Using Social Media and Other Technologies to Promote and Enhance Your Franchise Convention
Social media use is certainly widely adopted in today’s world. But in the world of meetings and events many companies, including franchisors, are still figuring out how to take advantage of social media and other technologies to promote and enhance their franchise convention.
Of course, the first goal of a convention is to get people to show up and social media tools can help promote attendance. One of the benefits of a social media campaign is that it is relatively low-cost to implement compared to direct mail or print advertising. A social media campaign also takes advantage of existing traffic and sites that potential attendees are already looking at and interacting with.
Most conventions today have event-specific websites that offer online registration and information such as schedules, venue and destination information, speaker bios, etc. If a franchise convention does not have such a site, that’s a good place to start.
Another good tactic to promote a convention is to create a hashtag for it. A hashtag is a key word or abbreviation preceded by the hash or number symbol (such as #IFA2013). Hashtags were created as a way to search and collect information on Twitter. Using hashtags helps connect people and information to a convention and can be used on videos posted to YouTube or photos that are posted to any social media site. Hashtags should be included in any marketing materials that are sent out to help encourage their use.
A relatively new service, Twubs, helps make the hashtags more useful. Twubs are Twitter groups built around content associated with a hashtag. This allows other websites, photos or videos online that are related to the convention to be organized.
Creating a Facebook page for the event, or a link from the company’s Facebook page to the event-specific website can also be effective. The Facebook page can be used to invite attendees and also post information, photos and videos that promote convention attendance. Similarly, a LinkedIn event can be created to connect with and invite prospective attendees.
Another possible promotion is to hold a pre-conference video (or photo) contest where winners can earn a free registration or other prizes. The photos can be posted to Flickr or Pinterest and videos to YouTube or Vimeo (or over an internal network depending on the subject matter).
Outside speakers can be asked to participate in a pre-convention webinar to help promote their appearance. All franchisees can then be invited to the webinar.
Online polls through sites such as Zoomerang and SurveyMonkey can be used to determine interest in various topics and help actually craft the agenda and content for a convention. Franchisees will appreciate being asked for their input.
In addition to building buzz, using social media can help establish and reinforce the event’s brand, build community and get early buy-in from franchisees.
Social media also provides a new set of tools and tactics to help enhance the convention experience itself. Convention smartphone apps are becoming more commonplace and more affordable. Apps like the one IFA has used typically provide schedule and detailed agendas, maps of venues and exhibits, directories of exhibitors and or attendees, speaker bios and more. Some apps even allow for true social networking with the ability to post tweets or Facebook updates.
If vendors or exhibitors are part of the convention, social media use can help increase the benefits of their participation. LinkedIn and other sites help make sharing contact information easy. Encourage vendors to use QR codes to allow attendees to connect to more information, promotional videos, etc. Exhibitors can also sponsor contests such as a photo contest on Pinterest or a YouTube video contest.
During sessions, emotionally engaging and connecting with franchisees is the key way to having messages accepted, and the interactivity of social media helps foster emotional engagement. And just as it is for promotion, social media is also a cost-effective way to deliver content curing the convention.
One popular tactic is to allow attendees to text or tweet questions or comments that are put on screen during sessions. The texts ands tweets can be reviewed before they go to screen to make sure content is appropriate.
Franchisors can use QR codes on convention signage to link to more information (or allow sponsors to use QR Codes on the signage as well.)
If the convention is not just for an internal audience (such as an industry gathering), bloggers can be invited to cover the meeting.
Franchisees who can’t attend the convention can be connected via streaming live video through carriers such as Livestream and UStream.
After the convention, one of the other benefits to be gained from social media is that it allows the message to be extended. Post-event communications can be critical to sustaining the energy from the convention and keeping franchisees engaged. It also allows franchisors to leverage the investment made in bringing the network together by re-purposing content. One effective way is to post video highlights on a branded website. IFA’s MyIFA.tv is an example of that. Video content can also be posted on YouTube and photos from the convention on Flickr.
Post-convention feedback can also be gained via surveys (again using SurveyMonkey or Zoomerang) and by monitoring mentions of the convention via Google Alerts, Twubs or HootSuite, another site that provides a dashboard for monitoring social media.
A convention is a usually a major expense for any organization. Using social media before, during and after the convention can help promote the convention to maximize attendance, enhance the experience for attendees, and then extend the message well beyond the actual convention experience.
Steve Friedman is co-founder and president of Creative Producers Group, a leading St. Louis, Mo.-based marketing and corporate communications firm. He can be reached at 314-367-2255 or firstname.lastname@example.org.