Last week’s State of the Industry report from C&IT magazine made for interesting reading, not least because of its revelations regarding social media. Perhaps the most significant finding was that 21 per cent of event planners would not be using social media to help promote their shows this year.

While many firms argue that the benefits of using social media are not always that obvious, at Aspectus PR we believe all B2B events should have a presence on sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter. However, with C&IT magazine’s survey finding that event marketers dedicate just two hours per week on average to social media activities, we think Twitter alone can offer a simple yet effective approach.

Twitter offers B2B event marketers a large and diverse network and is used heavily by a broad cross-section of industry professionals and B2B journalists. Not only can you grow a substantial followership on Twitter, but you can take the event experience online, encouraging real-time debate, networking and direct interaction between your event, industry experts and a wider audience. With this in mind, we’ve decided to provide a quick guide explaining how B2B event marketers can get the most out of Twitter.

Hooking your audience

Twitter attracts users from a wide range of professions, making it ideal for building a broad follower base encompassing journalists, attendees, analysts, industry experts and other thought leaders. In addition, using the retweet function means you not only court potential followers but, at the very least, you can get your event’s name in front of specific individuals you’d like to see at your show.

At a most basic level, Twitter serves as a platform to showcase your event. To this end, ensure that your page is on brand, includes a high-resolution logo and a concise profile that gives the casual browser an instant feel for your event. And don’t forget the all important hyperlink to its website, which acts as both the nerve centre and shop window for the event.

A further point that is often missed is the importance of updating the website regularly with high quality and relevant content. Social media channels are only as good as the content fed through them and distributing links to thought-leadership articles, industry news, blog posts, media coverage and updates relating directly to the event is vital to developing a well-rounded profile and attracting traffic.

A constant stream of content will ensure your target audience is aware of your event’s key themes and issues and also establishes the event as a focal point for thought leaders and industry experts.

The show must go on

Having established your event’s media presence with quality content during the build up, it’s just as important to sustain the momentum once the show begins. Indeed, Twitter provides an entirely new dimension to your event, enabling you to stream live updates, videos and images as the action unfolds and conduct straw polls to encourage further interaction and gain all important feedback.

Use custom hashtags (#) to group tweets relevant to your event, ensuring the hashtag is short, simple and relevant. Hashtags make it easy to monitor the conversation as your news spreads across the Twitterverse and, if enough people tweet about your event with the hashtag, it could potentially go viral.

Enthusiasm and creativity are also essential: be brave with the content of your tweets, make bold statements and don’t be afraid to ask searching questions. Likewise, avoid focusing solely on the promotion of your event. Instead, encourage followers to harness your Twitter presence as a platform to widen the industry debate and, wherever possible, let your audience lead the conversation. But just as important as provoking debate, is the ability to listen and react to what your audience is saying.

Looking ahead

A well cultivated Twitter feed not only reflects the atmosphere of the event itself but provides a retrospective timeline that can be used to shape and promote future offerings. The effort put in during the initial stages can really pay off, as hard-earned followers are likely to stick around to see what’s planned for next year, provided of course that fresh content is added and regular tweeting continues once the event has ended.

As such, your Twitter page should provide a constant stream of data, fed by followers, retweets and clickthroughs that provides invaluable insight into how your event was perceived and the notable trends that subsequently emerged.

Online tools such as Google Analytics and bit.ly can help drill down into this data and assess the value of the social media strategy in terms of the volume of traffic driven to the event’s website. With Google Analytics new social reporting section, it has never been easier to examine precisely where social media is having an impact.

As Twitter continues to seek ways to adapt further to meet the needs of business users, opportunities will continue to arise for B2B event marketers, but the fact is that it can already serve as an effective platform to take the B2B event experience online, provided you get your strategy right.

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