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Leverage Event–Based Social Media

Posted on 4.30.2008

Generate Web Site Traffic and Brand Awareness

by Christopher Smith, Creative Director - Media Trust


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Today’s online culture is about participating in conversations and creating communities where people can share ideas. Similarly (and more traditionally), conferences create conversations between people with similar interests and common goals. As marketers, we spend a lot of time attending conferences – it seems logical that we should connect these two like items together. There are many ways to create and leverage event-based social media to generate Web site traffic and brand awareness long after the conference has ended.

Over the years, I’ve found that there are various types of conferences, tradeshows and events. I like to break them down into two categories:

  1. Shared learning events where education and knowledge transfer are key, and
  2. Vendor-saturated events where the show floor consists of companies introducing you to their products.

The key to any social media marketing strategy is to first have a keen understanding of your market and its tie-in with the event you plan on attending. For example, the recent South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference held each year in Austin, Texas – this conference brings together an extremely diverse audience from the music, interactive and film industries. While an audience this diverse may seem advantageous, it can create a challenge for a marketer trying to start a conversation with a targeted portion of these folks. Therefore, before you get started, its important to understand how your marketing objectives align with your conference goals. Once you understand this, you are ready to start planning your event-based social media.


ESTABLISHING YOUR PERSPECTIVE

Since social media marketing takes advantage of the combination of technology, social interaction and rapid dissemination of your message, you have to get it right the first time. The first step is research.

The role of a social media marketer is very much like that of an anthropologist, using the evidence of a culture’s history to predict future behaviors. So, after choosing an event that you feel would be of the most interest to your audience, begin by researching past events.

I believe that the best starting point in your research is to establish a perspective or point of view that will be compelling to your audience and will capture their attention, interest and imagination. Social media marketing is about “being” social, so any successful campaign needs to be able to “mingle” with the community; generating insightful, unique and newsworthy dialogue at each event.

Second, establish a perspective that supports the mission of your brand. For example, at SXSW, attendees might be artists that would like to increase the level of control they have in expressing, monetizing and distributing their content online. Once you understand your audience and their objectives create a campaign that will empower them while driving traffic to your website. A smart idea could be to interview artists on their passions and post the interviews exclusively to your site. In order to do this, you need to schedule time with these artists.


CHOOSING YOUR WEAPONS

In order to execute your campaign onsite, it pays to engage with attendees before the conference begins. At SXSW, attendees were connecting to each other through Facebook, Twitter and even company blogs weeks before the conference began. The discussion had started, and companies that engaged in social media were already sending people to their websites and promoting their brands.


GET IT TOGETHER

Since a large portion of the SXSW conference focused on interactive media, it was an efficient use of efforts to look at the supporting website for clues as to what technologies were in play this year. We discovered that one of the key platforms this year was sched.org. The team at Sched had imported the entire SXSW conference schedule including panels, film times and parties into their platform. After creating a simple username, attendees were able to create individual and group schedules, and could view the list of others that had selected the same sessions. Attendees could export calendars that could be shared to keep track of our meeting schedules, panels to attend, and parties where we thought the next set of interviews might come from. Effective, yet flexible scheduling is a key to any social media marketing campaign. Use scheduling methods such as this to find ways to locate your audience.


THE SOCIAL GPS

In 2007, Twitter made an enormous impact from SXSW and emerged as the leader in micro-blogging at events such as this. So it makes sense to include a Twitter component in social media campaigns. Employees can use existing Twitter accounts to broadcast interview plans for SXSW and invite our Twitter community to follow our interactions. Post messages to boards, blogs and other social platforms that include a call for interviews, and ensure that your Twitter name is included. This year at SXSW, Twitter continued to be the social GPS of the event with tweets like “Billy Bob Thorton is in the Dell Lounge right now” or “@groovemonkey We are in line for the Rock Band Party. Password is drum solo.”


IT’S ALL ABOUT TUBES
Once the interviews are scheduled and conducted, figure out your initial method of distribution. Tubemogul provides a video distribution platform to over 15 different video sharing websites, as well as a rich set of metrics to help measure the success of your campaigns. Users can publish once or distribute widely, and then spend more time interacting with the communities that inspired you to generate high-quality content in the first place.


ONCE YOU CAPTURE IT, SET IT FREE

The final piece of every social media campaign is the widespread distribution of the conversations that you have gathered. It is not enough to just capture insightful interviews or well-positioned marketing pitches. Campaigns must be seen and heard and interacted with in order to be successful. Tools such as Digg, StumbleUpon, and del.icio.us are great examples of social bookmarking. Video sharing platforms such as Blip.tv, YouTube and Veoh continue to be used as a way to integrate user-generated video in social media campaigns. Facebook will continue to be an excellent place to provide and disseminate your campaign, as well as the host of blogs, websites and platforms that your audience follows. Leverage the research you did upfront and use the communities that helped define your campaign goals. They are likely the ones that will be the most useful in disseminating your piece of the conversation.


WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE

Using social media in your marketing execution is about making the most of technology, perspective and interaction, in order to capture the attention of the end-consumer and relate to them in a meaningful and relevant way. This helps build relationships and connections with your brand. If your point of view for the campaign is relevant to your audience it will be engaging, insightful and valuable.

The platforms and tools that you select must also be relevant to your audience or your message will be missed. Facebook, YouTube and MySpace are all established platforms for your social media campaigns. Blogs and other micro-publishing platforms such as Tumblr and Twitter will continue to grow in popularity. Social Bookmarking sites will also continue to expand and show value in the tool box of the marketer that uses social media to participate in the conversation.

The final key to social media marketing is that there really is no end to the conversation. Fresh voices will emerge, additional perspectives will be added to the mix and new technology will surface that will continue to push the notions of social media. This will continue to challenge the marketer to find effective, relevant, noteworthy events and tools to engage their consumers in the conversation. The question becomes, will you be ready to participate?

About the Author
Over the past decade, Christopher Smith has helped companies build brands online including Apple, Disney, Nextel, Phillips and Quicksilver. Christopher is currently the creative director for MediaTrust, an ecosystem of online media properties. Visit www.relevantlyspeaking.com to see how MediaTrust leveraged social media at SXSW to generate Web site traffic.

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