Love them or hate them, hashtags are everywhere. While they are used and often abused in many ways, hashtags can be a great marketing tool to build brand awareness and customer engagement – especially at an event like a trade show, product launch, conference, meeting or live promotion.
By including a hashtag in your pre-show promotions, on-site commentary, and post-event follow up, you’re not only pulling a conversation together, but you’re also making it easy for people to find, interact with and build a relationship with your brand.
Of course the key to success starts with choosing the right hashtag. The wrong choice will make it hard for people to use your hashtag, so make sure its:
• Unique: Search Twitter and Instagram for the hashtag you have in mind. If it has been used recently, rethink it and find something that is fresh and unique to your business and event.
• Short: Remember, on Twitter you only have 140 characters to use. Because that’s where most of the conversation will be taking place, you need to make sure to keep your hashtag short.
• Easy and Related: Your hashtag should reflect your brand and event. It should be the most obvious choice so those who don’t already know it and are looking for it can easily find it. Make it easy to remember so attendees find it easy to use!
USE YOUR HASHTAG
Similar to any other marketing campaign, if you do not properly plans and promote, it’ll fall flat. The same goes for your new hashtag. Start your campaign early and follow through until well after your event is over. Here’s a 360º approach to using your new hashtag to promote brand awareness around an event.
BEFORE YOUR EVENT
• Build Awareness: Your hashtag should be included in all promotions of your event. From social media and email to printed invitations, advertisements and more – make sure everyone knows the hashtag associated with this event and invite them to participate.
• Listen: Track your hashtag on social sites so you can interact with people who use your hashtag. Thank them for attending your event (after all, they are promoting your event for you!), answer questions and get involved in the conversation. Direct and personal interaction with hashtag users is a great way to build relationships, show your expertise and offer exceptional customer service.
DURING YOUR EVENT
• Promote Your Hashtag: Make sure your hashtag is posted everywhere. Make it easy for your attendees to find and use it and constantly remind them it’s there. Think signage, tshirts, badges, attendee handouts, etc.
• Offer an Incentive: Encourage hashtag usage by offering a prize or contest for hashtag users. Make sure the contest rules are easy and widely posted for all to see: “Use hashtag #XXXX for a chance to win XXX after the show!” Search hashtags after your event, randomly select a winner and reach out to them via social media to claim their prize (don’t forget to use your hashtag!)
• Start Conversations: Tweet and post throughout your event and engage your attendees. Offer schedule updates, interesting bits of information, fun moments during the event. If you don’t have time to post live during your event, schedule tweets and posts ahead of time with apps like Hootsuite.
• Again, LISTEN: Watch your hashtag throughout your event and respond to your attendees. Retweet their posts, share their photos, answer their questions. Be present and engaged!
AFTER YOUR EVENT
• Thank Attendees: You now have a social list of all of your engaged attendees. Take the time to thank them individually for joining you at your event. You can follow all of them and create a list specifically for event attendees so you can remember who they are down the road. *
• Keep the Conversation Going: Continue to follow the hashtag until the conversation dies. You’ll be surprised how much people will continue to talk about a great event. Continue to listen, retweet and mention the pieces of great content your attendees are sharing. *
• Gather Multimedia From the Event: Searching for your hashtag on individual social networks or using a program like Storify to pull all networks together allows you to view all images and/or videos that were shared (along with all other great content) around your event. This content can be used to share a comprehensive recap of your event for those that didn’t attend. And it can be used to promote your next event!
Managing events can be hard enough, so make sure you create a plan to also manage your event hashtag. If used correctly, this little piece of punctuation can have a huge impact on the success of your event, the engagement of your customers and the loyalty to and awareness of your brand.
* Adapted from http://blogs.constantcontact.com/hashtag-event-engagement/