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The 6 Biggest Fears Event Planners Have About Social Media (and How to Resolve Them)

By KiKi L’Italien
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Even if you feel perfectly comfortable with social media, chances are you run into colleagues who still possess concerns about it. Not everyone is thrilled about all things social media. Here are six of the most popular fears about social media shared by association and event professionals and tips for how to overcome them.

The 6 Biggest Fears Event Planners Have About Social Media (and How to Resolve Them)

1. Looking Bad

Have you ever said something and regretted it later? Traditional marketing provides ample opportunity for editing and review, allowing time for crafting a message and refining it so that it is as accurate, agreeable, and effective for its target audience. Social media communication often happens so quickly that it is difficult to ensure that each message is massaged into perfection. That is one of the exciting aspects of social media and one of its dangers.

“I don’t have many fears about social media, but if I had to come up with one I guess I have the fear of inadvertently putting something libelous or inflammatory that goes viral and causes worldwide catastrophe,” said Elizabeth Aperauch, director of membership & social media, Florida Physical Therapy Association.

Everything is great with social media when things are going well, but when things go wrong it’s a different story. Event professionals aren’t wrong in worrying about the way social media is being handled for their events. No one wants to look bad when managing an event, be it due to poor handling of social media channels or spammers taking hold of an event’s hashtag.

Have a social media crisis plan in place is a good way to alleviate those fears.

“If your thought-process is sound, you move to solutions quickly,” said Robb Lee, chief marketing officer for the American Society of Association Executives.

“We refine it and get better each time. We’ve also learned how much our stakeholders genuinely care about the outcomes. They want the best solutions, and they are also willing to contribute to achieving those solutions, too. We’re appreciative and lucky that is the case.”

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2. Too Many Choices

There are so many options in content and channels today that many people are overwhelmed. Should your organization focus on better photography, video, podcasts, or interviews? Anchor, Periscope, Instagram, Snapchat, Peach, ...as new social media channels rise in popularity, some people have a desire to test every new tool out on members and event attendees. But using a social media channel without a strategy is a recipe for disaster.

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One way to avoid this problem is to identify whom you are trying to reach, why you are trying to reach them, and where they prefer to receive your message or engage with you.

“I want to expand the FPTA [Florida Physical Therapy Association] social media network into other channels because the younger generations are using something other than the mainstream,” said Elizabeth Aperauch, director of membership & social media.

Aperauch researched the options and identified specific channels she wanted to test with specific segments of her membership. Clarity on audience and message are key in facing down the fear of too many choices.

3. Inviting Negativity

“No one wants to be the person explaining to the executive director why a person with an axe to grind is posting negative accusations after every tweet your association puts out,” said Chad Faison, director of marketing and communications, FL Engineering Society.

Just by having a presence on social media or using a hashtag for an event, you increase your chances of hearing negative comments. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Unpleasant criticism is never any fun, but if you hear it quickly you might have a chance to do something about it.

“We make sure to regularly monitor online mentions of our organization and have a plan in place in case something unpleasant occurs, which almost never actually happens,” said Faison.

“If a problem is legit, then we try to solve it quickly, addressing it online and then moving it to a more personal one-on-one exchange. Otherwise, we try to remember to avoid feeding the trolls who only want to irritate and disrupt.”

4. It Isn’t Right for This Group

Statistics say otherwise, but some people still believe that the people in a particular industry or demographic are not on social media and so any effort expended in that direction is wasted time.

A little skepticism is healthy, but assumptions can be disastrous.

5. Privacy Concerns

Not all events should be captured with media and for some it’s illegal to do so. Whether it’s a concern for protecting intellectual property on the expo floor or guarding the privacy of certain attendees.

Whether using iBeacons to collect advanced information about event attendees or policing the use of live video in the exhibit hall to ensure the protection of intellectual property, event planners are increasingly being put in the precarious position of monitoring technology use for its legal implications.

Organizations should seek legal counsel to review planned or potential data collection efforts in place by any vendors or exhibitors for upcoming events. This effort will allow planners to be put in a more empowered and knowledgeable position.

6. Diminishing the Value of the Live Event

The push toward live video alarms some people because of its potential to take away from the allure of the on site event. Ironically, there are several reports that indicate that live video actually increases face-to-face attendance for events.

Measuring and Maximizing the Impact of a Hybrid Event,” a study by Virtual Edge Institute, stated that 82% of the online audience found the virtual environment helpful in making a decision to attend in-person next time. In other words, people who view live video from events are more likely to attend those events in-person in the future.

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In Conclusion

Whether you are an advocate for social media or one of its biggest critics, social media is a regular part of today’s expected communication repertoire. Making decisions based on fear is never a good idea and by recognizing and addressing the concern, better decisions can be made.

“I believe once we have a thoughtful strategy and plan in place, most, if not all of my fears will be alleviated as staff will have a map to follow and goals to achieve, which will take care of maintaining momentum, engagement, and what we share, when we share it, and where we share,” said Adrienne Bryant, member information and database manager, Association of Florida Colleges.

about the author

KiKi L’Italien
KiKi L'Italien is a social media consultant specializing in associations and nonprofits. KiKi is the host for the weekly Association Chat on Twitter and Blab, an international speaker, and social media instructor for Mediabistro. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram at @kikilitalien.
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