What goes into a social media strategy for virtual events? It’s really composed of three core pillars, which are your owned strategy, earned strategy and paid strategy.
Here is what each of these pillars refer to:
- Owned refers to your web properties, like your business Facebook and Instagram page, where you control the content going out. This is also commonly referred to as your organic social media marketing.
- Earned is the exposure gained through word-of-mouth, like positive reviews, recommendations, or articles about your business. This strategy encourages others to share your message.
- Paid is when you pay for ads, promotions, or anything that artificially boosts your content outside of your existing followers.
We are going to focus on the steps to build your owned social strategy for virtual events, meaning your organic strategy for your channels to increase awareness, engagement, and conversion (speaker sign up, sponsor sign up, event registration, etc.). The following nine steps will help you define develop a owned social media strategy for your next event:
Step 1: Understand the complexity of what you’re selling. Each action will require a different level of effort from a social media strategy perspective. Depending on the cost of the ticket or sponsorship, size and length of the virtual event, the frequency of posting and the time it will take to convert will be impacted. If you have a multi-day event that is a high cost to invest in, expect a longer sales cycle. It is important that you give your organic efforts longer to show return in the form of leads and do not pivot too frequently. Once you understand the level of complexity of what you're selling, you can begin to build your owned strategy.
Step 2: Define your goals at each stage of the buyer’s journey. The buyer’s journey can be simplified into four stages:
- Awareness: Where people first learn about your event and what it is about. A good goal here might be: Increase followers by 10% by the end of the month.
- Nurture: This stage relates to how you build trust with a potential attendee, speaker, or sponsor. Example goal would be: Increase engagement by 15% by the end of the month.
- Convert: This refers to the capturing of registrations or sign-ups. Example goal: Increase CTR (click-through rate) to the registration landing pages by 20% by the end of the month.
- Loyalty: This stage is about retention. Example goal: Increase shares by 10% by the end of the month.
You should have goals for every stage of the journey. Once you establish those goals, you can build out your plan to achieve them.
Step 3: Identify what stage of that buyer’s journey you think your followers are at for each of your platforms. This is not a hard science—you can tell by looking at your engagement. Identify which posts you received the most engagement on. For example, if the posts with the most engagement are your company culture posts, it is likely the followers on that account are current customers and fall into the loyalty stage.
Step 4: Review your social media account content. Here are the core questions to consider when reviewing your accounts. These will help you identify gaps in your social media content creation:
- Are you speaking to the stage you think your followers are on your platforms?
- Are you educating your audience regularly?
- Do your accounts speak to the benefits of the virtual event?
Step 5: Review your conversion method. When you are sharing calls to action and links, do you have a way to capture their information? The easiest way to do this is to share content that directs your audience to gated content relevant to your event, so someone can input their data (name and email) to access it. If you don’t have gated content, regularly drive them to a sign-up page on your website. If someone has been following you for a while, they likely want to be able to engage with you. Make sure they understand how they can do that.
Step 6: Develop a messaging matrix. This is where the strategy work really is - identifying the questions someone would ask at each stage of the buyer’s journey, then preemptively answering those questions on the channels where you have followers at that stage. That’s how you create compelling content and move people through those different stages of the funnel. This is at the crux of every social media strategy: Know the questions people want to ask and address the questions before people get to ask them.
Step 7: Identify your content pillars and themes for the virtual event. How can you educate your audience on those topics and give them a taste of the information they’ll receive? Some businesses get nervous about giving content away for free, but I encourage you to push past this fear. Trust that this information will entice your audience to come to the event. Be fearless in what you choose to share, because ultimately sharing that information establishes your thought leadership.
Step 8: Identify planned content that falls under promotional vs. trust-building. If you are always just educating and not selling on your channels, you’re not going to convert. Make it 60% trust-building (e.g., thought leadership and inspirational content) and 40% promotional (selling). Identify the things you can educate your audience on based on your event, but don’t forget to sell too.
Step 9: Create your timeline and content. You don’t want to create launch content as you go. Create a launch calendar to help you see the bigger picture and coordinate your social media efforts with your email marketing and public relations plan. Research speakers, sponsors and other participants that you would want to tag in your posts in advance. Determine your hashtags and create a branded hashtag that can be used for all attendees, speakers, and sponsors. Identify key dates to begin promotion and make a plan for live posting during the event. Keep in mind, the bigger the event, the further in advance you should begin posting.
While every event is different, following these nine steps will help you create a customized owned social media strategy to help you achieve your virtual event marketing goals.
Melissa S. Barker, M.B.A, Business Consultant, Strategy Now LLC
Melissa Barker is a social media consultant and trailblazer in the field of social media, as the author of the first college textbook on social media, “Social Media Marketing: A Strategic Approach.” This textbook has been translated into four languages and sold 50,000 copies worldwide. Melissa has worked as a social media strategist for a decade, helping businesses such as Mammoth HR + ThinkHR, Twistlock, Hubb, Puppet, Act-On Software, Jive Software, AllStream, OPB, Instore, and Siber Systems. She also developed and teaches the Social Media Master Certification™ to help small business owners and the next generation of marketers. Melissa received her M.B.A. from Willamette University and her B.A. in public relations from Gonzaga University.