Friday, 1 August 2014

Social Media at Events: The Catering Analogy

Summary (TL;DR) Plan your social media campaigns and activities alongside the overall event planning, ensuring that each aspect aligns with your key objectives. Good social media strategies are “baked in” rather than “sprinkled on” to your event. Be sure to make your guests feel like they’ve really been served, a seamless experience means making an effort to bridge online discussion with offline activities.

I recently presented some of my favourite insights gleaned from working in Event Social Media for ThinkWall, to an audience of event organisers and media professionals at The Blitz Connection.

In case you missed it, take a look at the slides.



One analogy seemed to strike a chord with the audience, helping to describe the efforts and resourcing put behind social media campaigns at events. At the same time I managed to contextualise its true importance by illustrating how jarring an experience can feel for an audience if the bridging between online discussion and offline activity isn’t handled smoothly.

Hopefully the experience of catering at an event isn’t new to you, so let me ask - how often do you find the event organiser has simply left food out on tables, with the wrapper still covering it, free for you to just figure out what it is and serve yourself? Never.

Instead, as an attendee, you’ll probably have been served food by a small army of waiters. If the food is arranged on tables, perhaps it’ll have useful labels to let you know what each dish contains. You feel like you’re being treated to a good service, there is time and effort being put into the experience.

Why isn’t the same amount of time and effort poured into the online discussions of actual event content?

In the past I’ve heard responses to this question, such as, “we don’t have the staff and resources for that”. Ok - but you managed to source a dozen waiters just fine and serving food wasn’t core to your event objectives!



Over the last couple of years, social media has trickled down through all aspects of our culture and society. This means that it’s extremely likely attendees will be discussing your event and sharing its contents even without your involvement and instruction.

As for campaigns and activities we get asked to assist with at ThinkWall, we see a lot of willingness to acknowledge and perhaps also encourage the use of social media by attendees but it stops there. What we don’t see is quite as many event organisers (or their clients) choose to enlist a dedicated member of staff for the monitoring of social media channels.

To make a difference, it starts with just one member of staff who can monitor discussions and respond to feedback online. The best position to locate this staff is the organiser’s office, where any feedback can be passed directly to the operations team. Larger shows obviously need to scale this activity to be able to cater to all needs.

It’s time to take the wrapper off your event content and serve it to your attendees.