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Thanks to social media, event marketing has evolved exponentially in the past two decades. Few things have changed the cultural zeitgeist so thoroughly as these new digital tools. In recent years, social media promotion has become a vital and highly effective event marketing strategy, thanks to its low cost and extensive reach. But in the swiftly changing world of hashtags and stories and reels, even the most seasoned planners may be at a loss when it comes to juggling the many platforms and types of content.

When it comes to using social media to promote meetings and events, here’s what experts had to say about maximizing ROI and developing a winning strategy.

Where and What to Post

Planners can promote their events on many social media platforms, making it challenging to decide what to post on which platform.

For starters, it’s a good idea to at least have a presence on all platforms, including Facebook, X (formerly known as Twitter), Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn and Tik Tok.

“We’re on all platforms because that’s where we need to be,” said Jeanette Stensgaard, founder and owner of ShePlans Co., a Colorado-based event planning company.

A planner will likely use some of these platforms more than others, depending on the demographics of the event’s target audience, including age and occupation. For example, if a planner is trying to promote an event to baby boomers, Facebook will perform much better than Tik Tok and Instagram, which are primarily used by younger generations. If the event is geared toward professionals, LinkedIn is a particularly good resource. It all comes down to knowing an audience and what social media they prefer. And if planners want to draw in the general public, diversifying platforms will cast a wider net.

“We put together different campaigns, and depending on the event, we would structure that campaign to reach a certain audience,” said Aurice Guyton, founder and lead planner at Aurice Guyton Events, an event planning company based in San Francisco.

Guyton said if the event she’s promoting is a conference, highlighting the keynote speakers and sponsors would be prudent; if the event is a festival, she would highlight food and entertainment.

While the content depends on the event itself, there are rules and trends for planners to follow when it comes to social media marketing: Visuals, and especially video, are everything. Whether that’s using Tik Tok videos and Instagram Reels to show off the event or going live on platforms like Facebook and Twitter, video is in right now.

“Video draws you in and paints a picture of what the event will look like,” said Guyton. “You can see how much fun people are having. It creates that FOMO [fear of missing out].”

Another noteworthy observation from the experts: Posts that focus on people and emotions tend to get more engagement than simple pieces of information.

“We’ve found the posts we do that involve people and are from our events perform the best versus a stagnant piece of content,” said Jessica Rife, events director at E Source, a research and data science firm based in Colorado.

Engage with Your Audience

Social media users are constantly being bombarded with information and advertising on their feeds, so creating content that actively engages them is crucial.

Connecting with an audience isn’t just about catching their eye; it’s also about building relationships and establishing a positive image of the event’s brand.

“They have to see you’re trustworthy, that you’re reliable, that your company or team is dependable, because you want to build that trust factor,” Guyton said. “Doing that, you build a community of people who will then follow you, then attend your festival.”

Stensgaard also encouraged planners to “actively engage and build relationships to create buzz around the event.”

One way to create this community and engage an online audience is using the interactive features of social media, such as hashtags, which invite everyone to take part. Hashtags organize all posts from attendees and organizers alike to create a centralized online presence for the event. Polls, quizzes, live-streaming and even contests can also be utilized to get future attendees involved leading up to the event.

Another way for planners to interact with the audience is to ensure they’re responding to their comments promptly, answering questions and interacting with audience social media posts. Many attendees post about events using hashtags, and simply sharing their post or commenting is a friendly gesture that strengthens relationships.

Timing is Everything

One of the most important things about a social media marketing strategy is the timing of posts. Planners must strike a delicate balance between keeping their event in the spotlight and not overwhelming or annoying their audience with posts.

“Whenever we know we’re going to have that content, we map that out in the marketing calendar,” Stensgaard said.

This marketing calendar should use the event’s important dates, such as registration deadlines, as markers for social media posts. This will ensure the content is well organized and posted consistently.

“My annual conference is in September, so we will typically send out a save-the-date in late January or early February and build out from there,” Rife said. “As it gets closer, within that three-month window, we’re doing more content than the first several months.”

The first pieces of event marketing can be far out, just to get the event on the attendees’ radar. But as the event draws nearer, more frequent posts are necessary to build excitement.

Guyton recommends not releasing all the information at once. While basic details can be included in the save-the-date or registration reminders, posting about the more exciting details, such as keynote speakers, live entertainment or exciting activities is a way to pique prospective attendees’ interest and generate buzz.

“We ramp it up closer to the event,” Guyton said.

As far as what time of day to post, most social media platforms allow users to analyze what time of day their audience is online. Planners should post during peak online hours to increase the chances of engagement.

To Delegate or Not

One question looming large among planners is whether they should hire someone to help with their social media. The consensus is yes, if a planner can afford it.

“I do delegate that,” said Rife. “Social media is a really creative role, and you want someone who is going to have fun with it.”

Stensgaard agreed it could be a wise investment because it takes a lot of time and know-how to create content and then curate it as part of a marketing strategy.

“With having a person on staff like a social media manager, you get that research and someone who is there for strategic review and reviewing the clicks, watching the algorithms,” said Stensgaard.

However, Guyton warns planners to do their homework when it comes to hiring social media help, because there’s a difference between an intern that has social media accounts and a social media marketing expert.

“A really good social media content person isn’t cheap,” said Guyton. “But if they’re professional, they can show you the profiles, the other brands they’ve worked with, and you can see if it aligns with what you do.”

If a planner can’t afford a quality social media content staff, they can still do it themselves. Stensgaard recommends sites such as Hootsuite to act as a centralized platform for creating and scheduling their social media content.

A planner can also outsource some of the more technical elements of social media without hiring someone full-time. If video editing or infographic making isn’t their strong suit but they still want to make engaging content, Guyton recommends looking to platforms like Upwork and Fiverr for good deals on video editing or small graphic design projects.