How to Integrate Social Media Channels into Your Virtual Event
This is a guest post by Dennis Shiao, looking at virtual events and how they integrate with social media. Virtual is hot my dear reader, you should follow Dennis’ advice. But first a quick intro:
Dennis is Director of Product Marketing at INXPO and author of the book “Generate Sales Leads With Virtual Events.” At INXPO, Dennis is responsible for go-to-market strategy and execution, and for shaping product and platform evolution via the “voice of the customer”.
Aside from private, “invitation only” virtual events, most other virtual events can benefit from the integration of social media channels. Integrating social media is a win/win because it increases and augments the degree of engagement within the event. And, it enables your attendees to promote the event on your behalf. Awareness extends to your attendees’ friends and followers. A few retweets and likes later, and the visibility of your event can increase to “near viral” proportions. Social media integration should not be about slapping up Twitter and Facebook icons throughout the event. In this posting, I outline an approach that aims to give you the best results.
Audience Before Technology
Before you think about the logistics of integrating social networks, start with your target audience. Ask yourself which social networks your audience is active in. If you’re already doing social media marketing, you should have the answers. If not, you’ll have to do some research within your target audience. For instance, Twitter may not be appropriate for septuagenarians, while Foursquare may not be appropriate for mommy bloggers (given the low percentage of females who use that service). So generate your short list of social networks based on where your audience is active.
User Experience (UX) Before Technology
Yes, you technologists will need to sit tight. Next, map out your event’s user experience (UX) to ensure that social media integration blends well into the overall experience. Points to consider:
- Do NOT make attendees leave the environment! “Integration” means incorporation into the event. It does NOT mean taking users to Twitter.com in another browser window.
- Easy to find. Ensure that the social media elements are intuitively placed and labeled within the virtual experience.
- Integrated alongside existing elements. Social media should NOT replace core elements of the virtual platform (e.g. chat, message boards, blogs, etc.). Instead, they should be placed alongside them as additional venues for engagement.
Technology: Integration via API’s
Related to the objective of keeping users within the virtual platform, the secret to integration is the use of Application Programming Interfaces (API’s) provided by social networks. API’s are pieces of code that you can call on from within your virtual event platform. Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn (among other services) all have API’s that provide services such as authentication, social graph queries and message posting.
Technology: Encourage Discovery
If you can leverage technology (and the API’s) to enable your virtual event attendees to discover content and connections, you’ll increase the satisfaction ratings of your event. For instance, using the LinkedIn Connections API can allow attendees to see who in their LinkedIn network is online (in the event) right now! The Twitter API (or, use of Twitter widgets) can enable exhibitors (of your virtual trade show) to list their Twitter ID and gain Twitter followers. Those Twitter followers, in turn, may some day turn into sales opportunities.
By their very nature, virtual event are social. Integrating social networks makes them even more social. Encouraging attendees to tap into familiar social networks only adds to the engagement of your event. And, by tapping into their social graphs, you can increase awareness of your event, while increasing attendees’ awareness of valuable content – and, each other.