With the spring event season behind us and the fall event season soon to arrive, now is the time to evaluate how to increase the effectiveness of your social media marketing for events. While we always encourage having a specific social media strategy for each event – be it an annual gala, professional development seminar or even a conference your team is attending – there is often a common theme among the questions we field. Ranking at the top? How to properly use hashtags for event marketing. Let’s start with the basics…
What makes a good hashtag?
Succinct. Unique. Relevant. Branded. While hashtags like #NYC, #puppies and #foodie are all well and fine, they aren’t specific enough to enhance a brand social media presence. When thinking of a hashtag for your next event think about the clearest and shortest ID tag that you can tack onto online conversations. Sometimes this entails acronyms and abbreviations, other times it entails creating your own word. The key is to make sure that it isn’t hogging a lot of characters within each tweet and that it is easy for guests, employees, volunteers, etc. to remember. It’s also important to search Twitter to be sure your hashtag isn’t already in use.
When does an event warrant a hashtag?
Professional development conferences have become known for having their own unique hashtags – #FRDNY, #PRSAICON or #SXSWi, anyone? Many nonprofits have also latched on to using hashtags for major fundraisers such as galas and golf tournaments. While there isn’t a universal answer as to when it is or is not appropriate to create an event hashtag, some general parameters to follow, include: an event that is large enough to carry a social conversation (if you have 20 people attending a small luncheon and none are social media savvy, time spent creating an event hashtag isn’t marketing manpower well spent); an event from which a member of your team can disseminate live updates; and, an event that is meaningful to your brand or cause and supports its long-term strategic goals.
How do you drive hashtag usage leading up to, during and following events?
It’s truly as simple as saying, “Join the conversation.” Whether you’re drafting a pre-event e-blast or preparing the event program, make sure the hashtag is prominently displayed and reinforced before, during and after the event. For example, include it in the events opening remarks, hang a sign next to the photo booth at your gala encouraging people to share their own photos using the event hashtag and encourage people to share their top conference takeaways using the hashtag following your event.
While hashtags are only one small portion of an effective social media marketing program for events, a well-conceived hashtag helps to sort conversations, bolster attendee engagement and generate third-party content that enhances the visibility and equity of a cause or brand.