7 tips to get customers with social media during special events

This week is Small Business Week in Asheville, NC, a time to celebrate the success of local small businesses and their owners. Asheville is a relatively small city but it has a very strong downtown community of locally owned businesses, making it a great opportunity to find new clients and drive business, as long as potential customers can find the store.

This scene is not unique to Asheville. Anywhere you go there are special events going on of one kind or another and with the events come potential customers who are looking for something to do, eat, drink, or learn.

But how can you tap in to this potential gold mine?

As technology becomes more and more pervasive people are increasingly searching for things to do and places to eat online. During events this is even more true – social media will be buzzing with people sharing their pictures and experiences.

Here are 7 tips to build your business’ social media presence during an event:

1) Know your audience

The type of event and audience it attracts will largely dictate what type of social media campaign you’ll run. Do some research into the people attending, the location, the schedule. This will help you figure out what you should be posting, when you should be posting it, and what type of audience you can target.

2) Define a goal

With proper planning you can run experiments to find out what works best with your audience. Set a goal for yourself that relates to the business. The goal may relate to social media (“Gain 200 new followers on Facebook”) or something a little more real (“Increase weekly revenue by 25%”).

Whatever you decide makes sure it is a S.M.A.R.T. goal:

  • Specific: “Get 10 new customers” not “grow my business”
  • Measurable: similar to the example above, use a number so you’ll know if you reached it or not.
  • Actionable: something you can take action on, not something that is out of your control.
  • Realistic: it may be nice to set a goal of getting 100,000 new twitter followers in two days but you’ll likely be disappointed.
  • Timely: it should be something that makes sense for the situation you’re in today not something that may happen down the road.

3) Set your measuring stick

If you set a SMART goal you’ll probably already have your metric, it’s what you use to measure the success of your campaign. You can also have more than one metric, it can help you figure out what worked and what didn’t.

As an example, take a restaurant using twitter to attract concert goers after the show. The goal might be to bring in 150 customers; in addition to counting customers, to measure success on different platforms the owner could measure retweets/mentions on Twitter, and shares/likes on Facebook. When analyzing the campaign afterwards it would be easy to tell whether Twitter or Facebook was more popular.

4) Put yourself out there

It’s easy to write down goals but often, the hardest part is to get on social media (twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.) and start posting. Each post has a relatively short lifespan so the more consistent you are the more likely someone is to see it.

People often worry about what others “will think” about their posts. There’s no need to be embarrassed, the biggest hurdle is often doing it the first time. Once you start just keep going, especially if you are using twitter, post 5 or more times a day.

Most importantly find out if the event has a hashtag (e.g. #SmallBusinessWeek2015). If so, use it in all of your posts to make them easy to find. Anyone looking for news on the event will be watching for it.

5) Reference “Local Heroes”

Social media is about making connections; the more connections, likes, retweets, shares you have the more influence you have. So how do you reach a big crowd when your own following is relatively small or you’re trying to attract a new crowd? Refer to an influencer in the crowd you’re trying to reach. With any luck they’ll be so flattered they’ll share your post themselves, significantly boosting your cred.

For example, say you’re a new business in Asheville trying to reach out to other local businesses. You might write a post and talk about how awesome the city is; how you’ve only been here a couple days but it already feels like a second home; and how Downtown Asheville must be doing an incredible job to support such an amazing place. If you did that, they might just share your post with all of their followers.

6) Content, make it relevant or don’t do it at all

Depending on the type of event and the type of audience, it may or may not be a good idea to post content – content meaning blog posts, white papers, long Facebook posts, anything that someone would have to sit down to read.

It comes back to knowing your audience. At a business or professional event people are looking for information, they want to learn. In contrast, at festivals or celebrations people are on vacation, they aren’t looking for more work.

Plan accordingly.

7) Be spontaneous

If you’re attending the events and mingling you’ll get a feel for what people are doing and what they’re looking for. Use that. There’s only so much you can plan – events are about experience, if you tap into it you can make your business part of your customers’ experience.

The best thing about using social media is that it is straight-forward and free. It takes some time to get used to but with experience you’ll start to learn what works for you, your business, and your customers.