I remember one of the first events I ever did live social media from. I was working for a Fortune 500 company and was only two months in on the job when we were invited to be a part of a live awards ceremony in Hollywood. Leonardo DiCaprio was literally sitting a few people away from me the entire night. Talk about a distraction! While I tried to work with our photographer and stay on-plan for the night, we lost contact about five minutes into the event. He was pulled into a million directions, Wi-Fi on his camera went out, and I was pulled in my own million directions.
On top of that, Instagram became the main platform that we live posted to, and, had I known that, I would have prepared quite a few more hashtags to throw into the mix.
Thank God for the celebrity power at the event, because it ended up overshadowing the hodge podge of posts that were coming through and the less than lackluster photos we ended up using from my iPhone since the WiFi went out.
The fact is, no one knew there were any issues at all except the internal team who created the initial plan for the event. The other fact is, no matter how well you plan your event communications strategy down to the last detail, it will NOT go as planned. That is just a fact of life, and social media.
I walked away from that lovely awards show with a new strategy of how to create flexible social media strategies for live events that would succeed no matter what went wrong during a particular event, because things go wrong during events.
Here are five tips that I live by before executing live social media for any event, of any size, for any brand:
Create Social Media Tool Kits
Social media tool kits are a LIFESAVER. Seriously. Before any event, I create customized toolkits for each executive that will be at the event, and a general toolkit for every attendee. These tool kits include all of the relevant hashtags that should be used at the event, with examples of how to use each one. I also include the handles for the brand and anyone else relevant that is taking part in the event. I then also provide examples of how to tag each person in a tweet. I make sure to end each toolkit with my direct contact information in case anyone has a question during the event.
Build Your Own Team
I ask for a list as soon as it is available of any other staff attending the event, and then I see which staff members are attending that I know are good at social media. I spend the next few days taking those staff members to coffee, catching up with them on their lives, anything I can possibly do to recruit them to assist with social media while they are attending the event. I’ve recruited staff to do everything from send me pictures because they have better seats than I do, to send quotes from their own Twitter handles that I can easily retweet and re-purpose for the brand. It also helps to recruit someone who has all of the insider info on the event, so you are the first to know when something changes and can quickly adjust the social media strategy.
Wi-Fi Connected Photographer
This day in age, you absolutely have to hire a photographer that has WiFi capabilities on their camera. Even though the WiFi did not work at the event I mentioned earlier in this post, it did work at other points during other events and was a charm. WiFi on a camera allows the photographer to send you professional photos in an instant to your phone or computer. Gone are the days where there is time for the photographer to take out the card, go through the photos on a laptop, and send a photo to you. I also suggest that if you have the budget for it, you hire a photographer that is social media only. This will change your life and allow you to access photos quicker and get the exact photos you need.
Have A Back-Up Plan
Always, always, always have a back-up plan for live events. Before every event, I gather as much information as I can about the event and pull together some generic tweets and images. I have these tweets and images ready to go in case something happens at the event to where I cannot source images or quotes like I need to. I also suggest leaving one team member behind at the office when attending events. This ensures there is always at least one team member with WiFi, cell service and editing software that can access the social media networks. Even in places that have great WiFi, it can stop working when there are enough people trying to login to the system.
This is one of the most critical parts of a live-event social media strategy. With a huge focus on user-generated content, your role also has to be encouraging event attendees to use appropriate hashtags and send tweets/IG posts out of sociable moments. I make sure to meet everyone I can while at an event, explain that I am the Social Media Manager and then share tips with them on what would be great for them to share on their own social media channels. I will even spend time at events getting an attendee signed up on Twitter. The more people you can educate and recruit, the better and more authentic your social media will be.
Live events are some of the trickiest moments for social media, but if you come prepared with these few tricks, you will not be left like a deer in the headlights when things go awry. Do you have some tips of your own? Share them in the comments below! - Marji J. Sherman