Not too long ago, our client, The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ) hosted an exciting annual conference, Rethink, Reimagine and Redefine Justice for Children and Families. It had all the ingredients for success – held in the great city of Austin, Texas, had a list of dynamic keynote speakers, showcased the inauguration of a beloved judge as board president, featured a new celebration gala with innovative award recipients and even had a live auction and a band!
It started with a question. How can we leverage this amazing event so our target audience would know about the ideas shared and the conversations had among people that essentially were changing the world?
Then an answer quickly followed. Use social media as a powerful engagement tool to take the conference to a new level. Our initial thinking was backed up by the fact that our social media engagement had grown significantly over the last year, due to coordinated efforts in posting better content, garnering more fans and followers, and aligning our PR strategies with our social media strategies.
With very limited resources and budget, my marketing cohort and I mapped out a plan to cover this conference with a variety of social media engagement tactics using timely and compelling content, short format videos and journalistic style photos to document key activities happening during the conference.
Here were the provisions we needed
- Camera phones
- Admin rights to our social media handles; namely Facebook and Twitter
- A digital camera that takes video – we had a Canon EOS 60D and a microphone at the agency
- A tripod
- Two camera memory cards
- One battery backup
- Our laptops
- Comfortable shoes!
Let’s face it. I am not a photographer. Or a videographer. By no means am I a professional artist in any way, shape or form. I was a little nervous that I would be able to take a half-way decent photo. So, I planned ahead and got a tutorial from my colleague (I took iPhone videos to remember how to set the camera, mount it on a tripod, use the mic and make sure the sound was on). Then I practiced a little to get comfortable with the equipment. In the end, I was pleased with the photos and videos we took.
When the conference came around, my client and I mapped our routes by way of the conference agenda, making sure we covered the high points of each day with enough photos and videos to tell the conference’s story.
Here’s what worked really well for us and generated interest on social media:
Concise, Informational Video Snippets
We asked some of the judges to speak on camera in a short format video about what they found valuable about the conference and what they were looking forward to learning.
We got enthusiastic participation, and were instantly able to share the videos on Facebook and Twitter. Note: check to see if you need to get talent releases signed by participants at a conference, and be sure to have these available ahead of time.
Journalistic-Style Photos and Videos
Using a combination of smart phone and digital camera photos and videos, we were able to capture people engaging in the conference, learning in breakout sessions, and generally having a good time networking and interacting with their colleagues.
The style of photos and videos create more of a documentary feel to the postings, making things much more authentic and in “real-time” versus staged.
A Short List of Social Handles
Focusing on just two outlets, Facebook and Twitter, made the tasks more manageable. Between uploading posts, backing up memory cards and capturing footage, there certainly wasn’t a dull moment for us during the conference.
In addition, we were able to tag participating organizations in posts, along with our conference hashtag, to help extend the reach of the content we were posting.
What we learned better to do next time
Promote During the Conference
We realized that we might have gotten more live participation from attendees if we had more promotion of the social outlets during the conference. There were opportunities during the general sessions to garner more conference attendee engagement. We could have had more fun possibly wrapping a small promotion around it – such as, the person that tweets the most using our hashtag gets recognized for being the most social.
Better Integration With the Conference App
The NCJFCJ did have a conference app available to attendees. We could have leveraged this more as a way to promote the social media efforts during the event.
What we ultimately learned was that even if you have limited resources, you can do a lot with a little at your next conference. Social media is ripe for more “down and dirty” type photo and video assets, so don’t beat yourself up if the production quality isn’t award-winning cinematography.
During the course of the four-day conference, we had more than 6,000 Twitter impressions, reaching up to a 15 percent engagement level on certain posts. This was pure organic reach, without any promoted posts.
On Facebook, we had a total organic reach of more than 7,600 impressions over the course of the conference with the highest reach for the post on a video we did with the new president discussing her vision for the NCJFCJ. In a targeted universe of juvenile and family court professionals, we felt good about our results, and the authentic, informative content we were able to generate.
The NCJFCJ continues to see a positive uptick in social media activity. We learned a ton on our feet as a result of this “experiment,” and were pleased with the anecdotal feedback from attendees during the conference.
Here’s to supercharging your next conference!
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