The Pros and Cons of Hosting Live Social Media Events

The Pros and Cons of Hosting Live Social Media EventsIt’s every business’s dream to have hundreds of prospective clients waiting to sign on for live social media events. But for how many brands is that really a reality? And, if you’re one of them, how do you know when the time is right to launch one?

While live branded social media events seem like a great opportunity to engage with prospective clients and assert your company message, sometimes they’re simply not a fit for your audience. Here’s a closer look at the pros and cons of hosting a live branded social media event as part of your social media strategy:

When to Go Virtual

The two most popular forms of live events are Twitter Chats and Google Hangouts. Twitter chats became popular shortly after Twitter launched in 2006, and the same pattern applied to Google Plus when it launched its Google Hangout platform in 2013.

If your audience is passionate enough and centrally located enough, by all means host a live sponsored event -- but for more dispersed groups (and especially for groups of under 100), a live social media event might be the best move.

Virtual events are best for companies with a widespread audience in a number of different time-zones. This allows anyone with Internet access to participate in the event, making the odds of participation (and the incentive) much higher. Here are three more factors to consider when deciding between a live event and a live social media event:

Mitigating Risk

Be sure to consider whether or not a live event is worth the risk compared to the "almost-live" experience of an on-demand event. If you've never planned or executed a live event before, it may be safer and more effective to have an on-demand event first to test the waters. On-demand events can be recorded, paused and edited to produce a better quality product.

Repurposing Content

At Backbone Media sometimes the value of our client’s live events doesn't come from the 100 or so people who register and attend the actual event but rather the 1000s that can view it on-demand after it is recorded and edited or cut-up and repurposed. We typically can produce three to five blog posts from the content in one 15-minute live event.

Optimizing Engagement

One major factor in deciding if we will produce a live event is the expected engagement level of the audience. For example, if the audience is expected to add to the quality of the content via a Twitter chat, Google Hangout comment, or live survey, then hosting a live event makes sense.

However if we are expecting low to no audience engagement, recording the event may be a better option. For example, Backbone produces video podcasts that are not live but do weave opportunities to engage the audience through clickable links.

When to Have a Twitter Chat

Twitter chats are best run around concepts or industries, not specific brands, speakers, or events. For example, if you’re looking for more clients in the insurance industry, you might promote and sponsor a Twitter Chat that focuses on 2014 security and compliance updates. Advertise this Twitter chat as an open call to anyone interested to participate using the same hashtag and share resources.

When planning your event, make sure you brainstorm your hashtag intentionally and provide the right amount of time to encourage awareness and immediacy. There are plenty of blog posts on the internet that can help you craft a successful Twitter chat, but here are the basics for hosting a live social media event on Twitter:

Have your social media specialist attend a Twitter chat hosted by someone else to see what it’s like from a participant’s perspective.

  • Choose a universal theme that can be discussed by a wide range of professionals.
  • If possible, reach out to influencers within the topic community and personally invite them to participate in the chat.
  • Plan questions in advance and release them with your hashtag at appropriate intervals (about 15 minutes apart).
  • Be ready to write up and link to a conclusion or wrap-up post that summarizes the event and includes tweets from a variety of users.
  • Set an alert to monitor the hashtag every few weeks to catch stragglers.

When A Google Hangout Works Better

Not just for internal meetings anymore, Google Hangouts are best for providing unique access to high-demand speakers and celebrity figures. Consider your company partnerships with other brands and access to public speakers and work together to host a speaker. Provide the event free of charge for anyone who wants to attend.

Using the same B2B insurance industry example above, you might sponsor a security specialist to provide a half-hour long presentation and an hour-long Google Hangout Q&A. This will provide a valuable opportunity for your prospective clients (the opportunity to speak 1:1 with a security professional) and give great face time to your brand (the company that made it happen).

When it comes time to host the actual Google Hangout, turn to this post from Martin Shervington for all of the basics. Here’s a recap of hosting a live social media event with Google Hangouts:

  • Choose your speaker or panel of speakers with care and provide an agenda of their talk to help attendees follow the conversation.
  • Advertise as if this were a live event, 4-6 weeks out with a real registration process.
  • Make sure prospective attendees know that they don’t need to be on Google+ to attend the hangout.
  • Create a custom Google+ community circle for the event and invite anyone interested to join (promote this on all of your social media channels).
  • Much like the follow up to a Twitter Chat, prepare a conclusion post that summarizes the Hangout and link to a recorded version of it.

Like every tool in your digital marketing toolkit, Twitter Chats and Google Hangouts are only worthwhile if they’re attractive to your prospective audience. Use your expert knowledge of your B2B audience to figure out how you can host helpful, insightful live social media events. If you’re ready to dip your toes into the world of live, branded social media events, we hope this post was helpful.

What other questions do you have about Twitter Chats and Google Hangouts? Do you plan to use them for your marketing efforts?

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