How to Use Social Media to Enhance Live Events

How to Use Social Media to Enhance Live Events

April 23, 2014 by

If there has been a main focus for me these last eight months, it has been social. I’ve focused as much as I can on our social efforts, and I was so happy when we brought on an intern in January to help with social media.

We had a couple major events over the last six weeks, and I wanted to add social media to the mix for two main reasons. One, I believe when events incorporate engagement, they are more fun and more effective. Secondly, a live event gives you the opportunity to capture more leads (as in, get more Twitter followers).

We did a trial run with the first event, and then the second event was a huge success. What made it work? In my estimation, here were the key things:

1. Pick a Hashtag, Use It Early and Often
We settled on the hashtag for our event (#PG2014) months ago and used it as much as we could. We tried to attach it to every post and every link we shared. Our church is part of a network of churches across the country, and this event was for that larger network. So we leveraged social relationships with our “parent” brand and made sure the hashtag stayed consistent throughout.

2. Print, Where Appropriate
We still use print products. Our church is in a transition from all paper to digital, and we are trying to be as gentle as possible. But, once again, on every print piece we continued to use the hashtag. We even made sure the hashtag was the same as the promo codes, just to start drilling it into people’s heads. Additionally, the weekend of the event, we printed bathroom stall posters (11x17s that we hang in frames on back of bathroom doors). Their sole purpose: People whip out their phones in the bathroom anyways… why not get them tweeting? The posters only had the hashtag, and our Twitter and Instagram handles. Simple.

3. Pick Your Channels
We didn’t try to do every single channel for this event. Part of our choice was based on Tagboard’s functionality (to get very technical, the Facebook API doesn’t let you track hashtags well). So we focused our approach on Twitter and Instagram. Those are the channels we are most focused on growing and ones that are also most conducive to live events. Realize that Facebook might not be the best channel for live interaction, and that’s OK. You can develop a plan to convert those people into Facebook likes after the event.

4. Photography
A picture is worth a thousand words, no? And it’s never more true than for social media—especially a live event. We had two photographers (just volunteers) capturing images for us throughout. We would add a new image to our Instagram account every session and add a handful on Twitter every now and then. Twitter now lets you post four images at a time, which is perfect for live events.

We made sure to use the hashtag throughout, liked every post that used it and followed back any who followed us (that is our church’s policy… we follow back everyone, unless they look spammy). So you don’t have to follow all, but make sure you’re listening and tracking down the hashtags and double-tapping as much as you can!

Make sure you have a plan to share the content.

5. Display It!
Call it narcissism, self-absorption or maybe just call it awesome. But I call it the Jumbotron effect. Remember that first time you showed up on the Jumbotron at a game or an event? And you freaked out, danced and looked totally goofy? The same thing happens when you get to see your tweet or your Instagram on a screen. You get excited and you get to feel like you’re a part it.

Tagboard made this happen for us. Tagboard curates live social content and displays it really pretty. You can moderate on the backend to keep the crazies from taking over (or if you’re just doing an event with middle schoolers and need to watch for inappropriate things). For us, once people saw photos and tweets getting shown on the big screen during breaks, they started engaging as well. When your pastors start posting selfies, you know you’re onto something.

6. It Can’t Be Just You
Our event’s success would never have been possible if one person tried to run social media. I set the strategy and the vision, but I had multiple people tweeting and multiple people taking photos. Additionally, I got buy-in from one of our key pastors to tweet his thoughts and comments throughout the event. You may feel like you’re relinquishing control a bit when you let someone else take control of the brand. That’s OK. Spend some time training an intern or a volunteer in the weeks before your event so you feel comfortable letting them tweet for you. We had someone focused on live-tweeting (capturing thoughts from messages, etc.) and then another on interaction. This helped keep the event manageable and made sure we didn’t let potential leads slip away.

7. Come Up With a Post-Event Plan
Don’t just abruptly end all the engagement you created. How will you keep and engage these new followers as time goes on? The key word is content. Make sure you have a plan to share the content from the conference. Think through whether you should share it all at once, or piece by piece. Do you release it immediately? Or edit and share YouTube clips first? Were there sessions that you could repurpose into blog posts? Plan to taper off your engagement, not just abruptly end it, and hopefully you will have captured followers who will continue to share your content moving forward.

With these steps, you can use social media effectively at your church event to make it both more fun and engaging. If you do it well, and do it right, you should gain not just a bunch of followers, but engaged advocates of your church and your teaching.

Photo by Mixtribe Photo.
Post By:

Caroline McCain


Caroline McCain is the communications and media director at Grace Covenant Church in Chantilly, Va. She loves coffee, good books, writing, and all things social media.
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2 Responses to “How to Use Social Media to Enhance Live Events”

  • Dave Shrein
    April 24, 2014

    So… I read through this once and I am totally going to need to read through it again to get all the goodness out of it.

    Do you advocate for this practice during special events or regular events (like Sunday mornings weekly)?


  • Trina
    June 14, 2014

    Great break down, Caroline! I think it’s great to at least have a two team approach with Twitter.

    A post-event idea is to capture the best of tweets and Instagram photos in Storify.



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