Smart Social Media Strategies for Conferences
Developing engaging social media for events is all about connecting with your audience. The Project Management Institute developed a successful social media campaign for its recent conference by giving creative freedom to staff, embracing an informal approach, and providing opportunities for members to participate.
Kristin Jones, social media manager at the Project Management Institute, is always looking for new ways to evolve the association’s social media strategy to compliment the needs of the community both throughout the year and during events.
“We had developed a solid coverage plan, but in the years following the pandemic, I wanted to see how people interacted with social media at live events,” she said. “It’s a whole new world.”
With this in mind, Jones decided to change things up for the PMI Global Summit 2023.
“I threw out a lot of the old plans,” Jones said. “I focused on our channels to see what our community was engaging with and how to make the content meaningful for audiences.”
The October 2023 event was PMI’s most successful live event social media campaign to date, resulting in over 600,000 impressions, a 6.9 percent engagement rate, and 32,000-plus post clicks throughout the week of the event. Jones attributes that success to embracing her team’s creativity, taking a less prescriptive approach to the campaign, and making it easy for members to want to engage with the content.
Encourage Creativity and Trust
While goals around event social always involve creating awareness and sparking curiosity, the objective heading into this event was to showcase PMI and its community and to get people excited about being part of it.
Jones encouraged her team to highlight fun things each day but not post just to generate more content.
“I told them to be creative and have fun,” Jones said. “Trust is key in this process. You provide a framework and the freedom to be innovative.”
For instance, the staff member handling Instagram included a Taylor Swift reference since the event coincided with the release of Swift’s album, “1989 (Taylor’s Version).” That day, the first photo in PMI’s community photos had a blue light from the keynote speaker room, a nod to Swift’s blue album cover. The text below the collection of photos also read: “2023 (PMI’s Version).”
“The staff member had approached me earlier with the idea, and I told her to run with it,” Jones said. “Embracing staff creativity and maintaining good communication is how the magic happens.”
Embrace a Conversational Tone
Jones also tweaked the tone and style of PMI’s social posts. At previous conferences, the association posted a summary of its daily keynote sessions. While these posts performed well overall, Jones thought they could use an update.
“We created differentiated posts for each channel that were relevant to the event and fun for our community,” Jones said. “The team member handling LinkedIn had an idea for a simple text post about ‘goals for the week’ that included ‘learn something new, meet someone new, repeat.’”
It became one of PMI’s most successful LinkedIn posts during the event. According to Jones, the association hit its social media stride once it decided to stop taking a prescriptive approach to its event content.
“Attendees go to events to have fun, so your social should also be fun,” Jones said. “Think about who comes to your events and what they’re looking for.”
Get Excited About Engaging
It’s valuable to get user-generated content from events as well, according to Jones. When attendees share the event on their channels, new people will get to see who you are and what you do.
That’s why associations should make posting content and engaging with their social channels easy and exciting for attendees. For example, PMI provides several “Instagrammable moments” throughout the event space and features a social media wall, which is an aggregated feed of attendee posts from Instagram, LinkedIn, X (formerly Twitter), and Facebook.
“This year, we displayed the wall on a huge monitor near registration, and on additional screens throughout the venue, so attendees could see it as they walked by and get excited. People love to see their friends, and themselves, on the wall, which means they’re more likely to post,” Jones said.
People are also more likely to engage with content that’s meaningful to them. During the event, PMI created Instagram Reels featuring interviews with community members discussing issues relevant to the profession.
“That content did well because we featured real project managers from our community. Viewers connected with the content and how it related to their own experiences,” Jones said. “Interact with your audience in ways that they care about, so they feel more engaged and connected to the organization.”