Best Practices for Using Social Media for Live Events

Planning guidelines for the social media component of any live event.

  1. To create the foundation of your plan, determine who your audience is; this decision will guide which platforms you need to use to best reach it.
  2. Set goals for what you want to achieve on social media. Discussions and a conversational tone work better in these spaces than formal press releases and marketing-speak. Sample goals include initiating and participating in discussions, answering questions about your event/initiative, raising awareness, engaging new participants/interested parties, discovering new partners, making a call to action, connecting participants to more information about how to get involved.
  3. Your goals will help you determine which metrics to track and report out on afterwards.
  4. Choose a hashtag you'll use on these platforms. Shorter is better, ideally no more than 8-10 characters, though sometimes a longer phrase will best convey the core concept of your initiative. Be sure to think bigger than just this one event if there will be follow-ups or if you're trying to start a larger conversation. Your hashtag should help you achieve your goals.
  5. As you begin assembling print and online materials, make sure they're branded with the appropriate logos and language (ALA, your unit, etc.). Consistent branding across everything you produce will help participants navigate your information regardless of where they see it.
  6. Make sure your press release headline will work well on social media - short and to the point while explaining the important aspects of your event. Avoid using jargon, and include your hashtag in the press release. Ideally, your headline, hashtag, and a shortened URL (e.g., bit.ly) should total no more than 120 characters to make it easy to retweet.
  7. Early in your planning process, we encourage you to coordinate with the staff Social Media Working Group (SMWG) to discuss how ALA can post or amplify your efforts. We're also available to help create a social media plan, brainstorm campaigns, recommend a hashtag, and connect you with others in the organization who have run something similar successfully.
  8. Determine how you'll generate conversation around your event, rather than just issuing press releases in social channels. Come up with questions and discussion points in advance, and make sure your process is sustainable. Start discussions before your event in order to be inclusive and transparent. Use the opportunity to get valuable feedback that can help shape your event even further.
  9. If it's practical and at all possible, livestream the event to include all interested parties outside of the room. ALA has a Google Plus page with Hangouts and an official, nonprofit YouTube channel you can use for your event. ALA ITTS also has a webcam and a video camera you can borrow if you need equipment to help with this. If it's not possible to livestream, try to record some videos you can post afterwards. You can also record and post the livestream to ALA's channels.
  10. If you record audio or video, work with the person doing the recording ahead of time to make sure they'll give you the files in a standard, cross-platform format (eg, mp3 instead of wma) and consider breaking them up into chunks no longer than an hour if possible. Providing one file with everything as well as individual files lets users choose how they'd prefer to download/access the material. Use this same strategy if you make text materials available (eg, pdf instead of docx).
  11. Create visual materials ahead of time that you can use in your posts leading up to and during your event. Pictures, animated images, and videos all do well on various platforms and will make your content more appealing.
  12. While you can schedule some posts in advance using tools like Hootsuite, the most successful online components of physical events have someone posting and responding in real-time. Your best chance of handling questions and participating in discussion during your event is to appoint someone to be a dedicated participant. Monitoring social media during your event is a full-time job of its own, and it's difficult to do well with partial attention while staying focused on other duties that need to be handled in the room. 
  13. When your plan is ready, communicate it to everyone involved, as well as to any other ALA units or groups who will benefit from knowing about what you're doing. If your event is of broad interest, it's okay to send an all-staff email to alert everyone.
  14. After your event, debrief with all participants within a few days and record the results. Requesting feedback on the channels you used during the event can help you and others enhance future efforts.
  15. If you have video from your event, consider editing it into short videos you can share on social media afterwards. If you're in the Chicago office, there's a Macintosh computer outside of the Training Room that you can use to edit your video. Contact Pam Akins or Maribeth Chapman for the login to use it.

The Social Media Working Group shares information across units, so we'd be happy to archive and highlight your plan in our training and support materials. If you're especially proud of your efforts, we encourage you to hold an informal staff skillshare session to help others learn best practices. Pam Akins in ITTS can help schedule a session in the Training Room.

The SMWG meets from 2:00-3:00pm the second and fourth Thursday of each month, usually in the Carnegie Room with other offices participating via phone. If you'd like to coordinate how we can amplify your efforts, get advice/recommendations, or share your experiences (positive and otherwise!), please feel free to come to any of our meetings. We're very informal, and we welcome participation from anyone who wants to talk about social media.

We also have a Connect community you can join or follow, as well as a section on the Support site where you can find information we've put together for staff.

If you have further questions about the group or would like to schedule some time on one of our agendas, please contact Jenny Levine in ITTS (x2461).

- See more at: http://connect.ala.org/node/223894#sthash.EquULkIW.dpuf