Gone are the days of boring Evites and untargeted email blasts. Today’s event attendee is much more socially savvy, and it’s time to step up your game. Traditional event planners are starting to learn that the best parties integrate a social element, and the wisest of these PR folks know it has to be built into the event from the beginning. From initial brainstorms to post party pow-wows, a truly successful soiree works social into the entire planning process. No, it’s not as easy as flipping on a magic social switch (those don’t exist!) or creating a Facebook invite and expecting everyone to show up, but it can be executed pretty seamlessly if you’re organized from the start. Feeling overwhelmed? Thunder is here to save the day!
Before the Event
Get together with everyone that has a part in the event, from PR and marketing to operations and accounting (hello budget!), and start thinking about the goals of the party. Is it to spread awareness about a new book release, get people on your property, or to create goodwill in the community? After you know what your event’s purpose is, you can start throwing around some ideas about creating buzz.
- Write a blog post about the event in the very beginning stages and share exclusive details with your followers. Include links to sponsors, specific times and instructions, and a place to RSVP.
- Give your readers a sneak peek into the planning process and ask them for ideas. Ask your fans if they’d rather have house music or a jazz quartet, or what their drink of choice is. Get the conversation started, and find out what would make this party the cat’s pajamas.
- Setup a Facebook invite and reward your fans for RSVPing. Ask your followers to RT a link to the event in exchange for extra raffle or drink tickets.
- Amp up your current social networking efforts. Follow Twitter profiles in the community that you would want at your event, or profiles that are authoritative in your niche. Don’t expect them to do you any favors until you’ve patted their back. RT links to their posts, answer questions, and build up communication slowly.
- Create a private Twitter list and follow these tweets carefully, promoting where appropriate. Reach out to the “mavens” in your community and tell them about the event. Don’t blatantly ask them to blog or tweet about it, but instead explain why you follow their blog and how the festivites would pertain to their readers.
- Decide on an event #hashtag and start using it now. Create curiosity, and those RSVPs will start flowing in. There are several ways to live stream tweets, so pick your solution ahead of time to reduce the technical difficulties. We like TweetWall Live.
Image: JK Mobile DJs
During the Event
The big day is here! Hopefully, you’ve spent your time well promoting the event beforehand, and reached your capacity goals. In the old days, promotion stopped right at the event’s start, but nowadays, it lasts throughout the whole night and for weeks afterwards. Make this a night they won’t forget!
- Have someone live tweeting and updating the fan page from the event. Use the pre-determined #hashtag in all of the tweets and RT other tweets that @reply your profile or use the #hashtag.
- Share photos of attendees, cuisine, special attractions, and decorations, and respond to feedback on those posts. Tweet updates like “Beef sliders from @Hamiltons coming out in 5 minutes by the pool, see you in line! #AwesomeEvent” Be sure to make everyone that did not come extra jealous!
- Encourage new fans to stay in touch by signing up for an email list. Capture that info!
- Hold special raffles that only allow participation through social networks. Ask everyone to pull out their smartphone and answer a trivia question about the business (or whatever!). The first correct tweet to pop up on the TweetWall wins a special prize, or more drink tickets (those never get old).
- Setup FourSquare specials and tips at the event. Reward checkins with exclusive prizes, and challenge attendees to oust the mayor. Shout things like “don’t miss the photobooth” or “meet me in Margararitaville and we’ll toast to cheeseburgers in paradise.”
- Keep guests on the tips of their toes with fun activities throughout the night. Setup a scavenger hunt highlighting different areas of the party you want them to see. Ask them to check in with an app like SCVNGR or instruct them to take photos of each station. Reward those that visit each destination with goodies and, you guessed it, more drink tickets!!
After the Event
Phew, the event is over, and it was a huge social success! Or was it? What did we do right and what could be better for next time? There was magic, but how can we keep the momentum going?
- Calculate event ROI. Depending on the party’s goals, this could be easy or difficult. If the goal was to get people onto the apartment property, find out how many people signed leases or added themselves to the email list. If the goal is to create buzz about the business, check how many RT’d event tweets or became fans of the business’ Facebook page. Check for blog posts written before and after the evening, and respond to this coverage.
- Post all of the photos to the fan page shortly after the event and ask fans to tag themselves.
- Read through the #hashtag stream and see if there’s anything you could have done to make it a bigger success. Was the theater too chilly for your guests? Did the martini bar fail to impress? Were the raffle prizes a big hit or should you have splurged for that iPad? Respond to the tweets and updates promising to improve next time.
- Pow-wow with your team and figure out what went well and what has to change for your next extraordinary event. Move on from the setbacks and find more ways to reap the benefits of your successes.
There you have it! I hope this post helped you get your head around some ideas for your next extravaganza. You shouldn’t think of social as this huge silo happening outside your event planning process. Instead, take what you normally do and find a way to bring it online. It’s not that difficult, but your fans and followers are demanding it, so you should