Feed the Beast: Social Media for Events

December 20, 2012 § 3 Comments

Ryan Heisler is Social Media Manager and Online Registration guru for Maine Running Company, Maine’s only running specialty store.

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Social media wordcloud

Social Media. It’s a scary term for many event organizers. How do you properly market yourself in a medium that is by and large controlled by the end user? How do you know what social media tools are for you?

The answer itself is also a scary one: it depends.

The incorrect answer at any one point in time is ignorance. You have to be a player in this realm. Unlike other marketing opportunities, you’re not talking at your participants; you’re talking with them. You’re providing content that can be liked, shared, retweeted, pinned, and commented on. Social media provides you the way to create not a customer, but a raving fan; one who is ready to sing your praises at every whim.

Social media allows you to connect with your audience, to make your raving fans a part of your event. It’s a lot like word-of-mouth advertising, except you receive actual data about how many people you engaged.

Feed the beast.  It looks worse to have a Facebook or Twitter page that hasn’t been updated frequently than to not do it at all. You’ve got to be continually thinking about how you can engage with your customer.”

In terms of guiding your own social media strategy, you need to take a few steps to ensure success:

Who is the contact person? You need to have one person in control of the message across the multiple media that you select to use. This person needs to understand how social media works, but also understand the message of your brand. You can teach how to properly use social media tools; you can’t teach someone how to be invested in your brand. Choose someone who knows what it is your event stands for and how that relates to your participant.

What social media platforms to use? Understand that each tool is different from one another. Facebook is not Twitter, for example. Although at their heart they are both status update sharing tools, the way that each is consumed requires you to think about what content will be readily accessible. Choose the three that you think would be most beneficial to your brand and be different enough from one another that you’re not always posting the same content to three platforms.

Make those tools stand out: Provide different content across your media tools. You can always re-post content in one tool versus another, but think about how those tools are consumed. In the example of Facebook and Twitter, the average person spends 15 minutes per day on Facebook. Twitter, however, is more often consumed in a scrolling fashion. Your Facebook posts should be longer, to engage with the consumer longer as your consumer tends to stay on Facebook longer. Twitter, on the other hand, requires multiple short posts to reach out.

Building trust in your brand: I use Twitter primarily as a customer service vehicle. This engages our customer base, but also shows transparency: if something goes wrong, we won’t hide it. It creates trust that we will do everything to make the customer happy. How can you best utilize your social media tools to reach that end?

Don’t overdo it: If you’ve understood the mediums that you’re using, you know about the tools that people spend the longest on. Therefore, you don’t want to overstimulate. E-mail marketing is a weekly tool; don’t wind up in the spam box because you send too many e-mails. Facebook is a daily tool; people spend so much time on it that they will see your post. Twitter is an hourly tool; you need to be constantly updating to make sure you appear in someone’s feed. Very rarely will someone scroll through all of the tweets they missed during a day.

Feed the beast. It looks worse to have a Facebook or Twitter page that hasn’t been updated frequently than to not do it at all. You’ve got to be continually thinking about how you can engage with your customer.

These steps are just the preliminary manner to get started. But understanding how to engage your customer is a way to have them invested in your brand. People want to feel like they belong to something; make them feel like they belong to your group of raving fans.

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§ 3 Responses to Feed the Beast: Social Media for Events

  • Ryan Heisler says:

    Mark–

    The best practice, IMO, in regards to that sort of thing would be to have a limited number of brand ambassadors who, in exchange for race entry fee/goodies/discounts, would promote the brand. But make sure that it is public knowledge that these people are receiving something in return for the promotion of the event.

    Here’s why: it can be deceptive to have people look like they’re raving about your event because of the experience, when instead they’re raving about your event because they’re receiving something for it.

    I’m a prime example: the Revolution3 Triathlon series sponsors me. I promote their events, but I also take every effort to make sure people know that I’m receiving something in return. I think that it builds a layer of trust with your potential customers in that they trust you to make the decision as to whether this person is saying it merely because they’re sponsored, or because they believe in the event and happen to be sponsored by something they believe in…if that makes sense.

  • SignMeUp says:

    Mark, thanks for your comment. We agree that participants can be an event’s best advocates. SignMeUp’s Friend Get Friend program allows event administrators to reward registrants for getting their friends and family to sign up.

  • Mark L says:

    Social media presents an opportunity for events is to engage athletes to promote an event to their friends in exchange for a small incentive. We are researching how this helps with “incentive widgets”. See the “Get a discount” button on runforyoung.org, wrightsvillebeachmarathon.com, http://www.midtownraceseries.com.

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