Social media's massive global reach puts meeting planners in a unique position to use popular platforms — Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Reddit — to source suppliers, stay informed, solicit advice and glean fresh ideas from their peers. This is the first in a series of articles that will explore how various
social platforms serve the meetings industry. Following is an overview
for those just getting started — or ready to delve deeper into the
resources offered via social media.
Event professionals already have embraced social media platforms to promote their events in real time. A 2018 Successful Meetings survey found that 42 percent of meeting planners had informal social media strategies for their events, while 23 percent had written policies. More than one-third — 35 percent — had no strategy at all.
But there's also value in trolling social media behind the scenes. Planners can use these platforms to expand their networks, crowdsource ideas and solutions, and ultimately do their jobs more efficiently and effectively.
Follow NMG on Social Media
Where to start? Northstar Meetings Group offers its own Facebook pages, Instagram accounts, Twitter feeds and more. Industry suppliers and peers also offer informative presences in these spaces. A number of platforms have been created by planners, expressly for planners. Among the most active is Delegate Wranglers, a popular Facebook group for meeting and event planners in the U.K. and Europe.
In 2014, planner Neil Thompson saw the potential of social media to be a peer-to-peer resource and created the group, which now has 17,000 active members. Thompson, who says planners are "absolutely" embracing social media, can speak firsthand to how planners are actively using his site.
"People usually use us daily in the U.K. and Europe,” explains Thompson, who is transitioning from a planner role to working on Delegate Wranglers full time. “We’re a safe space — there’s no such thing as a stupid question. We get anywhere from 40 posts a day, each of which gets an average of 30 replies.”
Thompson’s Facebook group is such a success that he launched a group for U.S. planners. Introduced in 2017, the site has nearly 1,500 members. "We can help each other and pay it forward," says Thompson.
“We say we are the events industry’s secret weapon,” says Thompson. “Event planners are intrinsically great problem solvers, so you’ve got 17,000 people to help you solve your problems and come up with solutions and make you look good."
When it comes to facilitating new opportunities and networking, social media is a huge asset. LinkedIn is an obvious platform to connect with your professional network, but Facebook, Twitter and Instagram also offer connections on a more personal level.
"I find Facebook a lot more immersive: It’s more day to day,” says Thompson. "People use it as a communication tool. Facebook lends itself to be a bit more collaborative."
Planners can turn to industry Facebook groups — Meetings & Conventions, Successful Meetings, Event Technology Help, #EventProfs Mastermind, and #EventIcons, to name a few — to meet peers across the globe. Regarding Delegate Wrangler and how to use it for networking, Thompson suggests being an active and helpful presence so members know who you are.
"Be authentic. Don’t build a social media presence to impress others. Rather use it to connect with others and make a social impact."
"Become one of the good guys who help people out when there’s nothing in it for you," says Thompson. "You build trust and showcase you have knowledge and information. It’s not always about solving your own problem. It’s satisfying to help others."
Twitter is also great for networking, as its algorithm pops up suggestions on who to follow in the planning space.
If you’re looking for inspiration, platforms like Instagram and Pinterest can help foster creativity. These visual, image-heavy platforms can not only help with ideas, but also help planners stay current on trends.
Use an industry hashtag — such as #EventProfs, #MeetingProfs or #PlanLikeABoss — to see what other planners are doing. "I use hashtags to help identify who is interested in a particular topic or who uses the hashtag frequently enough to be considered as a person to contact for information," says Zoe Moore, event resource broker at LB Alliance and a member of M&C's class of 2019 Rising Stars.
Social media can allow planners to do a "competitive analysis" to see how their peers are doing things and what kind of events they’re working on, notes Thompson. Not only can they benchmark their own progress, they can also being inspired by what others are doing.
Learn about the industry
New planners can wander through the social media platforms to see how the industry works. Facebook groups, in particular, are good places for newcomers to lurk and absorb the day-to-day workings of planner life, participating as they feel comfortable or finding mentors to tap for advice.
"[Delegate Wrangler] is a really good place for students and people new in the industry to go and learn,” notes Thompson. “Just go and look what’s happening. It’s a really amazing place to see what people in the industry face every day. It’s a great place to learn about the industry. It’s so collaborative."
Market your event
Consider this: Facebook has 1.63 billion daily active users, Instagram has 1 billion monthly active users, LinkedIn has a network of 660+ million users in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide, and Twitter has 126 million daily users, as reported in February 2019. Even reaching a small fraction of the audience on any of these platforms is a great way to drive attendance and get more visibility for your event.
"Social media is a great place to conduct research to assess behavioral patterns of niche markets, learn innovative ideas and find local businesses to procure for services or products," suggests Zoe Moore.
But steer clear of commercialism, she advises. "Be authentic. Don’t build a social media presence to impress others; rather use it to connect with others and make a social impact."
Each platform has its own perks. Get a brief summary below, along with a detailed deep-dive into each platform.
- Facebook: Arguably the original social networking site, Facebook can be incredibly useful for planners in two distinct capacities. First, planners can create a dedicated Facebook page for their brand to promote their business or themselves. This is a simple way to create an online presence; stay connected with clients, suppliers and industry peers; and establish themselves as industry thought leaders. Meeting professionals can share images from their events via Facebook albums, share and leave commentary on the hottest trends and even poll their followers. Second, planners can join industry groups such as the ones previously mentioned. Click here to learn more about how meeting planers can use Facebook.
- Twitter: For the digital-savvy planner, Twitter is a powerful resource and a tool for keeping on top of industry happenings. This is also the place to establish oneself as an insider. Optimize reach by posting relevant content and adding comments to others' posts. Not chatty? Search for industry hashtags — #meetingprofs and #eventprofs, for instance — to see what planners and suppliers are chatting about. Click here to learn more about how meeting planers can use Twitter.
- Instagram: This Facebook-owned photo- and video-sharing app can help planners take their business to the next level. Not only is this platform ideal for sharing images from events, but planners also can gather ideas for future events by searching custom hashtags. This is a good place for sourcing suppliers, too. Considering a venue? Search its geotag to get a better idea of its vibe. Looking for good group activities in a city? Find the CVB's Instagram page to peruse what has been featured. Click here to learn more about how meeting planers can use Instagram.
- LinkedIn: As a career-building platform, LinkedIn is king. Planners can connect with peers and suppliers while also sharing their professional accomplishments. LinkedIn recently optimized its platform to include video content, so planners can seamlessly share video footage from their events. Similar to Facebook, LinkedIn has private and public groups for professionals. Click here to learn more about how meeting planers can use LinkedIn.
- Reddit: You might know Reddit as a source for memes and stories before they go viral, but it's an underused resource for meeting professionals, too. Some planners use the platform to ask for venue recommendations in potential host cities, while others are active in planner-specific communities like Event Production, Events Management, Plananevent and EventTechMasters. Click here to learn more about how meeting planers can use Reddit.
- Pinterest: Saving and discovering information on the web has never been easier. Pinterest allows planners to create boards on virtually ever component of planning, whether it be F&B trends, centerpiece ideas, fun attendee ice breakers or conference swag.
Northstar Meetings Group's website offer a Pinterest-like tool that is hyper-focused on planning, called My Collection. It's a personalized planning folder where you can save your Northstar Meetings Group content, and easily share and reference content as you plan meetings and incentive programs. Register/log in to the site to get started.
Click here to learn more about how meeting planers can use Pinterest.
- WhatsApp: The WhatsApp smartphone app sends text messages, audio and video anywhere in the world via the Internet — meaning if you're online, using WhatsApp is free. That has made it a very popular option for communicating with people in other countries, and also useful tool for event planners, particularly those marketing to international attendees. This feature looks at how WhatsApp’s broadcast lists, groups and one-on-one chats can be effective tools for connecting with attendees before, during and after an event. Click here to learn more about how meeting planers can use WhatsApp.