Businesses of all types and sizes have begun including social media events in their marketing mix, and with good reason. This digital strategy can be particularly rewarding for small and medium-sized businesses, says Amir Zonozi, chief strategy officer at digital marketing firm Zoomph. “Your community is your livelihood, and building an ecosystem around you not only benefits your business, it also allows you to become more valuable to your community by providing them with a platform for engaging one another.”
Twitter chats, Google Hangouts, and the like are incredibly useful as low-cost solutions for SMBs looking to optimize their social media presence and engage with their community, Zonozi says. By implementing a campaign with a specific value proposition, messaging, and hashtag, an SMB can build conversations with its community and connect with customers and prospects. “Holding a tweet-up type event provides a great talking point for a small or medium-sized business to have with its current or prospective customers,” agrees Jason Parks, owner of digital marketing agency The Media Captain. “An unforgettable social media event will show that your business is trendy and technologically savvy.”
Social media events vary by platform. For example, many SMBs create Facebook groups to host conversations on specific subjects, says Alena Van Dalen, event marketing manager at Event Strategy Group, which stages corporate events. “Twitter is known for the online TweetChat and offline tweet-ups (events where people who use Twitter come together to meet in person), which tend to focus on a specific hashtag or topic, respectively. Google+ offers the Hangout, which can be held privately or paired with YouTube for a live broadcast via Google Hangout On Air.” Newer social platforms are also making their way into the events space. Snapchat and Meerkat, for instance, provide unique avenues for event attendees to live-stream offline events, she says.
For a strictly brand-awareness campaign, Tweetchat is an excellent way for SMBs to present themselves as thought leaders on specific subjects, Van Dalen advises. “In this case, the use of your TweetChat hashtag will cause customers to tweet more frequently and increase the likelihood that their followers will receive your message.” For content that is more technical, Google Hangout is often the better choice, offering benefits such as face-to-face interaction, a chat portal to vet questions publicly or privately, and the ability to promote the recorded video after the event has occurred. “In addition, it is very natural to request an RSVP for a Hangout, allowing your company to acquire more information about your customers,” she says.
The most important best practice for hosting an unforgettable social media event is setting clear goals for what you want to accomplish with it, says Debra Ruh, CEO and global disability inclusion strategist at Ruh Global Communications and co-founder of AXSChat. “If you do not know the goals, then you are bound to waste time and energy. Focus on the user experience, and provide value -- people don’t have much time -- to make sure they come back.” Zonozi offers what he calls the six “B” tips:
- Be real.
- Be useful.
- Be selfless.
- Build trust.
- Be a “homie.” (Keep it relationship-driven, not sales-driven.)
- Be connected.
The biggest misstep SMBs should avoid is failure to measure the overall effectiveness of the event, Zonozi adds. “If possible, send a follow-up survey to get feedback from your clients, or ask them on Twitter to send a DM (direct message) letting you know about their experience. Spend time looking at your analytics within these platforms. Analyze whether your engagement rates went up, how many new followers you acquired, etc.,” he says. “Record your findings so you can track your growth over time.