It’s not enough to have various staff members tweeting here and there, or posting to your Facebook page sporadically. In order to maximize the benefits of social media, you need a definitive strategy.
Why? Mandy Stahl, community manager, American Society of Association Executives, who spoke at Expo Next, said a strategy helps you ensure that you give your audience what they want and keep them engaged with you. It also should prevent you from "selling" via social media. This is a big no-no in the social sphere. Followers will be turned off by the hard sell.
A well-planned strategy will enable you to make use of all of your resources, and it can help you plan ahead and create unique experiences in each platform.
On the flip side, operating without a set strategy can create a disjointed and ineffective social-media effort.
Ask Yourself These Questions
Stahl suggests that, in developing your social media strategy, you ask yourself the following:
1. WHAT formats are we going to use? (Blogs, video, charts.)
2. WHY does anyone care about what we’re doing?
3. WHY does this provide business value?
4. HOW are we going to deliver the message? (What are the best social media platforms for reaching your audience?)
5. HOW should we say it? (Tone of voice.)
6. WHERE will we get the content?
7. WHERE can we syndicate the content?
8. WHEN will content be published?
9. WHEN will it need to be updated (and how frequently)? Set expectations. (For example, Twitter: one to two tweets per week starting six months in advance of your event, and three to four tweets per week from two months out.)
10. WHO is responsible for the content? Assign content to the appropriate parties, and assign someone to oversee the efforts.
11. WHO will maintain it over time?
Where Will We Get the Content?
An integral part of your strategy will be in determining what content you are going to post and where your social media team will get the content. Stahl suggests these areas are among the most valuable content sources:
1. Editorial: Magazine and online news.
2. Marketing and public relations: Printed pieces, website, and industry and event news.
3. Educational/learning: Session tracks and speakers.
4. Show-logistics updates.
More Hands-On Tips
1. Tweet each new speaker you book, using the speaker’s or his/her company’s Twitter handle to alert them of the tweet; Encourage all speakers to retweet your announcement (most will anyway). Also, tag them on Facebook mentions and via other social media channels you use. This can significantly expand your reach and expose your speakers’ followers to your show.
2. Tweet every exhibitor and sponsor you sign on, using the company’s Twitter handle. Same idea as above.
3. Organize Facebook chats or Twitter chats with select speakers; promote them to your audience via social media and e-mail alerts. Ensure that the chats include information your audience will find valuable.
4. Conduct Q&As with select speakers, providing information and teasing (soft-sell) the upcoming session and event. Publish it online and promote it via social media channels.
5. Conduct Q&As with select exhibitors and sponsors about emerging products and trends among their clients. Be sure these are not sales pitches.
6. Encourage your speakers and vendors to use their social media channels to promote their participation in your events. Provide them with event hashtags (e.g., #growyourshow) and industry hashtags (e.g., #expochat), as well as the event URL. Tell them how to shorten links (or better yet, provide shortened links).
7. Determine the leading tweeters (or people on other platforms) and bloggers in your industry and invite them as guests to your show to tweet and/or blog about it.