In the past few years, social media has completely revolutionized the way event planning is conducted. As blogging and social networking websites continue to experience enormous growth, anyone seeking to learn to manage professional events needs an event management program that can teach them the best ways to capitalize on this huge, effective, and free marketing tool.
The introduction of social media has caused a major shift in the way event planning and marketing operates. Previously, an event management program would focus advertising solely or primarily through mass emails, ads in newspapers and magazines, commercials on television and radio, or cold-calling prospective customers to inform them of the event. There are two problems with all of these approaches: first, they are either annoying and intrusive or easily ignored, neither of which make a customer receptive to a company's message. Second, they encourage the audience to be a passive recipient of the brand's message. An event management program relying solely on these approaches in today's world is inviting failure.
Neither of those problems occur with social media. Now, the audience is actively engaged; no longer merely the target of marketing, but a tool in an event planner's advertising arsenal. Any good event management program must teach its students how to use those tools to best advantage.
An event planner must know how to use social media to encourage their audience to spread their message. On sites like Facebook, a user can "like" a company's account or event, sharing it with their friends while simultaneously joining a community of "fans" who share their interest in the brand. Not only do they spread the word, but they gain a sense of membership in the brand, with the loyalty and personal investment that comes with it. Twitter and other microblogging platforms can also be used to serve multiple marketing goals at once: the use of hashtags allows customers to share information and ideas about an event or company, while making all of the relevant discussions easy for the event planner to find and follow. That kind of real-time feedback, freely available even before an event takes place, is invaluable to the event planner, enabling them to tailor the details of the event to the needs and preferences of their audience.
Proficiency in these marketing uses of social media is not automatic, even for people who have been blogging or using networking sites extensively in their personal lives. An event management program should teach students how to use photos, video, polls, contests, and other exciting and engaging content to draw users into their company's or event's social media page, and how to foster a sense of community and sharing on that website or discussion forum – both between users and representatives of the company, and among the users themselves. The more that customers share with each other, the farther the company's message spreads and the more enriched the customers' experience of the event becomes. An event manager must know how to engage with the users to foster customer relationships and glean valuable feedback, but also how to recognize when a discussion has become too limited and insular to reach a wider audience, and change it or disengage.
Event managers must also be able to recognize how not to approach social media users. When the audience becomes more actively engaged in seeking out information and promoting a brand on their own, they come to expect the advertising and marketing aimed at them to be more passive. Aggressive marketing can turn off an otherwise enthusiastic supporter. Instead, planners should encourage the attendees to push the message themselves.