How to Maximize Social Media at Conferences

Used wisely, it can be a benefit to attendees.

In just a few years, many businesses have gone from viewing social media as a distraction to an essential tool for learning and communication. It’s a great tool for meetings, too. Here’s how meeting planners, attendees, and convention and visitor bureaus are maximizing social media at conferences.

While most organizers, attendees, and CVBs know to use hashtags on social media to promote a conference and foster online discussion, some groups are employing hashtags in innovative ways.

Christine Zetzl, Visit Indy’s digital marketing manager and overseer of the organization’s social media, suggested that organizers and CVBs deploy hashtags in a large, visible, and interactive format. For example, Visit Indy creates dynamic visuals and posts signs nearby suggesting attendees take photos and share them online. “We actually created three custom ‘n-d-y’ sculptures where we ask people to stand and be the ‘I’ in Indy,” Zetzl said. “We have seen incredible traction on social media. We’ve counted more than 100,000 people who’ve been the ‘I’ and used the hashtag #LoveIndy, which is on the base of these sculptures.” Zetzl has seen organizations like the Big Ten and the Fire Department Instructors Conference do likewise in Indianapolis and have similar success.

Another way to prompt attendees to tweet about a conference and share its hashtag is to display a feed of tweets that use the hashtag on a large video screen at the event. “I think people really enjoy seeing their handle up on the screen,” Zetzl said.

To ensure their attendees have a welcoming experience, conference organizers can seek out cities like Indianapolis where local businesses and the CVB follow the visiting group’s hashtag and help participants. In cities that offer this depth of engagement, attendees likely will tweet more, too, since they know they’ll have their questions answered and aren’t just tweeting into a void.

Organizers don’t need to wait until the conference to begin promoting the event on social media, either. Zetzl said conference organizers and CVBs can co-sponsor Twitter chats ahead of time to generate a buzz and answer questions about the event.

Snapchat’s Possibilities

While much of a conference’s social media activity takes place on Twitter, Snapchat’s large and growing audience makes it too important to ignore. While Zetzl acknowledged that discovering relevant snaps can be hard on the mobile app, she said conferences should consider creating Snapchat geofilters. With geofilters, meeting planners can target attendees with a message when they’re in a specific geographic area. EmberConf, for instance, reported success with a geofilter that covered 66,411 square feet at a recent conference. The cost to set up the filter for 12 hours: $19.92.

“Snapchat’s one to watch,” Zetzl said.

(Handout photo)