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Facebook recently hosted its f8 conference, an annual event that brings together developers to hear executive announcements about the social network and see its new features for the first time. But the big news from the conference wasn't the site's new features or the public's love/hate of those changes.
Instead, Facebook showed how forward-thinking marketers are reimagining events. By integrating smart Web and social marketing strategies, Facebook demonstrated how to create a richer, robust event experience that extends beyond in-person attendees to a global audience.
Here are four tradeshow and event marketing lessons that can greatly increase the reach of your tradeshows and events, and keep the buzz going long after the events themselves are over.
1. Harness the power of online video
Online video viewing continues to grow at an impressive rate. According to a comScore report from August, "180 million US Internet users watched online video content for an average of 18 hours per viewer."
The first lesson? Facebook adopted and widely embraced live video streaming. The entire f8 conference—including Andy Samberg's kickoff spoof, Mark Zuckerberg's keynote, and conference sessions and talks—were streamed live on the f8 Facebook conference page. At its peak, the live stream reached more than 100,000 online viewers.
Live video streaming technology is becoming more stable and widely available. Consider using the power of online video to extend your event and bring your story to life for a larger audience. Though Facebook's f8 live stream took 25 days and a 40-person team to execute, your plans don't have to be as complicated. Use a live-video-streaming strategy for only the most important parts of your event—such as the CEO's opening session, a popular speaker's keynote, or an important press announcement.
If you can't stream live, you can record the event for future archive posting and social-sharing purposes.
2. Get social
New research shows that 80% of US Internet users spend time on blogs and social sites, such as Facebook and Twitter. Therefore, social media is poised to redefine event experiences—and event marketing.
Considering the nature of Facebook, the heavy integration of social media at f8 was no surprise. But the average company can also use social media to extend tradeshows and events to nonattendees.
Most of us weren't physically at f8, but thanks to Twitter, we could follow real-time news and commentary about the conference. Nearly 7,500 tweets with the conference hashtag "#f8" were generated in the first five minutes after a new feature—the Timeline—was announced!
From promotion to real-time reporting, integrating social media is a strategy that a company of any size can employ. Start by creating and using a conference or tradeshow hashtag in your pre-event promotions, and continue with real-time updates that also include the hashtag. To get feedback or generate business prospects, host a Tweetup (an offline meeting organized via Twitter) for in-person attendees. A Tweet Chat (a pre-arranged Twitter chat with a dedicated hashtag) can help those not attending your event contribute to the conversation.
Beyond Twitter, a Facebook event allows participants to RSVP, post real-time questions, and see event photos and videos.
3. Learn the new PR rules
Thanks to the Web and bloggers, PR now occurs in real time. Journalists and bloggers who flocked earnestly to cover f8 also brought real-time reporting to those who weren't there. Their reporting infiltrated the larger blogosphere, creating more buzz and PR as product news spread like wildfire. The conference was mentioned more than 116,000 times online, by large media outlets such as The Huffington Post, Mashable, and TechCrunch, and by small specialized news sites.
Though your event may not draw the same press attention, you can still apply Facebook's third lesson to your tradeshow or event. Designate team members, colleagues, or partners to be your "PR street team" to cover various event elements. For example, one person could blog about salient keynote points, another can post attendees' questions and experts' answers, and another team member can summarize key session takeaways—all in real time.
And don't limit your PR efforts to the written word. Consider shooting a quick video of event highlights to post on YouTube or on your event's Facebook page. If you have high-profile speakers, record one-minute Q&As with them backstage on a hot topic so their perspectives can be shared with nonattendees. Simply posting photo albums with event captions on Facebook or Flickr can generate PR.
4. It's an open, open, open world
Many technical events or tradeshows happen behind closed doors, but why not embrace the concept of openness and sharing? Even though Facebook's business model is based on social sharing, the same principles can be adapted to other businesses.
You don't have to take sharing to the extent Facebook did. Start by looking for event content that is relevant to the largest audience, such as an opening keynote or a popular product demo. Sharing can be easily accomplished by any of the techniques mentioned in this article; the hard part is embracing the concept and getting buy-in to open your event to a larger audience.
But think of it this way: For every tradeshow or event, a group of people will be unable to attend who have interest in your products/solutions. In many cases, being open, sharing your message, and encouraging conversation may drive future event attendance and increase participation.
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You don't have to be a giant like Facebook to achieve success with your tradeshows and events. No matter the size of your company or what type of event you're hosting, a few smart social and Web-marketing strategies can create an engaging event experience that'll reach beyond in-person attendees and keep the conversation going about your company.
Do you know of other tradeshow or event marketing lessons that can be learned from Facebook?