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Lessons (re)learned in event social media

Music & Worship Arts WeekIf you’ve been following me on Twitter recently, I’m sure you’ve noticed several posts regarding Music & Worship Arts Week (MWAW). What is that, you may ask? It’s an annual week-long event held at Lake Junaluska, N.C., presented by The Fellowship of United Methodists in Music and Worship Arts, a non-profit organization that I am happy to be working with.

With so much creativity happening in one place involving nearly 900 attendees, the opportunity was there for some exciting avenues in social media. As part of the team heading up social media for the week, we ran into some interesting challenges … and many interesting discoveries along the way.

While this information is probably not groundbreaking for any of you who have worked in social media for a large event, it was particularly noteworthy for this specific event, which has struggled to find a distinct social media presence in previous years. The organization’s overall demographics skew older, and while MWAW does attract a large number of youth groups and young adults, for whatever reason, the social media channels never really caught on.

This year, though, we found significant success, reaching more than 10,000 people over the week on Facebook alone (again, a small number for a large company, but a huge number for an event that has just over 300 Facebook likes) and creating community around a centralized hashtag for the event.

Here are some of the takeaways that we found from working over the week.

Each platform is unique, so treat it that way.

We found that we had much more engagement if we considered the platform (and, more importantly, the audience we had on each platform) before posting. Our strategy ended up being as follows:

  • Facebook page for event (not a Facebook event): All captured video and photos from significant events.
  • Facebook page for organization: A selected number of shared posts from the event page, specifically targeting the broader organization audience.
  • Twitter: Announcements, schedule changes, reminders, occasional quotes and photos from speakers/concerts as well as retweets of participants’ photos.
  • Instagram: Short video clips, picturesque photos.

In short — we didn’t duplicate much at all. The only duplication was sharing between our Facebook pages as relevant. Not every photo was posted on Instagram. Not every Facebook post was sent out as a tweet. And we had greater success than we’ve ever had before.

The key to success is sharing.

One of the keys to that success, especially on Facebook, was sharing. Posts that were shared by others received significantly more likes and comments. Worth noting is that it didn’t seem to matter whether what was being shared was a video or a photo. (We had shared photos that had more engagement than videos, once again proving that video is appealing, but it’s not the end-all, be-all to solving your social media woes.)

This isn’t a counterintuitive notion. People follow people on social media who they like and trust. And if someone you like and trust shares something, you’re more likely to consume it … and like it yourself.

So, if you’re working on a event with a committee … I strongly suggest urging fellow team members to share posts from the event. It can double, triple, or even quadruple the reach and engagement on your posts.

MWAW Youth Talent Show SelfieEncouragement from leadership is also important.

Another key to our success this year – many of our clinicians also shared posts or encouraged participants to post during their sessions or events. Our liturgist for the week encouraged attendees to post at the end worship each morning – and even gave a specific task just about every day for said posts. (One, for example: Take a picture of your ribbon in a beautiful setting and post using the hashtag.)

Our most successful day over the past two years is always the night of the Youth Talent Show, where the show’s host encourages teens in attendance to take a selfie and post with the hashtag in the opening moments of the show. It was a chaotic scene in the auditorium, but resulted in more than 60 individual posts on our hashtag in just over 10 minutes.

Content gathering can be time-consuming.

When dealing with a large event, it’s key to gather/capture your own content so that – and this is important – you own your assets. Take your own video so that you know you’ll have it as opposed to relying solely on participants’ videos and photos. But, that requires work. A lot of work. Especially when things are scattered across a campus. So, be sure to have the proper number of resources available to you.

  • You may need more than one person working on content gathering.
  • Make sure your devices are properly charged and have adequate space for capturing. (This happened to me on more than one occasion – I lost a couple of great moments because I ran out of space on my phone.)
  • Consider traveling with more than one device. Due to the aforementioned storage issue, I started carrying around both my phone and iPad to every event. I used the phone for photos and the iPad for videos. While a bit clumsy at times, it worked very well.

Don’t wait until the very end to curate.

We encouraged our participants to share their experiences with posts and photos using our event hashtag. We then curated these posts into a slideshow each morning, presented as a kind of recap of the day before. (Helpful hint: Engagement on your hashtag will increase significantly when participants realize that their pictures will be seen on the “big screen” if they post using your hashtag!)

But, just as in gathering, curating is time-consuming. Hashtags can be used on a lot of different platforms – Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook were the ones we chose to focus on. And yes, I had searches set up in my Hootsuite account to save some time, but to actually open each post, take a screen grab (our preferred method for creating the slideshow as opposed to embedding, which isn’t always reliable when you have an iffy WiFi situation), save, resize and add to a slide … what seems like a quick and simple task is often simple … but not quick. Be sure to allot enough time in your pre-planning to execute.

And don’t wait until the end of the day to curate. I was successful in all but one day in curating as the day went along, making the completion of the slideshow much less stressful late at night.

Google Slides is awesome.

Speaking of that slideshow, I opted to create my slides using the Google Slides tool in Google Drive as opposed to PowerPoint or SlideShare or Keynote. It was an inadvertently brilliant decision on a couple of levels.

No flash drive required: By being able to save to my Drive, I didn’t have to carry around a flash drive, reformat (or risk losing formatting) on an unknown computer in the AV control room or even carry around my computer and hope that it would connect adequately to the system being used. I simply logged in to Google each morning on the AV computer, opened the slideshow file and hit play. That’s it.

[googleapps domain=”docs” dir=”presentation/d/1Dg0n1ixL_qBD4MGFOXtrtkYMSThqiatUFQt24Rxw1uo/embed” query=”start=false&loop=false&delayms=3000″ width=”480″ height=”299″ /]
It’s embeddable! Yes, a very happy accident. When some people mentioned they missed the slideshow in the morning, I wanted to come up with a way to embed the slideshow into our website. I wasn’t exactly sure how to do that at first, but a quick search through the export function showed me that I could not only export with an embed code, I could set it to autoplay, with slides changing after a specific duration. It worked like a charm … and took all of two minutes every day to execute.

Have a follow-up plan.

After the event is over and everyone goes home … then what? While in the midst of this year’s event, we came up with a post-event strategy. We’re spreading out the posting of videos captured during the event, continuing to retweet posts with the hashtag, and are working to create a slideshow from some of the professional photos of the event set to music as a recap video that we can email to participants. This same video will work as a temporary promo for our 2016 event … and we plan on showing it at our next event this summer in Indianapolis later this month.

We also outlined an “off-season” plan, so to speak, to help build on the rapid growth and momentum experienced over the past week. The worst thing to do would be nothing, and lose everything we gained. Even though our post-event plan was mapped out in just a couple of minutes, we’re already seeing success and continued growth several days after the event’s conclusion.


So … that’s what worked for us. We’ll try a lot of this out again in a week or so as our biennial national event in Indianapolis kicks off. What have you found that works for you?


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