How to Leverage Instagram and Twitter for Events and Conferences
February 20, 2015

How to Leverage Instagram and Twitter for Events and Conferences

Social media is one of the most useful tools at your disposal for promoting your upcoming event or conference.

But the best event promoters use their social networks as more than just a megaphone. Here’s how you can do more with social media at your conference or live event.

Focus on a Few Platforms

In general, Twitter and, increasingly, Instagram are the social networks of the event/conference world.

Facebook and other networks can be used for paid pre-event promotion and registration, and potentially for some post-event engagement. But to foster the kind of real-time discussion you find at conferences, focusing on Instagram and Twitter for events makes the most sense.

By all means, include Facebook in your event marketing, but this post will focus on how to use the two big players, Instagram and Twitter, before, during, and after your conference.

Nail Down Your Social Media Best Practices

While your actions on both networks will be different pre, during, and post-event, there are some rules that apply across all phases of the process. These include:

  • Maintain consistent branding and imagery between all social accounts, landing pages, emails, and any other event-related correspondence.
  • Define unique event hashtags.
    • Make sure these hashtags have not been used before. This is important: not checking to ensure your hashtag is unique could open your feed up to unrelated content at best, and inappropriate content at worst.
    • Include variations to drive more-focused conversations around certain activities (such as keynote speakers) using an underscore (one of the few special characters that Twitter recognizes in hashtags).
      • Keep variations short: you still need to be mindful of character space
      • For example: #YourEvent and #YourEvent_BigName
  • Invest in strategically placed physical signage displaying event hashtags and/or associated account usernames.
  • Invest in signage (physical and/or projected) displaying the WiFi name and password prominently. Have backup networks available.
  • Establish a set of internal social event guidelines that can be referenced by any team member managing social accounts.

Before: Use Instagram and Twitter to Generate Awareness

If you’re looking for ways to maximize the effectiveness of social media at your live events, the days, weeks, and months before your event are arguably even more important than event-day.

Using social media strategically ahead of time will lay the awareness groundwork and foster an attitude of social engagement well before kick-off.

How to Use Twitter Before Your Event

  • If you're using an event app, use a Twitter App Card to host the download link.
  • Create Twitter lists of speakers or event influencers and encourage attendees to follow  it to stay in the loop.
  • Search for your conference and keywords and follow people who are talking about your event. Check out FollowerWonk for deep Twitter analytics and management.
  • Ask for attendees' Twitter handles at registration and include them on their event badges.
  • Round up presenter slide decks ahead of time and tweet them out as presenters finish up.
  • Sometimes attendees and speakers can be wary of opening themselves up to criticism social media. Create and promote a "Twitter agreement" to put everyone at ease.
  • Do not auto-DM new followers or followees. This looks lazy and self-promotional: not the best first impression!

How to Use Instagram Before Your Event

  • Share headshots of speakers with information about their presentation (including room, time etc.) and their special hashtag (if assigned).
  • Post photos or, even better, a time-lapse video of the venue set-up.
  • Update the link in your bio to the event registration page or event information page on your site.
    • Make sure to give people  heads up to "click the link in our bio" in your photo captions.

During: Use Instagram and Twitter to Enhance Discussion

This is the fun part. Here’s where you get to watch all your hard work play out. You’ve planned your hashtags and Twitter lists, you’ve plotted your contest workflows, and you’ve set up your social projector. Now watch the engagement roll in.

Still, there are a few things you can do at this phase in the game to make sure your attendees are using social to their (and your) advantage.

How to Use Twitter During Your Event

  • Use a Tweet ticker and a full screen projected Tweet wall.
  • To really drive engagement, it’s essential that the onstage presenters and speakers promote the use of Twitter and Instagram.
    • Ask all speakers or hosts to remind the audience about the conference hashtags.
    • Encourage presenters to include a comment reflecting on what has already been posted or mentioned on Twitter.
  • Use polls and surveys to foster discussion.
    • Check out twtpoll to create #hashtag surveys, one-question surveys, and multi-question surveys.
  • Create hashtag landing pages for your branded hashtags with customizable interfaces, sub tags, and embeddable hashtag feeds.
    • Check out TWUBS to register your hashtag with an event directory and take advantage of their brandable, media-rich landing pages.
  • Nominate a few speakers or partners to function as Twitter moderators, pulling the most relevant questions or engaging with remote attendees.
  • Display both branded and user generated content and create mini-communities using services like TINT.
  • Tweet links to the slide decks of speakers' content as they finish up.
  • Use Twitter cards to encourage newsletter sign-ups.

How to Use Instagram During Your Event

  • Capture images of real attendees and ask them for a quote about the event.
  • Host an even photo contest using a related, custom hashtag. (#YourEvent_PhotoOpp for example.)
  • Post timelaspe videos of attendees streaming in and out.
  • Post a graphic access code to a post-event offer.
  • Set up a “photo booth” where attendees can come to have their pictures taken.
    • Print photos onsite but also upload to Instagram.
    • Share the best ones using the conference hashtag and tag or @mention users.

After: Use Instagram and Twitter to Extend the Conversation

Twitter and Instagram are great ways to keep your audience talking about your event messages long after the event is over.

This is also prime time for information gathering. Here's your chance to find out what attendees are saying. What did they love? What did they hate? What do they want to see next time? How can you keep them talking?

How to Use Twitter After Your Event

  • Your event hashtag is still good after the event! Use it for up to a month afterward when sharing slide decks or linking to other event-related content.
  • Use polls to determine which were the most successful aspects/speakers of the event, and what could have been better to improve next time.
  • Use Twitter cards for newsletter sign-ups.

How to Use Instagram After Your Event

  • Share a “clean up” image or timelapse video.
  • Create images using memorable quotes from some of the keynote speakers to share on Instagram.
    • Try interactive grams to make the “heart” or "love" part of your message.
  • Update your bio link with your post-event offer related to the conference and encourage users to use their access code to check it out.

Hopefully we’ve helped you generate some ideas for using social media to rock your next event or conference.

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