In today’s hyper-connected world, the power of social media can make or break an event.
Event planners are embracing platforms — like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram, and Weibo, and WeChat in China — to build a buzz in the lead-up to a conference, to create immersive experiences for attendees, and to ensure the conversation continues well after the physical event has ended.
Business events, therefore, must be designed in a way that engages both offline and online audiences and creates an emotional connection via a digital screen and face-to-face interaction.
For Olivia Kosasih, it’s all about creating sharable content. “The most powerful aspect of social media is the ability to create user-generated content,” said Kosasih, who serves as senior manager, digital strategy at Epicentro, the digital brand engagement arm of the Pico Group. “Co-creation has been proven to be an effective tool in creating powerful attendee engagement by many event marketers.”
Setting up a social-media wall is a simple, but effective way to encourage delegates to snap and share. Kosasih recommended integrating a number of selfie opportunities into the overall event design, in places with favourable lighting.
Kosasih added: “Personalisation gives attendees the ability to choose how they participate, share, and ‘consume’ an event with their loved ones. The key here is to provide ‘emotional freedom’ for attendees, and thus intensify their level of engagement.”
Event planners can take advantage of Snapchat’s customisable Geofilters that allow users to layer photos with event logos, illustrations, and colourful borders. As well as providing greater personalisation, Geofilters can also provide a cost-effective marketing tool to offer sponsors additional brand exposure.
Instagram stories can be utilised in a similar way, allowing users to capture and stream real-time footage with personalised filters, stickers, and tags. Together with other live-streaming apps, like Facebook and Twitter Live, and Meipai in China, event planners can integrate live streaming to leverage FOMO (fear of missing out). Live videos that offer behind-the-scenes content or interviews with popular speakers can encourage virtual attendees to register for the physical event next year.
But not all social channels are created equal. Felicity Zadro, managing director of Sydney, Australia–based PR and marketing agency Zadro, advised event organizers to use the right social channel to target the right audience.
“Facebook needs visual content, interesting voices, and content you can absorb in three seconds,” Zadro said. “Twitter, meanwhile, needs smart, snappy content, good hashtag considerations, and visual content where appropriate.”
Consistency is another key element. “It’s important to maintain communities via social media all year round,” Zadro said. “Tuning them on and off over the three months of an event campaign looks disingenuous and self-fulfilling.” That means that conversations should be monitored and enquiries responded to in a timely manner year-round.
Social Media in China
For events in China, planners can utilise tools like Wechat, Weibo, and Meipai at various stages of the event lifecycle.
Epicentro’s Kosasih suggested using Weibo in the lead-up to create mass awareness of the event. WeChat, on the other hand, is very handy once prospects have registered, she said.
“Cultivating engagement prior to an event is crucial to ensuring emotional stickiness,” Kosasih said. “Thanks to its relatively closed-off ecosystem, WeChat provides a great way to develop a tighter relationship with delegates.”
American luxury brand Coach recently used WeChat to promote an event aimed at recruiting new customers. To engage prior to the event, Coach offered reward points to customers who successfully converted their friends into Coach followers. Points collected during the event could then be redeemed as cash coupons worth RMB300 (USD45).
To boost engagement during an event, Kosasih said live streaming via Meipai is best, especially when event planners invite celebrities and social-media influencers — known in China as ‘”Wang Hong” — to participate.
At last year’s Cannes Film Festival, cosmetic brand and festival sponsor L’Oreal invited a number of Chinese celebrities to live stream behind-the-scenes segments on the festival’s official Meipai account. The streams received 160 million likes in total.
During the broadcast, Chinese singer Li Yuchun introduced L’Oreal products and recommended a lipstick that she wore during the festival. Four hours after the live broadcast, the lipstick she mentioned was sold out on Alibaba’s Tmall website.