When you’re planning a virtual event, there’s a lot to keep track of. From booking speakers to checking sound and camera systems are working, it’s easy to get caught up in the details.
As well as promoting your event on social media, you also want to think about how you’ll handle social media engagement before, during, and after your virtual event.
Here are the 8 different phases you’ll need to think through—and some tips for winning at social media with every single one of them.
Phase #1: Coming Up With the Idea for Your Event
Social media engagement surrounding your event begins much earlier than you might think. It doesn’t start when you announce your event—instead, it begins when you’re coming up with the idea or concept for your event.
Once you’ve decided that you’d like to run a virtual event, whether that’s a virtual conference, a virtual job fair, or something else entirely, you want to figure out exactly what will go down well with your target audience. That means listening to what they’re saying, understanding their struggles and goals, and figuring out what topic would work best for you and for them.
Tip: Run a poll, asking people to choose between several different ideas for your event. You might be surprised by what comes out as the most popular. If two ideas are equally popular, that’s no problem—you can do one event now and one in the future.
Phase #2: Fleshing Out the Details of Your Event
As soon as you’ve pinned down an idea for your virtual event, you can turn to social media to help you figure out the details.
This could include asking your social media followers for their suggestions on:
- What speakers or brands would they like you to invite to the event?
- How would they like the event to be formatted? (e.g. do they want lots of opportunities to interact with other attendees, or would they prefer simply to listen and watch?)
- What days and times work best for them? For a B2B event, you’ll want to go for a weekday during business hours. But if you’re running an event aimed at consumers, it might make more sense to have it in an evening or at a weekend.
By giving your social media followers a say on how you structure and plan your event, you’ll help them to invest in it … making it much more likely that they’ll attend.
Tip: You won’t be able to please everyone. Generally, it makes sense to go with the most popular option when you give your audience a choice. If two options are equally popular, simply go with whatever’s easiest for you and your company. After all, you’re the ones running the event.
Phase #3: Building the Buzz As Your Event Gets Closer
As the date of your event draws nearer, make sure you have a plan for building the buzz on social media. It’s a good idea to start producing content well ahead of time, as you’ll have lots of moving pieces to take care of as the big day approaches.
You might want to publish a steady stream of content like:
- Photos, bios, and/or short videos of the speakers for your event. Make sure you tag the speakers (if they’re on the social channel you’re using) so that they can share the content about your event, too.
- White papers, “cheat sheets”, workbooks or other useful downloads that link into your event.
- Tips on how to get the most from the event: this is a great way to subtly promote it to people who haven’t yet joined up, as well as an opportunity to fully engage those who’ve already got their ticket.
- Quotes from people who’re planning to attend—publishing this content could be as simple as retweeting them.
- Details about the sponsors for your event: this could potentially form part of your sponsorship package.
Tip: Don’t go too overboard with your social media activity too far ahead of the event. Instead, try gradually ramping up the amount of event-related content you publish as the date gets nearer.
Phase #4: Kicking Off Your Event With a Bang
It’s time! All the planning and preparation is about to pay off, as your event is here. Make sure you send out reminders on social media in the hours and minutes beforehand: you’ll be sure to get some last-minute sign-ups. Plus, you’ll re-capture people who might have signed up but forgotten about it—this is very common with free online events.
Make sure you have an event hashtag for people to use on social media and encourage them to share what they’re excited for or what they’re enjoying as the event progresses.
Tip: Check that your hashtag isn’t already being used by another event. Also, make sure it can’t be misinterpreted: there are plenty of past hashtags that fail to learn from so that you avoid your event getting attention for all the wrong reasons.
Phase #5: Keeping On Top of the Social Media Conversation During Your Event
While you might be busy introducing speakers and MCing your event, it’s important not to forget that the social media chat will keep going without you.
You need at least one person on your team whose job it is to monitor mentions of your event on social media while the event is happening. This really is crucial.
You want to be able to share positive messages and respond to any negative ones or problems about the event. For instance, if someone is tweeting that your event audio is awful and they can barely hear the speaker, you want to get that fixed ASAP.
Plus, responding on social media creates a real sense of online community and engagement around your event. By replying in real-time, rather than hours later after the event is over, you can build a strong relationship with people who are—right now—focused on your event and brand.
Tip: Don’t try to juggle too much yourself. You need to stay focused on the event: get someone else to handle social media and to only rope you in if there’s a true emergency.
Phase #6: Promoting Your Sponsors During the Event
As well as promoting your sponsors in your virtual event itself, you’ll want to promote them on social media during the event (and likely before and after it, too). You might ask your sponsors to provide specific assets, like their logo, a photo they want you to use, plus a sentence or two about their product or service.
You could then use a Canva template or similar to create social media content for each sponsor—branded with your event hashtag or website URL. Queue these up to go out during your event—and before and after it too, if possible.
If sponsors have a special offer for new customers who buy before the end of your event, you’ll want to make sure you promote that as well.
Tip: Make sure you tag sponsors and encourage them to share posts about the event. You may want to send them some details before the event about what they can expect on social media.
Phase #7: Wrapping Up Your Event
At the end of your event, social media can be an important part of drawing things to a close. You might want to take questions from social media as well as through your virtual event chat system. You could also encourage people to tweet their key takeaways, to share what they enjoyed most through a comment on your Facebook post, or similar.
You may well find that attendees who are silent in your forums or chat are happy to engage through social media. Remember, they’ll likely use whatever tool they’re most familiar and comfortable with—so meet them where they are.
This is also a great time to share a feedback form: encourage attendees to fill this out to let you know what they enjoyed most and what they’d like to see done differently next time.
Tip: You, or someone on your team, could share a few takeaways or highlights too. Kicking things off in this way can help encourage others to join the conversation.
Phase #8: Keeping the Party Going After the Event
In real life, you might have an after-party to keep hanging out with your attendees after your event. And social media lets you do that online. Make sure you keep some time free after your event so you can hang out, chat to attendees, and thank them for coming.
You might also want to plan some extra content to share during this time, like a “goodie bag” of useful downloads from your speakers and sponsors. This is also a good opportunity to make sure you’ve answered any lingering questions from attendees.
Tip: As always on social media, don’t get drawn into an argument. If someone disliked your event or had issues with a particular speaker, invite them to send you a direct message so you can address their concerns privately.
Virtual events are a fantastic way to strengthen your engagement with your existing social media audience—and to draw new people in, too.
Make sure you have a clear plan for how to handle social media engagement before, during, and after your event. As with any aspect of event management, the more you can prepare ahead of time, the more smoothly it will go!