Social Media continues to grow as a channel in the integrated Event Marketing mix. Any of a myriad of surveys and polls validates this trend, including one conducted by eMarketer, which notes 60% of the respondents planning to increase spend in Social Media in 2010. The confluence of the platforms and technologies available and the recession has, in short, driven Event Marketers to look at Social Media as an avenue to cost-effectively generate interest and demand for event portfolios.
There are a slew of Social Media options available, and new ones appear almost daily. But Event Marketing strategies, tactics and campaigns don’t have the luxury of waiting for the next big platform: once an event – either live or virtual - is set, marketing commences with the tools in hand. Which begs the question: in which basket should Event Marketing leaders place today's eggs?
The over-arching answer, of course, is to explore and test a variety of social media platforms to determine what works. My take is that social media in the communications space: blogs and micro-blogs (i.e. Twitter), professional and social networking sites (LinkedIn, Facebook), and content-sharing platforms (YouTube, Flickr, SlideShare, etc.) are the keys for Event Marketing. Between them, an Event Marketing campaign team should develop a strong social media mix to support an event or event portfolio.
HOWEVER, I also think these all are only pieces of the ultimate goal: engagement. Continued, ongoing engagement. Social media has quickly brought many changes to Event Marketing, including the altering traditional communication strategies for both attendees and prospects. Event Marketing communication should no longer be on an “as needed” basis, tactically starting at X weeks out with a Save the Date email and ending with a post-event Thank You email, then re-ramping when the next promotional cycle ensues. Instead, B2B audiences will increasingly come to anticipate and expect social media-driven communities, networks and forums in which interaction – and engagement – is ongoing. Event marketing leaders who invest their increased Social Media spend in this arena will, in short, have the most to gain.
At a minimum, utilizing LinkedIn and Facebook both for their Event listing capability and Group feature (and, with Facebook, for its Fan Page) should be a starting point. Ning is another platform which, while mirroring LinkedIn, is set up for individual networks and communities. (If you are not familiar with Ning, do check out Eventpeeps.com, a site is built in Ning.) And of course, there are software options available as well. Pathable is one example of such software, this one happens to be event-specific and acts as an aggregator of various SM platforms. (I am not affailiated with or endorsing any of the above, but noting them as the types of options available. Please use due diligence if you explore them.)
Planning and executing Event Marketing using Social Media is a topic and discussion for another post: the take-away here is, if you have not already, begin to take a serious look at how you can start building continued, vital communities as a continued engagement strategy surrounding your events.