How To Use A Hashtag For Your Event
I know. GROAN. Hashtags are so ANNOYING. But they can be really valuable! Especially when you have a limited budget for your event – they are a great tool to make the most of social media.
I have worked with clients to run events from small to large and here are tips to help with your next shindig.
1. Set your goals.
I push this on every client, but you don’t get results unless you think through what you want. Where is your brand strong? Consider how live events are different on different social networks. For example, Facebook is great for getting the word out before an event, but terrible for being in the moment at an event. Twitter and Instagram are perfect during an event – especially considering the possibility of trending on Twitter. A network like Pinterest is excellent after an event to share a recap and to continually bring people back to the info.
2. Choose your hashtag.
Make it as short and memorable as possible, yet still individual. Do a search on Twitter and Instagram to see how variations might be used. If you have a yearly event, consider adding 15, 16, 17 and so on if needed. (Which, is only really needed when competing with other hashtags, because generally you won’t be pulling reports that go back several years.) Another way to set yourself apart is using your city or state abbreviation. Whenever possible only use one hashtag per event because you will get the most bang for your buck there.
3. Place the hashtag on everything.
I mean everything. It should be in the signature of your emails, on printed materials, posters, in your Twitter bio. There should be no mistake as to what the hashtag for the event is. In some cases, I have used the hashtag as the “title” of the event.
4. Bring in your influencers.
Search the internet for people you want at your event. It could be press, bloggers, or people who are strong on individual social media like Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Vine, Periscope, etc. Who you invite comes back to your goals and what fits the event and your brand. Invite them in whatever way fits your budget (free tickets, extra perks, etc.) and be clear about expectations. Example: “Please tweet three times during our event using the hashtag.”
5. Schedule your own updates.
You will busy at the event and may lose track of time. Use services like Hootsuite to pre-populate the stream with timely messages – including the hashtag, of course!
6. Display social interactions at the event.
People love seeing themselves! Have a board running with as many social networks as possible. There are paid services that do this, but I have used free ones like Visible Tweets (on which you can also block users if they get unruly). Trust me, this is a huge boost for interaction!
7. Engage like crazy.
Monitor the hashtag and either favorite or respond to as many tweets/posts as possible, even if they are not following you or talking to you specifically. Social media is social. They are chatting about your event and want to hear from you, especially if they are asking questions or having problems. One of my favorite examples of an event Twitter account is Riot Fest. The man behind the scenes has a sharp sense of humor, but it matches the event. He tweets hard and people love him for it. (P.S. Don’t forget to keep people talking well past the actual event date.)
8. Give prizes.
Before, during and after the event use the hashtag to add value to your attendees by giving something away as people post on the hashtag. Before, give tickets for people liking or sharing. During, announce photo contests and get people to come meet you in person by giving away physical prizes that they pick up from an appointed spot. After, gather email addresses for your mailing list with more incentives.
9. Try to trend.
What does trending do? It places your hashtag front and center of all these people in your city… or if the event is REALLY big, the country. They click into the stream and find out what the heck is going on and hopefully love it. What makes a hashtag trend? Influencers, interaction and an influx of tweets.
10. Run reports.
Twitter is the easiest to get data on because it is public, but there are many services that allow you to monitor various aspects of different social media networks, both paid and free. Do a search for “top social media listening tools” because these change every six months and vary greatly in cost. Salesforce, for example, has everything but the kitchen sink, but that also means big bucks. Depending on my client’s social listening needs, I will run various free reports… or if an event has tweets that will burst for a week, I usually purchase a report from Tweetbinder for $20.
10. Understand all that info.
It’s so confusing right? OK. Here is a report I just ran on #Kermit – because the dynamic duo of Muppetland have broken up. (SADFACE.) Tweetbinder returned 300 tweets for free (which, by the way, I will often run the free report once a day leading up to an event, to keep an eye on things)… but what is the report telling us?
It gives us info like who the heavy hitters on the hashtag are, but also, almost more importantly: who is tweeting A LOT about Kermit. That person may not have a ton of followers, but they are engaged and I would want to invite them to my next Muppets event. The report also gives us great info like how most people are tweeting from iPhone Twitter and posting photos. So, maybe I should make sure my event has WiFi to get everything my attendees want to post?
As I said, there are a million ways to cull the info you need and all of it is valuable!
11. USE the data!
Here is where the ball sometimes gets dropped. Take this info and run with it. You now have a list of people you want to MAKE SURE is at your event next time. Or, conversely – proof that the people you invited did not live up to expectations. Most events have sponsors of some sort, right? This is hard data to show them for ROI, or entice new sponsors for next year. And most importantly, help shape your goals for the future.
OK, cheers! I hope you found that helpful!
How have you used hashtags to help your events?
This is awesome, Aimee!
Aimee, thank you thank you thank you! This pulled everything together so perfectly for me.
You are welcome, Allison!
Yes, yes, yes! So often, organizers are so clueless about social media. Or even if they say they are web-savvy, they’re like, “What’s a hashtag??” I’ve heard that so often! My favorite events are the ones that have little cards and signs up with the Twitter and IG handle and the hashtag they want you to use for the event. Makes life so easy! We were just at the Motley Crue/Alice Cooper show (which was fabulous for this old chick) and the jumbotron at the Pepsi Center was all lit up with the hashtag for the concert! Perfect!
Yes, Laura! I love that too when there are cards with info to take back later, to have the info for posting. That is especially *perfect* for a small event.
Yes, yes and more YES!!
You’ve taken the words from my mouth and committed it to a post. I have been trying to get this point across to festivals for a number of years now. From now on I’ll just share this post with them. 🙂
Thanks so much, Heidi!
Wow. I had no idea how important they were. I will try to do better next time I attend something big that uses them.
Glad I could help Jessi!
I really had no idea. That was a fascinating read, thanks.
It’s not as hard as you thought, right Ben??? 🙂
Not at all, lol