By Ronnie Wendt
Just about every meeting or event has a Facebook business page. But what does your Facebook page activity report look like? Do you see any new likes? How many people are looking at your posts? What about interacting with your followers?
If your answers to these questions are something along the lines of: We have a handful of new likes, and here and there people like our posts but they typically do not comment on them, you have a problem.
When it comes to social media, success isn’t found in how often you post but in whether people engage with your posts. Posting more frequently can help boost social media likes and may give your meeting or event needed attention, but there is more to this story.
CONTENT IS KING
Planners hoping to promote a meeting or event often utilize social media platforms incorrectly, according to Spencer X. Smith, Founder of AmpliPhi Social Media Strategies. He sees planners using these platforms to promote the meeting itself and entice people to sign up. While there is a place for this, he reports this cannot comprise all that you do online.
“Too often planners use social media to get people to do something for them. They ask them to sign up for this, buy this, attend this, and after a while people stop looking at their posts,” notes Smith.
Social media expert Alice Martin, founder of Shroom Social, a Phoenix, Arizona, social media firm that helps companies maximize their social media efforts, agrees: “You want to be providing them with information that enriches their lives. If you do this, you’re going to get engagement [with your posts]. People don’t want to be sold.”
The key word here is engagement. The content you post cannot just promote the meeting or event, it needs to engage followers in meaningful conversations.
“You need to know whom you’re serving, and then from there ask yourself how you can start conversations with them in the public sphere,” Smith says.
Posing a question, he says, is one way to get followers talking. Another way is to write regular pieces on someone involved with your event performing charitable work for the community or to better the industry you serve.
“If you are a nationally-led association, and you are highlighting one of your 10,000 members and sharing her best practices, other people will come out of the woodwork and say, ‘I’m glad you highlighted the work she’s doing, I’d love to share what’s working for me as well. Can you help tell that story?’” he says. “You’ve now given your members a media platform as opposed to just an association because you are telling good stories for them.”
Leverage the power of video, Smith advises. “A lot of people won’t overtly like something or make a comment, they’ll just look at it and scroll by. If you upload a one- minute video, your reach will be better as they stop to watch them. Plus, videos are free to produce [and] free to broadcast,” he says.
As you do these things, Smith says, “Your social media page becomes more of a feel-good thing as opposed to a buy our stuff, sign up for our meeting, kind of thing. That’s a major paradigm shift for most conferences.”
KNOW THY PLATFORMS, AND USE THEM RIGHT
A big mistake that Martin sees planners make when posting online is using a tool, such as Hootsuite or Buffer, to disseminate the same message across all platforms. Though the goal is to get information out, she says, “You have to speak to each room, each space, each audience in a different way.”
According to Martin, Twitter is for “hear me” type messages; Facebook is for friends and family outreach; Instagram is for “see me” messages; and LinkedIn is for business-related content.
Let’s say you are hosting an event and trying to promote the keynote speaker. Tailor the message for each platform. For example: Tweet to broadcast that this is happening and include a brief chat with the speaker. Buy a Facebook ad to promote the event and the keynote speaker. Post a picture of the speaker and a link to his or her Instagram account on your Instagram account. Use LinkedIn to announce the speaker, provide his bio, the time of the keynote and include an offer for tickets. Later, employ Facebook Live to share information as the event unfolds.
Smith adds, “Twitter is also a really good way to gauge sentiment during meetings. Be sure to respond to others’ Tweets, with things like “Thanks for sharing this and attending the session.”
BOOSTING AND ADVERTISING
Smith and Martin both agree, “This is a pay-to-play space.” Don’t expect free posts to accomplish all your goals.
“Organic reach has dropped precipitously [in recent years],” says Smith. “If you’re putting out things that you want people to take action on, like sign up and come to our conference, you need to at least put some dollars behind it, so it shows up where people are likely to see it.”
They also stress that boosting a post is not the same as a Facebook ad. Yet, many planners mistakenly believe they are one in the same.
If a Facebook page has 500 likes, or followers, a single post might reach 40 of them. Boosting a post sends that same post out to followers of your page and their friends. Smith warns this is “probably the least effective, but easiest means, of getting the post out there. Advertising to those who already like your page is a way to do a very inexpensive ad spec.”
Before boosting, however, consider your recent posts and pick the best performing one to boost. Says Smith, “If you are posting three to four times a week, you should look at which post has gotten the most engagement, i.e. comments or likes or other metric, and put some ad dollars behind that one.”
A boost can target a specific audience and get pretty granular. But Martin says an ad offers these benefits and more.
She explains, “A boosted post will get you more likes. But a boost is not going to have the reach of an ad unless you already have a large audience. An ad is a call to action. You’re going to get less likes but you’re going to have a larger reach. However, that ad is going to cost a bit more.”
Smith encourages meeting planners to utilize Facebook Pixels to get the biggest bang for their social media advertising buck.
A Facebook Pixel, found in Facebook Ad Manager, is code that organizations can put on their meeting websites to help track conversions from Facebook ads. They can employ this data to optimize future ads, build targeted audiences and remarket to qualified leads. The code works by placing and triggering cookies that track users as they interact with your website and your Facebook ads.
Retargeting or remarketing puts your information in front of people who have visited your site before. Let’s say someone clicked on an ad encouraging them to sign up for an upcoming conference, but that’s as far as they went. Pixel puts that ad in front of them again to remind them about the conference and encourage them to sign up.
GET SOME HELP
Failing to put a dedicated employee in place to handle social media hampers many meeting and event planners’ social media efforts. Typically, this translates into inconsistent or nonexistent messaging, which in time leads to an audience that is no longer engaged, Martin warns.
She advises putting some money behind your social media efforts, whether you designate an internal employee to do it or you hire a company to do it for you. But do not sit back and let your social media pages languish and the content become stale.
“The time is now to build your audience,” she says. “The cost is low now, but I believe it’s going to increase with the next presidential election. There is a golden opportunity right now to inexpensively build your base and increase your audience.”
Ronnie Wendt is a freelance writer based in Waukesha, Wisconsin. She is editor of Wisconsin Meetings, a sister publication to Arizona Meetings & Events.