talking and excited to attend it. There are several ways you can do this, depending on which social media accounts you have.
You can use your Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or Instagram feeds to tease out details of the event, including venue pictures, decorations, pictures of special guests, food, etc. Let your attendees build up the event in their own minds.
You might even want to crowdsource your event in some way. Using your social media feeds, have your guests vote on an option for the event. Invite them to vote for a speaker, or even offer choices for food (this would make an interesting Pinterest campaign)
Make sure when you’re sending out any and all communications that you tell attendees about your official event hashtag. This ensures your followers will use it into the run-up to the event, and you can retweet or post these updates in a dedicated feed on your blog or website.
During Your Event: Hashtags, Feeds, and Gathering User-Generated Content
The easiest way to gauge guest reaction at your event is by using a dedicated hashtag (users with Instagram or Vine can use these tags as well, don’t forget). You can display these on-the-fly reactions on a TwitterFall. One of the benefits of TwitterFall is that you can customise what gets displayed, and you can filter out naughty words. You should still have a dedicated social media point person at the event looking at the raw feed to make sure that guest complaints are remedied quickly, or that potentially troublesome (over-served) guests are dealt with appropriately.
You could also consider displaying an Instagram feed of all images generated during your party. People love to look at themselves onscreen, and will contribute more if they know there is a possibility they will make it on to the wall. You can use a program like Statigram to achieve this easily.
If you’re interested in posting Vines, you can use Vineaholic to display all Vines on a given hashtag.
Consider the surprise and delight of your invitees if you set up a special Foursquare message for attendees that notifies them of a special feature of your party (a secret sweet table, for instance.) As they head to the special place, they’ll tell their friends, and you will have provided a VIP experience to those “in the know.”
Fun Takeaways: Photo Booths and More
Most parties have a step and repeat background now. Why not take your step and repeat and make it social? Post a hashtag near the background, and let participants take Instagrams or TwitPics of themselves that you can collect for a dedicated event page on your blog or website. You can also hire companies like Instaprint to print “photo booth” type photos for your guests on-the-fly. Instaprint even posts the event hashtag right on the camera, eliminating your need for an extra sign.
After the Party: Your Event Portal
You can still get a boost from fans by connecting with them one last time after your party. Consider setting up a page on your site or blog, which is the clearing house for all the content you collected from attendees.
Think about having a few event helpers present to take video of your event. You might even consider setting up a place where attendees can upload their videos. You can edit your video along withy videos you’ve collected and stills from Instagram, Twitpic, etc. into a short video that you can then post on your dedicated event page.
For a fun thank-you gift, you could also collect the Instagram photos taken by hashtag, download them using a program like Instamac or Instagram Downloader, and print off stickers to mail to event attendees after the fact.
If you’re using Facebook to post event photos, invite your attendees to tag themselves and each other in the images. Offer a special prize to one tagger. (By having the names, you can cross-check your invitation list, and see who actually attended, and who had a good time.)
Consider putting together a Storify of the event. Storify allows you to pull in social media, blog, and web updates, write a story around them, and publish the story to the web in an easily embeddable form. You can always edit the Storify as you get more user generated content in, or if you get media coverage.
Just as customer care and retail are about an end-to-end service with many marketing touchpoints, events are an opportunity to interact with brand advocates in a real-time, reactive way. Don’t make your parties a hit-and-run experience. You can extend the life and excitement of a party well beyond the party date.