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The first-ever tweet was sent out into the Internet abyss on March 21, 2006, by Twitter co-founder and CEO Jack Dorsey (@Jack). It read, "just setting up my twttr", and barely used 17 percent of the then-140-character-per-message limit (the max is now 280 characters, though the average length of a tweet is 33 characters, according to TechCrunch). Since then, Twitter -- which originally aimed to serve as nothing more than an SMS-messaging platform where friend groups could keep tabs on each other -- has taken on an enormous life of its own.
According to the company's business page, more than 500 million tweets are sent per day -- or 5,878 tweets per second -- by the platform's 330 million monthly active users. And while that number might seem to pale in comparison with Facebook's statistic of 1.58 billion daily users, according to Statista, there's no doubt Twitter offers a significant marketing reach. The site also counts these numbers:
- Brands tweet an average of 112 times per month (Statista, 2017);
- 26 percent of U.S. accounts use Twitter multiple times per day (Business of Apps, 2018);
- Twitter has 145 million daily active users (Twitter Investor Relations, 2019);
- Nearly half of consumers use Twitter to interact with brands (Sprout Social Index, 2018);
- 92 percent of the U.S. population is familiar with Twitter (Statista, 2019); and
- Users spend 4 percent more time on Twitter during live events (Twitter, 2018).
And that's just scratching the surface. "Twitter is great because it puts people in touch with the exact individual or entity they're trying to connect with. It's an open and public forum," explains Adrian Segar (@ASegar), author and founder of Conferences That Work, an event design company. "With the creation of tagging and hashtags furthering our ability to connect with potential attendees, industry influencers and, well, virtually anyone, Twitter is a great tool for interacting with target audiences and stakeholders."
But what does it take to reach those elusive individuals? Does Twitter strategy simply mean pushing out an event registration URL, maybe @-ing (tagging, that is) a speaker or VIP and hoping for the best? Far from it.
Twitter for Long-Term Engagement
"The main piece of advice I have for planners is to stop marketing meetings as if they're one-time events," says Michael Brenner (@BrennerMichael), author, keynote speaker and CEO of Marketing Insider Group. "The mindset needs to change. Meetings should not be looked at as having a beginning and an end; nor should the event's social media strategy." Brenner says that Twitter is a great tool for marketing and connecting on a long-term basis. The key, he says, is remaining consistent in the quantity and quality of content you tweet.
Jeff Hurt (@JeffHurt), CEO of Empowered Epiphanies, a business consulting group, agrees. "I see too many meeting professionals blandly tweeting registration deadlines, fees and register-now tweets, and leaving it at that. That method bores people's brains and might lead them to ignore your posts."
To prolong the lifecycle, exposure and reach of event social media and to use Twitter specifically to the meeting planners' advantage, we've compiled the following tips.
Approach with Purpose
Twitter for Business suggests that companies focus on creating a regular rhythm of content that's relevant to target audience and authentic to the user's event and/or business. "There's no right or wrong number of times you should Tweet each day, or when," says the Twitter for Business blog. Instead of focusing on numerical goals, the team behind the platform suggests concentrating on the following criteria.
1. Keep Messages Short
Keep each Tweet focused on one specific message rather than trying to communicate multiple things. Link to a blog or web page if necessary for readers to find more information. "In one tweet, I might promote my latest blog and link to it," says Segar. He focuses each tweet on a singular topic. "In another tweet, I might retweet a message from an industry-relevant professional that I admire. In the next, I might mention an event or topic, pairing it with a relevant hashtag."
2. Be Diverse
Hurt adopts a 70-20-10 formula when using Twitter. "Seventy percent of my tweets share meaningful articles, links and videos that are not my own. I seek out good thought-leadership representatives and enjoy spreading their content via some tweet‐love," he says. "I aim to share ideas and links that are provocative, offer depth into an issue, share insight, provide how-to directions and create mental mind shifts."
Another 20 percent of Hurt's tweets account for responses and interactions with his follower base. "The final 10 percent of my strategy is dedicated to tweeting items I've written or information directly related to my event." As event professionals, Hurt, Brenner and Segar all stress that Twitter marketing goes beyond event promotion. Instead, the platform should be used as a jumping-off point for planners to establish themselves as a professional and reliable resource for their audience base.
3. Incorporate Visuals
Adding an image, video or GIF to a tweet adds personality and leads to higher engagement rates. According to research from Postcron and Audiense, tweets with images are 34 percent more likely to get retweeted than text-only messages. Take advantage of Twitter Cards to make tweets containing links more attractive and increase engagement. Twitter offers the following cards.
- Summary card: Tweet containing a title, description and thumbnail.
- Summary image card: Similar to the summary card but with a featured image.
- App card: A card with a direct download to a mobile app.
- Player card: A card that can display video/audio/media.
4. Include Hashtags
On Twitter, adding a "#" to the beginning of an unbroken word or phrase creates a hashtag. When you use a hashtag in a Tweet, it becomes linked to all other Tweets that include it, thus creating a forum for conversation. Hashtags allow Twitter users to expand their reach and tap into relevant conversations centered around a specific topic or event. Focus on keywords relevant to the target industry. That being said, keeping up with the changes in the meeting industry is a challenge for anyone. Following are some of the most relevant for meeting and event planners.
• #eventprofs -- one of the first and most general hashtags for the meetings industry
• #meetingprofs -- a sister to #eventprofs
• #meetingplanners -- the third of the "big three" most-popular planner hashtags
• #assnchat -- use this to search conversations from the Twitter chat held every Tuesday at 2 p.m. EDT for association professionals
• #engage365 -- conversations and insights about event management and engagement
• #eventtable -- ongoing conversation on event technology
• #eventtech -- ongoing conversation on event technology
• #eventtips -- general meeting and event tactics to consider
• #greenmeetings -- ongoing conversations about meetings sustainability
• #hybridevents -- strategies for planning and executing events with both a physical and virtual element
• #eventtrends -- general, for inspiration
• #hotelprofs -- a megahashtag for hoteliers
• #eventapps -- everything you need to know about the latest events industry apps
• #meetings -- general tweets about the industry
• #eventplannerlife -- a roundup of tweets mostly from CMPs
• #eventideas -- general inspiration
• #eventinspo -- general inspiration
• #eventdecor -- event design conversation and inspiration
• #independentplanner -- ongoing conversations centered around independent meeting planners
• #eventdesign -- event design conversation and inspiration
• #eventcoordinator -- ongoing conversations related to event planning
• #expochat -- ongoing chat for trade show professionals
Best practices recommend using no more than two hashtags per Tweet.
5. Engage and Respond
Asking questions is an effective way to interact with an audience. Tweet open-ended questions or use Twitter polls to survey for responses. Retweeting relevant content and replying to Tweets are great ways to maintain presence. Positive feedback, helpful articles and messages that align with your event and brand are also all impactful content to repurpose.
"I appreciate meeting planners who have liked my stuff and retweet it," says Segar. When he interacts with a meeting planner who appears engaged and responsive via their Twitter account, Segar says he is more likely to follow and appreciate them.
6. Show Personality
When it comes to marketing yourself as a meeting professional, don't neglect the importance of showing off the personality behind your work and brand. The days of safe, suit-and-tie branding on social media are over. Brands that shine aren't afraid of taking an occasional risk to remind followers that there's a human being behind their account.
Case in point: The popularity of memes and humorous content in-tandem with hard-hitting industry news, updates and trending topics makes for content gold. Meeting "celebrities" have carved out a niche on Twitter because they deliver professional and insightful content all without taking themselves too seriously.
Nick Borelli (@Nick Borelli), president of Borelli Strategies, a marketing consultant for event professionals, is one of the leading event and social media experts in the game. On Twitter, he shares advice with planners on a variety of industry-centric topics. He also shares laughs. A tweet from Borelli on Oct. 26 says, "Here's how I don't have any student loan payments: I didn't go to college." He has more than 7,800 followers on Twitter.
7. Don't Get Discouraged
Establishing yourself, your brand or your event on Twitter is a process. Consistency is key. "Be aware that your own experience or lack thereof can bias you against Twitter as meaningless digital driver," says Hurt. "Put notions aside and realize that, when used properly and aligned with your event goals, your tweets can act like a magnet for attracting potential attendees to register, follow and participate in your event's offerings and highlighting the benefits of attending your event."
Hashtagging Your Event
Creating a custom hashtag for a meeting produces a virtual space for attendees, speakers, organizers and stakeholders to connect, communicate and collaborate. Thoughtful use of the hashtag is event marketing at its best.
Create the hashtag and get the conversation started long before the event takes place. "I suggest creating a nonannual hashtag," says Brenner. For instance, instead of creating #ConventionCon2020 and then #ConventionCon2021 the following year, keep the conversation going year-round with #ConventionCon. "The universal event hashtag goes back to my point of not looking at events as one-time deals."
Twitter tip: Before launching an event campaign hashtag, search for it on the platform. Does the hashtag already exists? Make sure it hasn't been used by another event or brand (especially recently) or in a way that would confuse your audience. It's best for a hashtag to be short and distinct so it can be easily added to Tweets.
Say you are running an exhibition for car lovers called "Car Craze Expo 2019". Start by creating a list of five variations to consider. For example, #CarCraze #CarCrazeExpo #ExpoCarCraze #CarExpo #CrCrze. Head to Twitter and search your selections. Prioritize the shortest, most obvious and most memorable option.
1. Promote the Hashtag
Start sharing the official event hashtag in all promotional materials as soon as possible -- on the event website, emails, social platforms, etc. Be sure that, even before your attendees and speakers start tweeting with the hashtag, you and your team begin pushing out relevant content, information and news incorporating the hashtag.
Encourage attendees to ask questions and share registration excitement using the hashtag. Monitor hashtag use on an application like TweetDeck, a social media dashboard for managing Twitter accounts.
2. Hashtagging During an Event
"Use the event hashtag as a gamification tool," suggests Brenner. "Feature a social media board on the trade show floor where tweets from anyone using the hashtag will populate. It's a great way to get attendees in on the conversation." Brenner says planners might consider rewarding top hashtag tweeters throughout the event or recognizing tweets that receive a lot of comments/retweets.
Brenner also says that he, like many others, is even more enticed to join in a conversation when there is some recognition and/or incentive tied to doing so. "Knowing my tweet might be displayed on a huge LED board… it makes me want to participate in the conversation even more."
3. Hashtag as a Tool After the Meeting
Keep the conversation alive by hosting Twitter chats using the hashtag long after the meeting is over. "Content Marketing Institute hosts an annual summit and promotes it using the hashtag #CMWorld," explains Brenner. Aside from the event itself, however, CMI uses the same hashtag to host a weekly Twitter chat with its audience. "Followers can tweet questions and interact with the institute on a weekly basis using the same hashtag, so content is always being created and shared -- even when the summit isn't in season."
Twitter as a Meeting Measurement Tool
The advantage of Twitter is its ability to reach high volumes of people without having to be directly connected to them, unlike platforms such as Facebook, which depend more on friends and connections to spread awareness. Taking advantage of Twitter's untethered reach can provide meeting planners with access to tons of feedback necessary for growing and improving.
Every planner knows how hectic it is when the meeting is in full swing. More likely than not, a planner will not have time to sit and monitor Twitter for what attendees are saying as the conference plays out. Instead of trying to capture all social conversations in the moment, use sites such as Hash Tracking to measure the effectiveness of an event's Twitter campaign after the fact and to weed through the most effective tweets that surface. Use the event-related tweets as a measurement tool:
- Identify attendee complaints, using the information to improve next year's meeting.
- Gather images and testimonials that can be used for post-event content roundups.
- Find out what you did well (speakers, sessions, F&B, etc.).
- Discover trends on what attendees liked about the show.
- Discover new influencers (the most vocal and interactive people tweeting about your conference).
More Twitter Monitoring Platforms
We have already mentioned Twitter-assisting platforms like TweetDeck and Hash Tracking. You can also use the following to your advantage.
• HootSuite: Planners can use HootSuite to streamline social media efforts and save time by creating and managing their Twitter advertising campaigns from within the dashboard. Easily upload, schedule, and share videos, photos, and GIFs on Twitter right from HootSuite.
• Constant Contact: Use Constant Contact's 'Social Share' mechanism to promote event-marketing emails on your social media channels -- Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Planners can also schedule social posts to be shared in advance.
• ManageFlitter: A platform that has tools for following/unfollowing, social post analytics and search. Its 'PowerPost' feature shows users the optimal time to post tweets based on the majority location of their followers. Users can also post for specific places at the time that is most effective for that area/country.
Work with Meeting Influencers
More on Social Media
Check out these additional resources for more on social media in the MICE industry.
"Influencer marketing is key on Twitter," says Segar. "If I'm speaking at an event, any seasoned meeting planner is going to ask me to spread the word, and I'm very happy to do that." Segar stresses that it would behoove meeting planners to tap into the already-established following and influence of their top speakers, supporters, VIP attendees, sponsor and exhibitors. "I believe influencer marketing is one of the most effective ways to use twitter in the events world – anyone who has a vested interest in the event should be on board to promote it through their platforms."
You can't create online buzz for your event without the help of user-generated content. Of course, and as we've already mentioned, pushing out your own event- and industry-centric content is imperative. But the initiative hardly starts and stops with you. This means that you need to make it easy for others to share event content.
To better get influencers on board with promoting an event, make it easy for them. Supply them with hashtags, images, links, curated content -- anything and everything related to the event that they can easily push out to their followers. "Influencers can spread the word about your meeting to potential attendees who might've otherwise never discovered that the meeting was taking place… or even existed," Segar adds.
For more on influencer marketing strategies, check out Northstar Meetings Group's guide to Using Influencer Marketing to Grow Your Conference.
To learn more about social media, check out our coverage on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Reddit, Pinterest, and WhatsApp.