Social Media Strategy for Event Marketing


Social Media Strategy for Event Marketing

Beatrice Whelan, Global Content Manager, Sage

Strategy is one of the most overused words in marketing. Saying you want to have 50,000 Facebook fans, or sell 10,000 event tickets, or be the premier event in your industry is not a strategy — it is a goal.

A strategy identifies the risks, opportunities and challenges in achieving your goal and plans an approach to overcome them. It is important to bridge the gap between strategy and tactics.

A social media strategy is an overall plan (which includes key decisions such as the choice of social channels), while tactics are the actual means to execute upon that strategy. The first part of coming up with a social media strategy is establishing your goal and then identifying the biggest challenges to achieving it. This research phase of determining opportunities and challenges is a vitally important of developing your strategy.

The Research Phase

Developing your strategy requires an understanding of the context in which your event operates, the competitive landscape and your target customers. Once you understand this, the opportunities and challenges will become obvious. And, you are a lot closer to your strategy. Look at the findings from your research and develop these into key insights that you can use to create your social media value proposition and other elements of your strategy.

Creating your social media strategy

Research to Insights and Strategic Direction to Recommended Tactics

In the research phase, you should investigate which social channels your target audience is most active on and how they engage. This will help you decide which social channels you will focus on — a strategic decision.

You will also need to do an audit of your social media activity and that of your competitors. As part of this audit you should look at which social posts have the highest level of engagement, how the use of paid social has worked, and what reactions you and your competitors are getting. You might discover an opportunity around content formats. For example, at the moment native video performs very well on Facebook. Perhaps none of your competitors are using it, and you may want to make a strategic decision that a big part of your Facebook content should be native video.

Perhaps you also discover a major obstacle: the organic reach of your Facebook posts for your last event were poor due to the Facebook algorithm. So, you have a lot of Facebook fans, but they are not seeing your content. You have now identified a key challenge. A strategy to overcome this would be to use some paid media to promote highly shareable content that will be shared by your Facebook fans from their own personal profiles, thereby circumventing the Facebook Page algorithm.

In the research phase, use social listening to understand the needs of your audience. What questions do they ask on social media and forums? What subjects and type of content seem to be most popular with them? What blogs do they read? Which social influencers do they engage with? The insights you get from this activity will be useful when developing your social content plan, your influencer plan and your social listening activities. You might discover that your competitors have a lot more social advocates. Now, you’ve identified another key challenge. A strategic response would be to recruit your own, more influential, social advocates.

The research phase can include the use of tools such as Socialbakers, Salesforce Social Studio, Sysomos and more. If you don’t have access to these tools, use Twitter Search, Google Search, Google Alerts and Trends. Looking at the native analytics tools for each social channel can also be very helpful. Talk to your customers and prospects during this research phase, and use your interview and survey data to develop personas that you will use when developing your social content plan.

You also need to research yourself. This means that you need to fully understand your event and your organization. Talk to the person who has ultimate responsibility for delivering the event to find out what they really hope to achieve. What challenges are they most concerned about? Talk to the other marketers working on the event. Is there a communications plan that you need to be aware of? Do they have any messaging that you need to incorporate into your social media plan? Remember that social media is there to serve both your customers and your company. It can’t perform in a bubble. You need to have a very clear understanding of the objectives of the event and what everyone else on the event team is hoping to achieve.

Selecting Social Media Channels

Social channel selection is a key part of your social media strategy. It is not possible to be on every channel or dedicate resources equally across the channels you select. Pick three channels and choose one of them to be the core for your event. This needs to be a strategic decision. Remember that strategy means identifying the biggest challenge to your success and finding a way to overcome it.

Don’t just blindly hook onto the channels that your competitors are using without looking at their performance on those channels. For example, if you’re in B2B, then you might see all your competitors on LinkedIn. You could face a massive challenge to stand out against more established competitors there. So, how about looking at Facebook and the 50 million businesses active there? You may have just found a strategic solution to a big challenge.

Leave room in your plan for one additional channel to be your experimentation channel. You may have a hunch about a comparatively new channel. You feel it might work for you — but, exactly how remains to be seen. You can try a few things to see how your audience responds before developing a full plan for that channel.

Put your target customers at the center of your selection, and use the insights from the research phase to guide your decision. Don’t take a lazy approach to channel selection by thinking that you can sustain multiple channels with the same content — you can’t.

While it is tempting to look at your selections as complementary and repurpose content, you can’t share the same content across all your channels. People that follow you across multiple channels will get bored and your engagement rates will suffer. Facebook and Twitter are as different as radio and TV. Consider your social media value proposition and how you can deliver this in different ways across different social media channels.

This article first appeared in VTQ Magazine. 
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