All too often, use of a Twitter hashtags at events results in confusion or (worse) apathy. Here are some great tips from experienced event planner on how to maximize using twitter hashtags at events.
Know your crowd and adapt to them
Research the hashtags they use and create a Twitter hashtag that’s memorable but unique for your event, bearing in mind the group’s commonly used abbreviations. socialert.net is a good resource for research.
Let the people know!
Only big events like SXSW use hashtags that everyone knows and use. Tell them about the hashtag during each phase of marketing and post a blanket announcement on the website. “Also include a bubble or sidebar announcement and have an FAQ on your site,”. The FAQ should contain an explanation of a benefit from using the Twitter hashtags at the event.
Use your twitter hashtags at the event yourself, and use it wisely
Don’t wait until the last month before the event. You want it to enter the Twitter consciousness early. The life of a tweet may be 12 seconds, but the human factor is the one that counts. Once they’ve seen it a few times, they’ll remember and look for it, especially if they plan to attend.
A Case Study
Content creation is dynamic, so the results are often serendipitous. For example, when using Twitter Hashtags at events was relatively new, planned to use it at an event for a crowd of marketing pros, business and technology people. During the event someone tweeted that the room was cold and she was able to immediately respond. The instant response was impressive to the hosts and guests. Often this is the kind of feedback you don’t get until afterward, if ever, and makes a big difference to the guests. They’re more likely to remember a discomfort than a legion of pleasant distractions.
Using alternate social media
If they aren’t Twitter people, the hashtag engagement probably won’t stir up much interest, so choose a tool that makes sense for your target audience. Just because it exists doesn’t mean you have to use it.
Be aware of your audience’s interests and define what you want to hear from them. With under 140 characters to work with, maintaining a focused message is important. Use your hashtag often, but don’t get annoying. Start using it once registration opens, then tweet with occasional updates until a week or two out. “Try to encourage people to tweet that they’re going.”
Remind your guests that the hashtag is their line straight to you, the presenters and management, as well as each other. They may surprise you with their feedback. If they don’t or engagement isn’t dynamic, that’s an indication that it’s time to shake up your format. The key, as always, is listening!