The Role of Social Media During Events: Part 2 of a Guest Q&A with the Colorado Health Foundation

Colorado Health Foundation SymposiumKindle Morell is the New Media Manager at the Colorado Health Foundation, a GFM client. The Foundation, based in Denver, works to make Colorado the healthiest state in the nation by investing in grants and initiatives related to nonprofits that encourage healthy living and increase access to care. Each year the Foundation hosts its annual Health Symposium in Keystone, Colo., attracting the brightest minds in health care from across the state and country. Powerful presentations and thoughtful debates ensue. However, knowing that not everyone who wants to attend the Health Symposium can do so, the Foundation employs numerous social media strategies and tactics across several different platforms to broadcast the event well beyond the convention center walls. As Kindle gears up for the 2013 Health Symposium this August, we were lucky enough to grab a few minutes of her time to talk about the role of social media during this critical and growing conference.

Take a look at part one from last week.

Q.) How big is the social media team lead up to and during Symposium? Do employees from various departments help to create content? 

Since social media is all about real-time interaction, we don’t create any major content before the Symposium occurs. We do encourage staff to participate in social media onsite though.

This year, we’ve asked staff members that are active online to be our social media ambassadors. They will be tweeting throughout the conference, but we are particularly interested in their tweets from the discovery sessions since we don’t live stream those sessions. They also will be on hand to help interested attendees participate in Twitter and Instagram.

There is a lot of preparation leading up to the social media aspects of the Symposium (more about that in my answer below).

Q.) How early do you begin preparing for the social and digital elements of Symposium? What have you found to be critical components of the planning process that you’d recommend other organizations follow if they are planning a large-scale event? 

For effective event social media implementation, you really have to plan it in tandem with the actual event planning. Include Twitter handles in the event registration and build an attendee list. Also build a speaker Twitter list. Have a registration form for participating in online activities at the ready for when the event sells out. Make sure your conference hashtag is visible on presentations and that every staff member is aware of it.

When it comes to growing participation in the social media streams, an outreach packet is essential. Ours includes Twitter, Facebook and Instagram participation instructions, sample Twitter and Facebook posts, sample outreach language, ways to embed Ustream on websites, and handy hashtags. All of this information really makes it easy for others to encourage participation, and it’s a great resource to share with the speakers involved in the event.

95 percent of the actual content must be created on the fly. But preparing the other 5 percent ahead of time will make everything else easier.

For live tweeting, I always put together an event day Twitter cheat sheet. It lists every speaker with their related Twitter handles, possible hashtags and URLs. I also build a Twitter script – it’s a skeleton, really, with some introductory tweets linking to bios, the online stream, etc., as well as Twitter handles and the conference hashtag for easy copying and pasting into Twitter.

Q.) What, if anything, will be new in the Foundation’s approach to social media for the 2013 Symposium?

Our basic philosophy will stay the same. We want to enhance the conversations going on in person with links to more information, as well as amplify the big ideas and excitement occurring in the room.

By adding Instagram this year, it changes the approach a bit. Most people take pictures on their phones, but not everyone is on Twitter so we’re hoping it encourages more participation. We’ll have a lot of healthy activities for people to participate in, and it is a perfect opportunity for taking photo. We’ll also be asking attendees to share their takeaways and goals for the coming year through photos. Attendees can then choose to print their photos to have a physical and visual reminder of the event to take home with them.

Q.) How does the Foundation track social media engagement and successes before, during and after Symposium?

Since our goal is awareness of and participation in the idea exchange onsite, we can measure success through basic analytics and qualitative feedback. On every channel, we track posts, reposts, mentions, viewers and registrants before during and after the Symposium. We also do surveys to get direct feedback and see if we were successful.

We want to sincerely thank Kindle for pulling back the curtain on the fantastic social media work the Foundation does each year at the Health Symposium. The content that comes out of Keystone each year is extremely interesting and we highly encourage you to follow along Aug. 7 – 9. Register at http://13chs.eventbrite.com/.

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