How to Slam Dunk Social Media Into Marketing Events

4 tips for achieving awareness, engagement and reach

Imagine if the Chicago Bulls said Michael Jordan was once again coming out of retirement, but this time he would suit up for only one game and, strangely, the game would not be televised.

Further, and perhaps even stranger, there would be a strict “no social media” policy. The 20,000 people who were lucky enough to score tickets would have their smartphones confiscated at the door.

Limiting the majesty of this special occasion to only the folks in attendance would be a crime. Yet in a roundabout way, this is something too many event marketers are doing with their campaigns.

It’s not that they’re enforcing silly policies that outlaw tweets, snaps and hashtags—they’re just not fully capitalizing on social media and seeing it for what it is: an engagement-driving element that can and should be leveraged during marketing events.

The full-court press

A whopping majority of event marketers say they use social media before and after events, but about 45 percent say they do not use it during the events themselves. That’s akin to having Jordan sit on the bench for the entirety of his big night back.

With awareness, engagement and reach being the underlying goals of event marketing campaigns, shouldn’t social media be a given? Not only is it inexpensive and easy to implement, but it’s also a slam-dunk way to plug a broader audience into a brand’s message.

To boot, 85 percent of consumers say they are more swayed by user-generated content than the material marketers come up with. Encouraging attendees to post about events adds a key layer of authenticity to campaigns.

The benefits of adding social media elements to marketing events are clear. Here are three tips that will help brands fully capitalize on this approach:

Make an assist

According to one survey, fewer than 30 percent of attendees say they feel compelled to share insights and photos with their personal social networks during marketing events. That’s because no one is passing them the ball.

Even the most rabid basketball fans need a Jumbotron to remind them to “get loud” during important parts of a game. Similarly, the most avid Instagrammers and tweeters need to know that there’s a photo booth and hashtag that brands want them to use.

There must be a clear awareness of how exactly social media plays into the event. It should be so self-explanatory that consumers can’t help but want to document and share their experiences.

Call the right plays

Over his long career, Shaquille O’Neal attempted only 22 three-point shots. His coaches knew dunks and layups were his forte, so they never called any plays that would force him to shoot the long ball. In that vein, why would marketers ask attendees to utilize social media platforms they don’t love to use?

Skip the Snapchat filters for a group of 60-year-old doctors, seeing as the platform fares better with younger demographics.

That said, however, don’t limit the event’s social media aspect to one single channel–especially if the attendees are diverse. Make sure all players have opportunities to share the fun they’re having on platforms they enjoy using.

Devise a winning strategy

Championships are won when teams embrace and leverage their unique identities. The Jordan-era Bulls weren’t trying to emulate other teams; they leveraged their uniqueness to rise above the rest and become a dynasty.

In the event-marketing sense, social media shouldn’t be haphazardly thrown into a campaign just because everyone else is doing it. Rather, it should be integrated thoughtfully and creatively.

For example, one of my favorite marketing events we worked on was for Tractor Supply Co. We rolled out a life-sized taxidermy rodeo bull and encouraged attendees to climb onto its back and snap photos. The brand wasn’t providing a photo op just for the sake of providing one–this was a strategic decision that reflected the company’s identity and appealed to attendees’ interests. It was a one-of-a-kind experience that consumers couldn’t resist to share with friends.

If awareness and engagement are the biggest obstructions to return on investment at marketing events, social media is the tool that will help marketers alley-oop over them. Stop treating social media like a halftime show that no one pays attention to and start making it a fundamental part of your programs.

Steve Randazzo is founder and president of experiential marketing agency Pro Motion.

Image courtesy of Dmytro Aksonov/iStock.