Sunday, November 21, 2010

Social Media Event planning

Social media for events

Anyone involved in a campus organization, or remotely knows anybody involved in a campus organization, is frequently faced with a barrage of Facebook invitations to various events the group is hosting. I remember the first specific organization event I was invited to, it was a University Democrats meeting the spring of my freshman year. The volunteer coordinator decided to make an event for Dr. Jensen speaking at the meeting, and the meeting was subsequently packed. From then on, every University Democrats meeting had a Facebook event, but diminishing returns took its toll and the impact now is virtually nil, because they are using social media completely wrong when preparing for an event.

Mashable suggests 5 ways to utilize social media for an event: help attendees connect with each other, broaden participation, encourage attendees to share information, provide recreation, and put it all together.

The most important suggestions for students to take away from the list are broaden participation and encourage attendees to share information. Broadening participation simply means allowing those who aren't at the event to enjoy some of its experiences. Not all, but most, student events are extremely behind in this sense. There is no reason why every event isn't live tweeted, or even broadcast online.

Secondly is sharing information. While this concept is obvious to multimedia students, to others, it is less clear. For a social network event to be successful the creators of the event need to solicit conversation and information sharing from members attending the event. This performs two functions. 1) It gives members more of a stake in attending the event, because they have already put time and effort into planning it, and 2) It shows everybody that lots of people are attending and excited about the event, and the more people that people perceive will attend an event the greater the hype is and more people will attend.

Mashable also has advice for using social media to enhance events. The most valuable advice they give is to "engage attendees in conversation before, during and after the event. It’s an innovative approach that integrates social media throughout the entire process."

This is the concept lost on most college students. While they are excellent and expeditious at using social media to inform about events, they tend to be seriously disabled when it comes to using it before and after. Some tips are having the event organizer actively engage in conversations leading up to the event, livetweeting throughout the event, and then reaching out to attendees for advice about improving the event afterward.

Take this Facebook event for a speaker on campus. I know all the important details based on it, but there is no presence on the wall and I haven't received any messages or solicitations. Subsequently, I know about the event, but am not anticipating it at all and don't plan to attend.

To wrap up, social media can do wonders for events, but when using it for event planning then make sure to engage the audience, encourage attendees to engage each other, and make it an organic and continuous process.

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