Six Social Media Event Marketing Blunders To Avoid

This post is by Dave Lutz, Managing Director of Velvet Chainsaw Consulting.

Blogs, LinkedIn, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter: More organizations are trying their hand at these cool Web 2.0 tools to help grow their show and attract future members — with mixed results. 

Unfortunately, most attempts at using social media to attract attendees or increase the value they get out of a face-to-face meeting fall short of expectations.

Here are six reasons why your social media event marketing may fail:

1. No plan for regular content
You can’t rely solely on the community to initiate and drive the conversation. You’ve got to stoke the fire. Make it a point to post thought-provoking entries at least several times each week. Ask questions. Encourage conversation and the sharing of opinions. Many organizations have too many posts with a hot-link to news or another organization’s content instead of demonstrating their own thought leadership.

Consider making it a requirement for event speakers to post something original before and after the conference. It’s all about engagement and trying to build on attendance at the live event. Besides speakers, who else would be considered an influencer for your meetings and events? Tap them for fresh content.

2. Not a sales-free zone
If I join your group and find too many posts from people trying to sell me something, I’m out of there in a heartbeat. Enforce a strict no-solicitation policy and block those who break the rules. Also, it’s very un-cool to peddle your own stuff to your online community. If you offer value without expectation, you create trust that will lead to long-term loyalty.

3. Content not worth forwarding
Think about what kinds of e-mails you forward to your community – they’re emotional (funny, cute, touching) or of great professional or personal interest. Yet most YouTube videos posted by associations can put people to sleep – like a board member’s monotone testimonial on why to attend the annual conference. Before you publish something on the Web, make sure your members will find it interesting enough to share with their peers. If they won’t, look for another angle.

4. Community is too general
Associations will drive greater participation in a LinkedIn or Facebook community by establishing relevant subgroups, such as special interest groups (SIGs), chapters, or a community focused on an upcoming conference.

5. Posts lack a strong structure
Make sure you’re taking care of these basics:

  • Good titles lead to clicks. Make them catchy.
  • Mix in media, including photos and videos.
  • Keep it short. Web posts are meant to be consumed quickly. If you have a lot to say, break it up into numerous posts.
  • Encourage commentary. It’s a measure of success. Sure, most online communities have lurkers, but if you’re getting few to no comments, you’re not delivering valuable content.

6. You’re a control freak
If you force people to subscribe, moderate comments and have all kinds of rules (beyond the no-solicitation policy), you may be sending a message that you don’t trust your community. They’ll go play somewhere else and talk about you there. Will you be listening?

Take Away
If you build it, they won’t necessarily come. Social media may be where it’s at today, but it’s only with consistent effort and a thoughtful approach that you can create an engaged community.

With blogs and LinkedIn, make it a point to consistently post relevant content (including questions) and add fresh voices. Encourage dialogue. Mix it up, with short videos and photos. Before you publish anything on the Web, make sure it will be compelling enough for your members to want to share it with their peers.

What other social media event marketing blunders have you experienced and would add to the list?

This post was originally published in Convene. It was reprinted with permission of Convene, the magazine of the Professional Convention Management Association. © 2010

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  2. Dave, I am guilty of at least 2 of these. I started blogging over a year ago and lasted 1 whole month. I did not have a plan of what I wanted to say or how to get across what I wanted and it turned into a monster weighing me down. I wasted hours and hours not writing anything and the stuff I did write was terrible.

    My Blogging is going to be better this time round. As you know I finally found what it is I am supposed to do and I ended up finding my voice.

    I culd have used this posting 11 months ago. Would have helped a lot.



  3. Dave Will says:

    Very helpful tips. But, I wanted to comment on one thing. You said, “Also, it’s very un-cool to peddle your own stuff to your online community.” Not sure I agree with that.

    There’s a balance in the content of your community, and there’s a lot of information out there that should not be considered free. Not everything on the internet has to be free. For example, a lot of associations offer webinars for a fee. This helps them pay for the service and it also becomes a source of revenue for the association to continue doing what they do. The community is not necessarily a bad place to announce relevant valuable programs, even if it means putting a price tag next to it.

    Of course, if this is not what you meant by “peddling your own stuff”, then I’m barking up the wrong tree.

    Thanks for the good insight and ideas.

  4. Dave Lutz says:

    ‘@Calum, thanks for comment! We got to get you reading Convene. This article was originally published there in May, 2009. We’re looking forward to keeping up with the worthwhile work that you’re doing at

    @Dave, thanks for challenging my peddling your own stuff comment. We’re on the same page. It’s definitely good to make a community aware of valuable products and services that will help them personally or professionally. The key is having a good balance.

    That comment is mostly directed to the suppliers/vultures that we see on sites like some LinkedIn groups. Someone will ask for a recommendation and the next thing you know, they get a bunch of solicitations saying – we can do that for you.

    Most vendors still think social media is about marketing…broadcasting “buy my stuff”. They don’t realize that social means build a relationship with me, be there before the sale, if I trust and like you, maybe I’ll buy from you.

  5. Dave Will says:

    Very good points, Dave, and agree completely. Thanks for responding.

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