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No event organiser would plan a conference or workshop without understanding the needs of their audience. The same should be true when integrating social media into your event experience.

If you want to use social media to amplify the conversation around your event, you need to understand how your audience engages with social media. Which platforms do they use? How often do they post? What kind of posts do they like? How connected are they? How conversational are they? What topics interest/provoke them?

In this post, we discuss five basic steps to help you learn more about your audience’s social media behaviour and adapt your event’s social media strategy so it matches their needs and your aims.

1. Know Thyself

 

It is possible to collect a plethora of metrics about your audience’s social media use. However, if you are not clear about what you are trying to achieve by amplifying your event, you might find yourself collecting more information than you need and wasting valuable time.

Before you start to collect any data about your audience’s social media habits, make sure you can answer the following questions:

  1. Who are you trying to reach by using social media at your event?
  2. What do they want from the event?
  3. Why do you want to use social media at your event?
  4. When is the best time to provoke an online conversation?
  5. Where should that conversation take place?

NOTE: Your amplification aims may be different to your main event aims, particularly if you are looking to engage a wider, remote audience in your event via social media. That audience will be broader, transient and influenced by a variety of external factors, such as time zones, open plan office arrangements or work commitments.

2. Know Your Platforms of Interest

 

Once you have established your amplification aims, think about which social media platforms might help you to achieve these aims most efficiently. Think practically about the features you need to meet your aims and create a shortlist of ‘platforms of interest’.

Show this list to your event programme advisors or a subject matter expert from the event community. They may be able to suggest specialist platforms or forums beyond the typical ‘big name’ social media sites.

Armed with your list of platforms of interest, you can now get to know how your audience use these online spaces.

3. Know Your Audience

 

To get a good feel for how your audience engage with your platforms of interest you should:

  1. Collect their social media information at registration
  2. Analyse the social media behaviour of a sample of attendees
  3. Follow attendees on your chosen platforms and engage with them ahead of the event

To analyse the social media behaviour of your audience, select a suitable sample of your event attendees and delve deeper into their social media habits. If your event has a relatively small audience (100 people or less) you could even analyse everyone involved to get a really clear picture of how they use social media.

Depending on your event aims, you might typically collect information about:

  • The number of followers attendees have on each key platform
  • Their normal activity levels
  • The number of connections they have with other attendees on each key platform (using a tool like Followerwonk)

Remember to look back at your amplification aims and choose only those metrics that will tell you something useful about your attendees. For instance, if you are running a trade show and your attendees are mainly corporate representatives, you might want to establish if they are likely to engage in conversation via Twitter or simply broadcast lots of promotional messages. The number of @replies and and their follower:following ratio might be useful indicators for you. These measures might not be as relevant if you are running a small workshop with mainly academic attendees who are looking to learn from each other and collaborate.

Ideally you should repeat this exercise to analyse your event speakers’ behaviour. They are key voices at your event and their engagement in any online discussion is often vital.

4. Know Your Key Influencers

 

Rank your attendees according to popularity (the highest number of followers) and connectivity (the highest number of connections with other attendees). Those at the top of these lists are likely to be your key influencers.

Look at these key influencers in more detail to see how they use your platforms of interest. Are they great conversationalists? Do they often post from events? What types of content do they retweet?

If you want to identify potential remote audience members who could be key external influencers, use tool such as Twiangulate to identify people who follow several of your key influencers but will NOT attending your event in person. If they have a publicly declared interest in your event’s topic, they could be key influencers within your remote audience.

5. Know Your Strategy

 
All of the information you have collected can be used to inform and refine your event’s social media strategy. Use your findings to help you:

  • Choose which channels would be most useful for your audience
  • Estimate the level of online activity you can expect at your event
  • Inform the social media guidelines you issue to attendees, speakers, sponsors or exhibitors
  • Plan useful content/conversation starters to share during the event
  • Get the tone right in your posts
  • Decide if you need a professional moderator or live commentary to help manage the conversation
  • Engage with your key influencers ahead of the event
  • Benchmark against any data you collect during/after the event

 

Having a clear picture of your audience’s social media habits is vital if you want to facilitate an amplified conversation around your event. As with all aspects of event planning: preparation is the key. Get to know your audience, meet them in their preferred online space and learn how to engage with them in an authentic way.
 
Image Credit: Image by Avel Chuklanbov (CC0)

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