The average college student spends 3.5 hours a day on social media. The average high school student spends even more time than that.
We believe that for social media to serve your conference well and connect with your attendees, both present and future, it needs to be part of your overall conference plan, marketing strategy and budget.
Below is a social media “how‐to” broken down into what to do before, during and after your conference based on what our team experienced working with winter conferences in 2014/2015.
Before Your Conference
Assemble a team of two to three people whose job will solely be social media or your winter conference. This team should be involved in the overall planning of the conference. Good communication as well as involvement between the social media, the program (or conference) and the creative teams are necessary for consistency. Social media is part of students’ lives and therefore needs to be a priority on stage and at the conference, which all starts in the planning stages.
Create your conference’s handles, account passwords and come up with a conference hashtag. Search for whatever you come up with on Twitter to make sure it isn’t already in use or too close to another hashtag someone else is using. These should be shared with the program and creative teams so your hashtags can be part of the website, promotions created and T-shirts. HASHTAG. HASHTAG. HASHTAG.
Brainstorm social media campaigns, promos and advertising. Since social media is part of the larger conference picture, think through how social media could serve the larger program by creating community or helping with the creative elements onstage (i.e. emcee shtick, games, etc.).
Things we tried this past year were:
Build momentum beforehand through a preconference Road Trip photo contest (ex. #RoadTripToRadiate)
Run a hashtag game to encourage posting throughout the conference. The school who posts the most using the conference’s hashtag and their school’s hashtag wins a prize (we did $300 for a party at their local Cru).
Create Vine videos for promotions. We did a sixsecond stopmotion Vine for the campuses to share about winter conference and did other promo videos right before the conference on Vine with the Emcee.
Run a daily Instagram photo contest with a winner and prize (we gave out T-shirts)
Save a tree, post it online. Think through how you can use social media instead of print for certain aspects of the program such as the schedule and advertising upcoming events.
Other things to try:
Run a contest or giveaway for anyone who brings a friend. Offer a prize to build momentum through social media.
In the months leading up to the conference as you know what speakers or musicians will be there, start following speakers on social media, retweet or share their posts. Also consider doing a book or music giveaway preconference on social media to create more momentum. Hype it up!
Whatever you do, you’ll need to advertise, communicate games and conference hashtags, have emcees (and speakers or bands) on board and engage with your social media. Think through any content, photos or quotes you need for promotions in the future. Creating a game or giveaway on social media is a great way to gather that content.
Not all platforms are created equal. Based on our research, Snapchat and Instagram is where college and high school students spend the most time. Then comes Twitter and, lastly, there’s Facebook. The fastest growing demographic on Facebook is 45-55 year-olds so the younger generation is less interested in this platform. Keep this in mind when thinking about what you are posting on which platform and how often you post there.
Facebook or your website is a great place to send people to and post conference schedules. You don’t want to post here more than one or two times a day.
Twitter is more up to the minute. You can post here four to five times a day sporadically. Images, quotes and Vine videos are great for Twitter.
Instagram is where this generation is. You can post here a maximum of three times a day, but make sure it’s spread out. You can do 15-second videos or photos here.
Snapchat is where you can show behindthescenes clips, fun questions, announce upcoming events.
Create a content calendar. Now that you know what you want to do and how often to post, make a plan by creating a content calendar for each month leading up to the conference, a plan for during the conference and a plan for month or two after the conference for any follow up.
Being in communication as well as a part of the larger conference picture is important, especially when it comes to registration opening and deadlines.
To make your calendar:
Consider your timeline for games, promos, registration, etc. and create your calendars one month at time based on that.
Break down social media postings by day, saying which platform you will post on, what you will post and when.
We recommend posting at different times with different content (photos, videos, quotes, links to articles) throughout the first month or two. After you look at which posts did the best and what content got the most response, make future plans around that information (i.e. if videos are doing well post more).
Create a budget
Plan what gifts, prizes, T-shirts you’ll be giving out as a part of your social media campaigns leading up to and as a part of the conference.
Explore the cost of a social media curation site like zoomph.com and a hashtag analytic site like keyhole.co. There are monthly subscriptions so we recommend only buying it for the month of the actual conference. There are free trials available for both so you can familiarize yourself with the sites beforehand. We’ll explain them later, but just know we used both last year with great success.
Connect at a local level
In addition to following, liking and reposting staff and any bands or speakers for the conference, encourage them to get involved in promotion as well. Ask staff and students who attended in previous years to post and share your content as well as their own. You could even create a content calendar for them.
The Social Media team has a plan and is well connected and informed. Start creating content and post away. Short videos 6-seconds on Vine and 15-seconds on Instagram from speakers or emcees, graphics with verses, conference promos, quotes from speakers and attendees last year are all great examples.
Engage with your followers by responding to everything they post to your handles or with your hashtag. Favorites, retweets and just responding “thanks” goes a long way.
Canva.com is a great site to use if you don’t have a graphic designer on hand, but want content that looks professional.
Continue to communicate and be present for the conference program and creative team planning meetings. Whether you have anything to add or not, continuing to be in the loop and be an advocate for social media as a part of the larger conference is crucial. As ideas and problems come up, think through how social media can help.
During Your Conference
Engage, Engage, Engage
Engage with the students so they know you see what they’re doing
Respond, comment, like, retweet, repost (to repost on Instagram download the “Repost” app on your phone). Let your audience know there are actual people behind the social media handles engaging with the community.
Campaign Make sure you have a way to generate excitement and traction with students. Competition builds excitement and adds more engagement.
Select a photo winner each day from Instagram or Twitter and announce it on the platform so others can see you are looking and selecting.
Here you can manage a Twitter wall or content collage of what everyone has been posting with your hashtag. This is great to project on the screen or on monitors around the conference so students can not only see themselves from up front, but they can also see how God is moving in other people's lives.
During the conference, your social media team will manage this site. They will set up filters that will reject posts containing certain words, and they will be able to manually approve and reject posts that can be projected on the main screen.
Have a team ready to quote speakers, engage and respond to posts and work with Zoomph to find fresh content as it rolls out.
Keyhole.co – Measuring Success and looking at your impact. This is a helpful tool if you do something like the hashtag game and want schools to compete to see who posts the most. It can also be helpful after the conference in measuring your reach. You pay for the month of the conference and it will tell you your hashtag’s reach on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
Put their social media handles on the screen, web and schedule
Quote it up during the sessions. Have your social media team take turns quoting speakers and reposting people's reactions to the sessions on the conference social media.
Use social media for speaker Q&A (questions and answers) after or during the sessions.
Have speakers and Emcees talk about what’s happening from the main stage. EXAMPLE: Selfie from MainStage, make it part of what the emcees are doing.
Working with the Emcees
Encourage creative posts Here are some from this past year:
Have speakers/emcees talk about what’s happening from main stage. For example, take a selfie from MainStage, make it part of what the emcees are doing.
Outreach: Think about social media as a way to share what is going on at the conference with students who are not there. Get trending!
Also, consider the possibilities of an entire conference trending with their hashtag. Take the principles from the conference and think through how you could reach your community on a local level with a similar evangelistic effort through social media and apply similar techniques.
After Your Conference
Now what? Just because the conference is over doesn’t mean that social media’s work is done. Don’t lose momentum after the conference by disengaging. Here are some helpful tips to keep the ball rolling all year long.
Look through your analytics on each social media site to see what you did well and what you can improve on. These analytics will give you information on how many people saw, liked, commented and shared each post.
You will be able to tell which type of post was most popular as well as the best time to reach maximum engagement. You also will want to look at your overall impressions and at how many people were reached. An impression represents the number of times a post from your page is displayed regardless of whether or not people engaged with the post.
People may see multiple impressions of the same post. Reach is a little more specific, it represents the actual number of people that saw your post. The number of impressions is often higher than reach because one person may see several impressions. These numbers will give you a good idea of how much of an impact you are making on social media.
Begin to gather content that can be used to build momentum for the next year. What went well that you want to keep? What new tactics do you want to try? What are some fun and engaging campaign ideas? Begin to build up content early and plan ahead. It will save you a lot of time and stress later. Save and label photos and videos from the conference to use in your promotions for the following year.
Follow up on your social media after the conference don’t completely drop off the web! Incorporate creative ways to follow through and engage with students. Ask engaging questions from the speaker’s talks, post quotes, share photos and even participate in Throwback Thursday (#tbt). Let your followers continue to see you and engage with them.
Begin to work on the content calendar for the next conference. Plan not only for the actual conference time but also for the months leading up to the conference. Engaging students before the conference is key to gaining momentum, reaching more students and having better engagement at the conference.
Keep an organized record of all of your social media handles and passwords that can be easily passed on to the social media team who will be running social media after you.
Train the team following you on how to use social media well. Show them what worked and what did not, how your social media is set up, and the best tips and tricks for engaging with students. You are an expert now pass it on!