Viral Impact: Using Social Marketing to Extend Event Reach

A new study gives an inside look at how top brands are using social marketing to extend the reach and visibility of their events—and why it matters.

Thanks to social media and other technology tools, your conference’s reach extends well beyond the venue walls and your attendees who are there in person. That’s exactly why event marketers are focused on what they can do to make an impact beyond a live event.

Now a new study released by FreemanXP and the Event Marketing Institute provides these marketers with a look at how top brands are using social media to extend the reach and visibility of their events—and hopefully gives them a few ideas on how to better market their own events in the future. Called “The Viral Impact of Events: Extending & Amplifying Event Reach via Social Media,” the report provides impact estimates and measurement benchmarks; examples of how social media is used before, during, and after events; and insights into the most effective social channels and how content is being developed.

Effectiveness of Social Marketing Strategies

With 87 percent of respondents to the survey saying that their attendees share their event experiences or content with others, there is a clear opportunity for more effective viral efforts around events by brands and organizations.

When brands were asked to estimate the total viral impact and word of mouth generated by their online and social media efforts, respondents said there were nearly 1.4 million touches, communications, connections, and shares per event. While these were just estimates, almost half were 80 to 100 percent confident in their estimates.

But despite this high number of impressions, events marketers and exhibitors still feel they could be more effective with their viral efforts. Only 16 percent consider themselves “very effective” at generating viral impact, while 36 percent rate themselves only as “average.”

When it came to looking at B2B-focused companies, there is an even larger disconnect and opportunity related to viral efforts. Only 9 percent say they are “very effective” at generating viral impact from their event and exhibit programs, even though 65 percent said event social-marketing efforts are “very” or “somewhat important,” and 78 percent said their attendees share content and information gathered at shows with others.

How Social Media Is Used

Social tools are used differently depending on timing. For example, ahead of an event, social media is used mainly to increase awareness, drive attendance, and provide event information like schedules and news. Respondents said Facebook is the most effective platform pre-event, followed by Twitter and LinkedIn.

When it comes to using social media onsite, almost three-quarters of respondents said Twitter was most effective. Rounding out the top three were Facebook and Instagram. Twitter rose to the top because the reason for using tools during an event is different. Most respondents said they are using social media onsite to promote specific event elements and features, as well as to post and share photos and content.

After an event, most respondents said they were using social media to relive highlights, leverage influencers, and summarize content. This may explain why Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter are rated as the top-three most effective platforms post-event.

How Efforts Are Managed

Two things are usually required to make something happen: Money and a process. When it comes to the former, exactly half of respondents said they have a specific budget for their viral marketing efforts tied to events. And 53 percent say that expense will increase in the next budget cycle.

As for process and who manages an event’s social strategy, 47 percent said they have a dedicated social media team within the marketing group, 40 percent said their internal events team handles it, and 25 percent said the responsibility falls to a corporate marketing group.

What these findings show is that attendees share content and experiences they’ve had at events with others, so all organizations—no matter large or small—must make the most of this opportunity by creating ways to extend and strengthen participation.

How effective do you think your organization is in using viral marketing for events? What efforts have you found most successful? Please share in the comments.


Samantha Whitehorne

By Samantha Whitehorne

Samantha Whitehorne is editor-in-chief of Associations Now. MORE

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