Hashtags are a powerful social media tool that is no longer limited to just Twitter. Use across most social networks to find content, streamline conversations and engage your audience.
Why Use a Hashtag?
Adding a relevant hashtag to your post allows your content to be indexed and easily found by a wider audience interested in particular topics. They are great for brand awareness, topical discussions, event promotion and engagement.
Hashtags are searchable and allow you to find related, relevant content being shared on the topic. You could use them to curate content on the same topic, or to engage with a wider network beyond your own.
Which Social Media Platforms Support Hashtags?
Pretty much all of them now support hashtags, all in a different way. LinkedIn dabbled in them a few years ago, then discarded them, but now they are back with a purpose! Hashtags on LinkedIn used to stand out like a sore thumb and scream ‘cross platform automation’. Done well they are highly useful. Done badly they still scream ‘cross-promotion automation’.
Event Social Media Strategy
Well planned events establish a hashtag to be used across the social media landscape at the planning phase, and lead the way to ensure there is engagement in the lead-up, during and after the event. The hashtag must be researched to ensure conversation streams are not being crossed. It gets confusing and noisy, plus means it is harder to find and engage with content that is actually relevant. It also makes running a live tweet wall at the event a challenge and possibly inappropriate.
Establishing some guidelines early on allows delegates and stakeholders to follow and engage easily. It also facilitates an easy way for those who couldn’t get to the event the opportunity to follow along or catch up afterwards. Or if you are like me, I prefer to be present and take written notes and capture photos to share later, when attending a conference, and then I’ll catch up with the social media conversations later (unless I’m running the event social media, then it is a whole different experience).
Whatever platform you the events team prefer to use, adding and leading the way with a hashtag and social assets, means that anyone can engage easily anywhere and you can reap the benefits by leading the way.
How to Select a Hashtag
Using the right hashtag and the right format is key.
- Keep it concise. Keep in mind that the hashtag is part of the 140 character post on Twitter. So rather than #ProfessionalSurfersConvention why not try #ProSurferCon.
- Do your research to ensure the hashtag isn’t currently being used. If another conversation is going on using the hashtag it would be like turning up to a professional sundowner in the fancy dress. Imagine attending a medical conference yelling across the room to talk about your project management topics. Not cool, and not effective.
- Be clear and consistent. Is it the same hashtag every year, or should you append the year? If using a year is it 2017 or 17? If you don’t add a year, the conversation is extended and you can potentially reuse marketing assets.Is it an abbreviation or name in full. Establish this early on and start educating your audience to avoid confusion, otherwise there could be multiple conversations going on.
How Many Hashtags to Use
Dumping 30 hashtags used on Instagram, into a LinkedIn post is not going to work and may damage your brand.
On any platform it is all about relevance, context and adding value. Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are best suited with no more than 3 relevant hashtags. Keeps the content relevant and on topic. Instagram on the other hand works best with up to 30 hashtags to reach more people. Don’t add a trending hashtag that has nothing to do with the content (hashtag-jacking).
Social Media Guidelines
As the event social media coordinator, whether you are sharing text, images or video, lead the way and see the resulting engagement. Leverage the actions people are already taking and give them some guidance to maximise your social media efforts. Are there actions you want people to take? Are there actions you don’t want them to take, such as live streaming? Be upfront and communicate this. Some people need permission or a reminder, others need to know the boundaries.
Let’s look at how event delegates typically engage on social media (of course it depends on the type of event, industry and demographics). They share;
- a photo on Instagram with lots of hashtags and @mentions
- a collection of photos and maybe a video posted to Facebook with @tags
- a handful of text and photo tweets with @mentions on Twitter
- fun photos or video with filters via SnapChat
- a photo to LinkedIn with @mentions
What if your event hashtag was part of the conversation?
Start early, communicate, educate and tap into the FOMO feeling. Don’t just broadcast, engage with your network.
Event Social Media Plan
Once you have your guidelines, create a plan to keep your events team in action, to reap the benefits. Too often social media is a last minute thought, or left to ad-hoc actions.
Let’s look at what you can do before, during and after the event;
- Research and establish the event hashtag before promotions begin.
- Include the hashtag on all event marketing material.
- Include the hashtag and stakeholder social media profiles in event promotion (website, emails, brochures).
- Include social sharing buttons on articles.
- Use tools such as Click To Tweet to encourage sharing.
- Set up a Facebook event and invite people to share and engage.
- Start the conversation online by mentioning the stakeholders (speakers, sponsors, venue) using the hashtag.
- Collect delegate Twitter handles or social profiles on registration.
- Include social sharing as part of the registration process.
- Identify your social media and content champions.
- Create content in batches – save time later by creating content early. Some content can be scheduled to your social media via scheduling tools such as Buffer or Hootsuite. Be sure to create platform specific content.
- Create branded images with the hashtag for social sharing. Use tools such as Canva to create visually appealing images sized for each platform.
- Create articles, blogs and media releases.
- Interview speakers and sponsors via video – either record or go live.
- Give speakers and sponsors direction through providing branded images, relevant copy including the hashtag and the social profiles to engage with.
- Engage industry influences who may have your audience – make it easy for them to engage with your event.
- Engage a visual recorder/ sketchnote artist to capture the main points and use as content to share during and after the event.
- Display the pieces in the event foyer.
- Use Twitter lists to identify your delegates and stakeholders.
- Connect to delegates and stakeholders on LinkedIn.
- Invite delegates and stakeholders to a community, such as a Facebook Group
- Include the Twitter handle on name tags plus event hashtags.
- Include the hashtag on signage, slides, brochures and handouts at the event.
- Have the MC remind delegates and stakeholders of the hashtag and how to engage. Some people need a reminder or permission to take photos or video.
- Display signs on the tables, around the venue, even in the toilets!
- Encourage use of SnapChat geofilters in SnapChat or other social media.
- Broadcast live where appropriate to engage those not in attendance, by going behind the scenes, sharing snippets, and interviewing attendees.
- Create photo corners using a photo booth with props and encourage social sharing.
- Create an event wall with the logo and hashtag.
- Order a social media event frame.
- Order a 3D hashtag sign for your event.
- Create visual props and cues for photo opportunities
- Use the hashtag in a competition to drive conversation.
- Conduct a Q&A before the event using the hashtag.
- Run a competition to win a prize at the event, such as being invited on stage, or to meet a speaker.
- Visualise – add a tweet wall or hashtag feed displayed at the event to incentivise delegates through giving them fame via a big screen. (Eg TagBoard)
- Gamify – let people know beforehand that there are prizes or a leader board.
- Monitor mention of your brand, hashtag and platforms.
- Consider your risk management plan.
Make Your Social Media Fun
Tell your network exactly how they can engage… add a fun formula or check list to ensure they participate in all social channels. Maybe delegates hand in a printed check list to the registration desk after ticking all the boxes to go in the draw to win a prize donated by a sponsor? Maybe it is done via an event app. Get creative.
The bonus of all this engagement, is the added value for your event sponsors and other stakeholders. Make it easy for them to say yes next time!
Don’t Forget the Wi-Fi
The other important aspect of engaging your event audience on social media is good free Wi-Fi! Ensure you know the account details to share with delegates on the day. Poor Wi-Fi can disengage and distract your audience!
Don’t Stop When the Event Ends
Use tools such as Storify to capture and share content related to your hashtags ASAP. The will keep the audience engaged longer as they are mentioned again.
Look at any content that can be repurposed or used for an article or event overview. Create a video overview to share the takeaways and remind delegates of the value or follow up action. Share any valuable assets created such as any sketchnotes shared.
After the event review what worked, what could be improved, and what provided the biggest ROI, and start planning your next event early!
Seek Help Planning Your Next Event
There is so much that can be done at events using social media. It comes down to creative ideas, a plan and someone to lead the way. If you need help planning your event social media, speak to me. I have an extensive background in events and social media and combine the two passions by creating event social media strategy. I even manage and engage live on the day if a client prefers. That is the time I am glued to my mobile. We must move to where the audience is moving, by providing a blended event experience.
What will you add to your next event to improve the experience, increase brand exposure and add value?