Thursday 29 September 2016

Friday5: Leveraging Social Media to Participate in Nationwide Events

With the wide reach of social media, it is rare that any event is isolated to one area. National Plug In Day 2013 (NPID), for example, took place in 98 cities across the United States over the course of a weekend to raise awareness about electric cars. My role as community manager for The Electric Generation (TEG)*, an Edison Electric Institute campaign that advocates the use of electric vehicles (EVs), drove my participation.

Since TEG and National Plug In Day ultimately share a goal of raising EV awareness, a social partnership was undeniably beneficial for both parties. While social media provides a strong foundation for nationwide online engagement, it can also be difficult for community managers to participate in simultaneous conversations in each location. However, with enough preparation, marketers can use the sweep of social to our advantage. Below are some tips to leverage events in many different cities and engage online audiences.

1. Identify Target Markets

Even with the power and reach of social media, 98 cities is a lot of ground to cover. To make it more manageable, focus on a handful of markets that mean the most to your audience. For The Electric Generation, we opted to keep a close eye on a few very specific markets for a few definitive reasons.

Primarily, there are some U.S. markets that have higher adoption rates of EVs, meaning the events in these locations may turn out to be larger than in other areas. Secondly, we had a handful of contacts on the ground, enabling us to get a better sense of the local events across the country.

It goes without saying that target markets will vary by community and audience. Maybe they are where the majority of your audience resides, or it’s the locations with the highest number of RSVPs, or maybe you have helpful community members in certain areas – these are all important aspects when considering where you can be most active.

2. Partnering with Event Leaders

If you’re not planning the event yourself, like we weren’t, it’s a good idea to get on board with the preliminary event promotion. Connecting with the hosts lets them know that you’re equally invested in the success of the event and opens the door for the cross-promotion of both channels as conversation leaders.

In our case, we capitalized on an existing connection with NPID influencer Tom Saxton, Chief Science Officer at Plug In America. After establishing our interest in cross-promotion, we were able to collaborate on several pieces of promotional content. In addition to a feature in the PIA newsletter, Tom Saxton also wrote an article for The Electric Generation. Leading up to the events, we cohosted an hour-long Twitter chat, generating approximately 90,000 social impressions and further promoting both NPID and TEG.

3. Activating Local Assistance

Since you can’t actually be in all places at once, it’s best to use your local resources wherever possible to create a more authentic presence. As I mentioned earlier, The Electric Generation had utility representatives at a handful of event locations. Before the events, we enlisted their help with content generation and requested that anyone onsite email images and specifics to be repurposed on social.

As a result, we were able to engage in conversation with fans and followers in various communities who were experiencing different activities. This lent itself to the sense that TEG was participating in more places than one, despite the fact that its community managers were offsite.

4. Engaging Influencers

Much like your event leaders, there will undoubtedly be influencers involved who will propel much of the conversation. Chances are, even if they’re not spread out among the locations, they’ll be highlighting the same chatter around differing perspectives at each event.

Again, it’s in your best interest to touch base beforehand. By building a working relationship with them, you can essentially piggy-back on the content they’re already sharing. In addition to hosting our own Twitter chat for NPID, we also joined an #SCEPlugInDay chat led by Southern California Edison, increasing our West Coast visibility by 15,000 potential impressions, and engaged with @NissanLEAF’s efforts as an event sponsor.

5. Make the Most of UGC

Last, but certainly not least, don’t forget to retweet, reply and repurpose! I recommend a list of handy hashtags and handles to closely monitor any conversation and make the most of excited participants.

Include a call to action and ask your fans to share their photos and experiences, then use the content to create more of your own – with appropriate credits, of course. To source more user-generated content, we posted a Facebook photo of a Portland event and encouraged fans to share their own images. Ultimately, we received enough photos to create an entire album containing 27 user photos that would generate interest well past the event.

How was your brand able to leverage a nationwide event in multiple locations?

*The Electric Generation is an Edelman client

Image credit: jono dot com

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