Skip to main content

Want to know How to Increase Social Engagement at Events?! Alex Plaxen of LittleBird Told Media is joining us to discuss how he got started in the industry and share his knowledge and expertise with us. Social Media is everything in this day and age! Alex is a true Icon in this area and he is joining us to answer our questions. We’ll discuss how social media allows us to connect with people we might never meet in person, from all over the world, and how this can impact the events industry in so many ways. We’ll also discuss how to properly manage both your in-person audience and your online audience simultaneously, as well as sharing how we can get attendees to use social media at events. These topics and more are on our agenda for today and you will want this information!

You’re watching this recording of our episode here on our blog, but wouldn’t you rather watch live and participate? Subscribe now to watch live! (We’ll remind you of upcoming episodes.) We would love for you to join us LIVE and bring your questions for our icons. We do this for you!

Quote of the Day:
“If you want your attendees engaging on social media at your event, they need to know HOW and WHY. It’s our job to tell them!” ~Alex Plaxen

How To Subscribe:

Follow our iconic guests on Twitter:

Epic resources mentioned:

  • Buffer
  • Hootsuite
  • Mention
  • Awario
  • Hooke Audio – The Hooke Verse is a pair of wireless headphones that incorporate binaural microphones designed to record 3D audio. Specially placed mics in each ear record audio the way the ear actually captures sound.

Watch #EventIcons - Live Question & Answer With #EventProfs

hbspt.cta.load(430132, ‘5b3ca79b-56ee-486e-952b-d75a1c3e3387’, {});

Transcription of this episode:

Will Curran: Hey everybody, it’s Will. We got Laura hanging out in the background. She’s actually helping out with a little bit of live Tweeting, and the reason why we have Laura helping on the live Tweeting is that our official sponsor, I guess you would say, our partner, our amazing partner in crime, I would say, Alex Plaxen is on the show today. We’ll talk a little bit about what Alex does in just a second, but super duper excited to have him here because, if you don’t know, Alex does all the live Tweeting during the show. So if you’re ever watching live, which you should watch the show live because it’s way better live, you actually can tweet along, ask questions, chat with other event professionals, and get to see some awesome gifts.

Alex is the one who makes all that happen. I’m really excited because Alex is a really great friend. We got to attend a lot of awesome conferences, and he’s also a long-time fan of Event Icons so it was natural that we had to get him on the show. I’m kind of ruining one of my questions I had for you, but I’m really excited to have you here. Mr. Alex Plaxen of Little Bird Told Media, the master of social media and Twitter, welcome to hashtag Event Icons, officially.

Alex Plaxen: Thanks. This is kind of weird you guys being able to see me on the show.

Will Curran: Because usually Alex is just chilling in the background, doing the tweeting and everything like that. So it’s nice to have you in the forefront. Today, we’re going to be talking about social media and how to use it to drive event engagement, something that now when we’ve talked a lot about event engagement, we’ve talked a lot about apps, we’ve talked about social media marketing for events. We haven’t talked about how to use it during your events. I know nobody better than Alex for this topic, so I had to get him on the show. Let’s just jump right on in. I know everyone’s curious to hear how you went from a space researcher at NASA to becoming the … in the events industry. But first, before we jump into that, can you tell everyone what got you working for NASA, because I did not know that before we got on the show after we’ve been talking for so long. But you worked for NASA. Right?

Alex Plaxen: Yeah. I did work for NASA. I’m from Maryland, and after undergrad I had moved back home and I was just looking for some temp work. My stepmom knew somebody who worked there and they were looking for space researchers at NASA for the summer, and when I do say space researcher, that’s intentional to mislead you. I researched the office space on NASA’s campus and Goddard. But, yeah.

Will Curran: So you have patches now, right, for being a space researcher at NASA?

Alex Plaxen: I have patches. They were not from any mission that I participated in, but yes.

Will Curran: That’s awesome. I love it. It’s like when you say, “Oh, I got a new Toyota,” and you show a little toy Yoda. Hilarious.

Alex Plaxen: It’s not inaccurate.

Will Curran: It’s not inaccurate. That’s true. It’s definitely something you can put on your profile. Right?

Alex Plaxen: Absolutely.

Will Curran: And your LinkedIn. All right, awesome. So how did you go from there to being in the events industry? I think your story is really awesome, because you’re also … Technically, this isn’t the first time we’ve had you camera. Technically, we had you on the episode when we were at IMAX, but-

Alex Plaxen: That’s true.

Will Curran: You were also 20 in your twenties, 30 under 30, one of those awesome people similar to me. Can you talk a little about how did you go from not being in the events industry, being a space researcher, to becoming a 20 in Their Twenties.

Alex Plaxen: Space researcher was short lived. I actually studied set design for film in undergrad, and before that, my event experience actually goes back to high school. Eighth grade, ninth grade, I was a member of an organization called BBYO, the B’nai Brith Youth Organization. I was a leader in Baltimore and I planned all these conferences. Actually, one year I had skipped out … It was the first time my family was taking a cruise, ever, and I skipped it because it was the same dates as my conference that I had been planning for months. I had to make the decision of going on a family cruise or going to this conference that I planned, and I chose the conference.

I should have known back then this is what I should be doing, but I ended up going to school, and I studied set design for film, which was another passion of mine. Then I realized you you can’t really just get a job in film, you have to know somebody or intern for free for 40 hours a week while they still expect you to work a job and be able to pay rent. So I left the film industry, I left L.A. after I graduated, and I was down there for a few months, moved back home, thought, “Oh, I’ll just save some money and then go back out there and try it again.” I did not do that. I ended up going back to school. I went to grad school at George Washington University where I studied Event and Meeting Management.

Will Curran: Where Alec Baldwin went. Right?

Alex Plaxen: Yes, where Alec Baldwin went. Yeah, absolutely. Originally, I was just looking at the program. It was a tourism program. It’s actually a Master’s in Tourism Administration, but Event and Meeting Management is one of the focuses. So, for me, I knew immediately based on my background and my passion, that’s what I wanted to do.

Will Curran: That’s awesome. What got you so passionate about social media, Twitter, and Facebook? Obviously, they always say like, “Millennials. It’s our thing. It comes natural,” but a lot of people, they’re used to using it as “Hey, I’m going to talk to my friends,” but you picked up a real passion for it on the marketing aspect, too. Right?

Alex Plaxen: Yeah. I do have a bit of a background in marketing, but my passion for social media really started with storytelling. I think one of the things that spoke to me a lot about the film industry was being able to tell a story through a visual medium, and I don’t think that social media’s that far off. I think we might not give it enough credit for how to tell a story. So, for me, I actually had a lifestyle blog where I was sharing blogs every other day on Tumblr and had over 1,000 people. Most of them were not people I knew, they were just very passionate about similar things that I was passionate about.

So, for me, I realized that there was this sense of community and being able to share each other’s stories and how being a part of this community is kind of like this secret gateway to reaching other people and hearing [inaudible 00:08:18] stories and experiences that people are going through. So, for me, that was something that really appealed to me with social media was being able to connect people to each other who had never met before. I would end up meeting these people in person and it felt like I had known them forever because we shared stories on social media. So that’s kind of where my passion for social media came from.

Then for events, I realized that the event should be telling a story. So, for marketing, I was director of marketing before I started my own company. I was director of marketing for an event technology company called EventRebels here in Baltimore. I enjoyed it, and I was on social media a lot, but what I really got out of that job was getting to go to all these big events and see how they did it and see how to be improved upon. I realized that there was this gap. Even with the people who were doing it the best in the industry, they still weren’t that great. So I was like, “Clearly, there’s a way that this can be improved upon beyond just, ‘Hey, here’s a hashtag. Go use it,’ and beyond this expectation of ‘Well, the attendees are going to go use this, and we’ll just go use this to broadcast information.”

Will Curran: Awesome. It’s a form of media, so media tells stories. You had the radio, you had movies and television and now social media. Very, very cool. I like that you talked a lot about the community portion, and I know that Laura is very passionate about this, too, because she’s Community Manager at Social Tables. The idea about, “Hey, it’s not just broadcasting information. It’s about developing community, and it’s about communication, two-way communication, not just one-way. This isn’t a megaphone. It’s more of a string can, as Jay Feitlinger would say, one of our past hosts that we had talk about social media as well. I know I might know the answer to this question. I’m not sure if everyone else does, but this is actually your question you designed and came up with that we now use on the show every single week. So, shout out to Alex for this one. Question is, as you know it’s coming, if you weren’t in the events industry, what would you be doing instead?

Alex Plaxen: I’d probably take another shot at filmmaking in some aspect or another. It might not be Hollywood, but I’d want to be creating and telling a story visually. I really love that. The only reason I got out of that was because I didn’t have the money saved up to go work some internship for free. This was the time, it was the peak of the recession, all these films were trying to cut back their budgets. So they started not paying their production assistants, and they made them unpaid internships. So it was a very tough time to get into the film industry. Knowing what I know now, and I still have connections there, that’s probably what I would be doing. Also, having money saved up to actually be able to go out there and do this kind of stuff. It’s not an easy industry, absolutely, but it is something I’m still passionate about.

Will Curran: What sort of position would you do? Because, obviously, film is a very big industry. You have everybody from the super technical people, which is the cameras and the set designs to maybe story writing. What would you say would be your role if you were to direct a movie or be part of a movie, I should say.

Alex Plaxen: I was a production designer, so I did the set design. I worked on some pretty big films. I worked on Milk with Sean Penn, Oscar-winning film. Sean Penn won a big Oscar for that. I was their art department intern for about five months. I’m still in contact with the art director there. He lives up in New York, great guy, great mentor for me. Then, also, I worked on a Bollywood film, which was crazy and super fun and exciting. I was their prop master for their US team. A third of the film was filmed in the US. So, absolutely something in the art department, something creative in that aspect.

Will Curran: You get to stretch your creative fingers out.

Alex Plaxen: I also have a ridiculously high threshold for recognizing very specific things. I can catch grammar mistakes and spelling errors and things. I have an eye for detail that’s almost a curse. I can’t not see a mistake. It sucks sometimes. So, for me, being a prop master and resetting that set. I remember on the Bollywood film there was one seen where the actor had to come through and just tear apart his apartment and we had to then redress it every single time, and it had to be perfect. It had to look exactly how it looked before. I definitely have taken that eye for detail into social media and everything that I do.

Will Curran: Awesome. Very cool. Speaking of social media, I think people are eager to jump into the topic of how to use social media to get people’s engagement up at events. I know you’ve been to a ton of events, both on the planning side and also on the attendees side. What do you think are the biggest mistakes that planners are making when it comes to their social engagement?

Alex Plaxen: They don’t educate their attendees on how to use social media. Not everybody is social media savvy like myself. They’re a lot of people, probably the biggest question I get asked the most is how do I tweet, how do I use Snapchat, and how do I go live on Facebook, these new features that are constantly being rolled out. The normal person does not have the time to catch up. It’s my job to know how to use those features. Most people don’t have that time. They log on to Facebook one day, and it’s completely different. They’re like, “What happened?” Then they give up.

One thing with social media tools is the platforms actually do a really poor job of telling people how to use them, so it’s got to be our job. If we want people to use social media at our events, we need to tell them not only how to use it but also why they should be using it. We have to explain the benefits, whether that’s being able to network to other people, creating that other sense of community, sharing notes and information and knowledge. There’s so many things that can be done on social media at an event, and if we don’t tell our attendees “These are the benefits, and this why you need to be paying attention to social media,” they’re not going to use it.

If you’re just like “Hey, here’s this tool. We want you to use it” and then you don’t tell them why or how to use it, they’re not going to. There’s this idea that if we tell our attendees “Hey, use the hashtag,” that that’s enough, and it’s not. I try to compare it for event planners with event apps. They spend tons of money on event apps, they introduce their event apps, they get rid of their paper guides and things like that, and then they say, “Hey, now go use this event app.” But most of them have someone on site who will troubleshoot and show people how to use the app and all the features. They talk about the features non-stop like “Make sure you use these features, etc. etc.” Well, social media is free. It doesn’t cost you anything, and you’re still not telling anybody how to use it or what the benefits are.

Will Curran: Very interesting. I think it’s really interesting that you say that they’re not explaining it, because the ones that are really coaching people is very, very important, especially with platforms like Snapchat who release features and people don’t even know about it most of the time. Even the advanced users are like, “Oh, I found this secret feature,” so being able to know how to use it, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been at events now where across from me someone is explaining how to use Snapchat, especially with it being such a big platform now. It’s got to be educated. Are there any other big mistakes you think that people are making when it comes to using social to increase engagement?

Alex Plaxen: Yeah. The events who think they’re doing a great job on social, they’ll schedule posts and they’ll broadcast the posts out, but most of it’s like “This session’s about to start” or “Don’t forget to buy your tickets at the reception tonight” or this or that. So they think they’re doing a great job because they’re using the social media platform, but they’re not engaging. They’re not following the hashtag. They’re not monitoring the hashtag. When you tell your attendees “Hey, use our hashtag,” that’s an unwritten contract that you’re going to be listening to what they say on that hashtag. Most planners don’t realize that. They just know “Hey, this is something we need to do. We’re supposed to have a hashtag for our event,” but it’s very rare now that you will find someone who is actually following through on their end.

Will Curran: Awesome. That’s really good to know. The idea of the unwritten contract. I’ve heard you say that before, and I think that’s so valuable because the last thing you want to do is when you’re saying “Hey, we want you to talk to us” for it to fall on deaf ears. How mad would you be if you had a support line that said, “Hey, if you have problems, call us,” and then no one responds ever? Right?

Alex Plaxen: I’ve used that anal-

Will Curran: You’d be furious. Right? You’d tweet-

Alex Plaxen: You would tweet about it. I use that analogy very often. Most people don’t know that 70% of customer complaints on Twitter go unanswered, and for events, if you aren’t monitoring your hashtag at all, that’s 100% of the complaints and questions go [inaudible 00:18:51]. If you have an info desk at your event and it was never manned the entire time that your event was happening and everyone went up looking for answers, you’d have a really big problem. Your attendees would be pissed if you’re like, “We have an info booth. You have questions, come to the info booth,” and then no one’s ever there.

Will Curran: Absolutely. Awesome. I love it. To flip the script, we’ve talked a little bit about big mistakes people are making, but there’s obviously a lot of people who are doing this really, really well, and I think it’s always good to look at these people as the knight in shining armor examples. Who do you think is doing event management via social really well?

Alex Plaxen: It’s the big conferences. It’s those corporate kind of user conferences who know that … They’re trying to get business. They’re trying to get people to use their products, so they want to engage. They want to get those leads. So, you’re talking Dreamforce, which is Salesforce’s user conference, INBOUND, which you and I attended, which is HubSpot’s user conference. Really, it’s kind of morphed into its own INBOUND Marketing conference, but HubSpot is still managing behind the scenes. Then you’ve got events like South By Southwest, which do a really good job. Those are more festivals, not so much conferences, but they still have educational content, they still have sessions that happen. It’s important that if you really want to see the right way to do it, you go follow them.

All three of them have their own Twitter handle for the event. It’s not just the organizers. I’m not saying that every conference needs their own Twitter handle. You can do it from your company’s or your association’s account, but go look at the ones that do have their own Twitter handle because, most likely, there’s a reason for that. They’re probably engaging year round. They’re probably doing a really good job of presenting information, and they’re also probably engaging. They have someone who’s manning that account. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have it.

Will Curran: Yes, absolutely. I was going to say, other than possibly having their own separate account, what do you think makes these conferences like Dreamforce, INBOUND, South by Southwest, what makes them so good? Do you have any specific examples of what they do really well that you’re like, “Wow, if every conference did this, A plus.”

Alex Plaxen: They have teams that will monitor the hashtags and answer questions. They have ways of filtering out all the things that come in under their hashtag. They figure out what’s a question, what’s just a “Hey, look at me standing in front of this cool sign” or “This is me with this speaker.” They have ways of figuring out, and this is what I do for conferences, too, is I’ll go in, and we track the hashtags, and we do Sentiment Analysis. So, we figure out is this a good tweet, is this a bad tweet, is this just a neutral tweet, is this something that we need to respond to right away, is this something that we can wait on, and we organize those tweets into different categories, and then we respond appropriately.

So, a lot of these conferences, they have that manpower to be able to do this. They have those social media command centers, but also they will engage. If you post something, they’ll retweet it, or they’ll thank you for posting. Customer service is a big part of the engagement factor, but it’s also knowing the right time to … If you see someone who tweets three or four times, go thank them and say, “Hey, thanks for participating,” or “That’s a great tweet” or just retweet them or like their post. It doesn’t take much to do that, but it can have a really big impact.

Also, these conferences, it’s all about timing. They don’t wait. They don’t sit on these responses. It’s not like three days after the show they’re going back and being like, “Oh, by the way, here’s the answer to that question that you had.” They’re responsive pretty quickly which is really key, because that’s why these people are using social media there in the first place is they want responses.

Will Curran: I think the responsiveness is so huge. For example, when building out sales organizations, they always say the time it takes for you to respond to a lead coming to your website is always exponential. There’s probably, needs some research if it’s not already existing, but the time it takes for you to respond to that definitely correlates to the happiness of someone as well.

Alex Plaxen: Absolutely.

Will Curran: You could give someone a good scenario late, and it’s almost as bad as giving them a bad response early. So, you want to get in early and make them really, really happy. Right? I’m not sure if that made sense.

Alex Plaxen: Yeah, absolutely. I went to an event where for breakfast it was buffet style. They had hot coffee. They had hot water for tea. It didn’t have any water, and I tweeted out and I said, “Hey, can you guys … Is there water somewhere?” They had a vendor who had water bottles, so they ran out of water bottles because everyone went and found them and took their water. So I tweeted out and said, “Hey, do you guys have water anywhere? Just like cold water.” I didn’t get a response until two o’clock that afternoon. Well, at that point, breakfast was over, I didn’t get my water, everyone was thirsty, and people remembered that. I remembered that, and this was like three years ago. I still remember if they had responded and been like, “Hey, there’s water here or there’s water coming,” it would have made a bigger difference.

Will Curran: Absolutely. Did you eventually get your water? I hope.

Alex Plaxen: No.

Will Curran: Oh, no. Even worse. I was hoping you at least had been like, “Yeah, at least I got my water.”

Alex Plaxen: No.

Will Curran: But, oh, my gosh.

Alex Plaxen: No, and that’s why I remember it.

Will Curran: We’re starting to get questions from the audience, by the way. We’re getting them fired up and they’re all excited. This was going to be one of my questions a little bit later. You, obviously, for a living do live social at events and everything like that, but some people can’t afford to hire Little Bird for their next event. One day they will be able to. If they don’t have the manpower to support the social media, what do you recommend they do? Maybe they don’t have the budget to hire a company, or they don’t have the actual people to do it, it’s just one planner. What do you recommend that they do?

Alex Plaxen: Be transparent. If you don’t have someone who’s going to be monitoring your hashtag on Twitter, or whatever social platform it is, let your attendees know, “Hey.” Whatever your info booth or whatever your way of people asking questions, whatever manpower you do have to respond to customer complaints, things like that, make sure that you tell people and pin it to the top of your Twitter page and be like, “If you have questions, please come to the info booth at blah, blah, blah,” so that at least they’re aware that it’s not an expectation.

It’s about being honest with expectations and what you have the capability to do. If you don’t tell them anything, they’re going to make assumptions. They’re going to assume that someone is going to be monitoring the hashtag. They’re going to assume that someone is monitoring your handle during the event. If someone isn’t, you need to let them know that. That’s not to say that you’re not going to get people using the hashtag and talking to each other, but at least that covers you as far as what the expectations of the attendees are.

Will Curran: Absolutely. I love that. There’s a be transparent part, and I like the idea like pinning a tweet and trying to turn that communication from something online that you don’t have the ability to manage to offline that you probably have a little bit easier to manage. Kind of on the same question, we had a lot of awesome questions from the audience, they’re also asking if you don’t have the manpower to support social media live at your event, maybe you don’t have that person who can sit there and live tweet or maybe you don’t have the ability to monitor the hashtag, do you recommend that people avoid it or do you recommend people at least try to go after it? Is it better something rather than nothing?

Alex Plaxen: Some things that you can do are say you don’t have the manpower, say you can’t afford to hire someone. Empower your attendees to do it for you. If you have-

Will Curran: Nice.

Alex Plaxen: Some young attendees or someone who’s really social media savvy who tweets during your whole conference, next year, figure out who those people are and then have them do a social media takeover on your account and push that out before the event. Create a graphic that says, “Hey, so-and-so’s going to be doing a social media takeover on day one, and so-and-so’s going to be doing it on day two. That way it’s something that you don’t have to worry about. It’s really about empowering other people to do it for you. They’re telling your story. You don’t want someone not to tell your story at all, so it’s better to have something than nothing, but again, be transparent with what that something is.

Will Curran: I love it. I love that idea, the crowdsourcing it to be able to have great quality content. Like you said, there’s people out there already doing it, which I know that you’re really passionate about is that if you’re at an event even just as an attendee, you’re live tweeting like crazy. I love that so much. We got another question from the audience. They’re asking, obviously with social media because it’s online it’s all quantifiable. You can track everything these days. We have awesome softwares like HubSpot and Hootsuite and a bunch of other analytic software. What should people be looking for in their analytics, whether it’s on Twitter or whatever analytic software they’re using, to know if their social media is successful? Is it all about gaining followers, retweets, likes, reaching a bigger audience? What are your thoughts on this? What metrics mean success?

Alex Plaxen: What metrics mean success is all dependent on what the goals are of your event and of the purpose that you’re using social media. If your goal is simply to amplify your messaging, then yes, retweets and impressions are going to be important. If your goal is just to make sure that you’re responding quickly to anyone who’s using your hashtag, those are going to be different metrics. That might even be something that you have to figure out by yourself. There’s not a lot of things that will track responsiveness on social media, but it really depends, again, on what your goals are. If you’re goal is just to engage and to have better conversations with the people who are already following you and are already attending your events, then amplification, impressions, retweets, that kind of stuff doesn’t matter as long as you have a strategy and those metrics reflect what your strategy and your goals are. That’s how you figure it out.

So, it’s going to be different for everybody. This is something that I talk to my clients all the time. One of my client, when they sent me their proposal, it said their goal was more followers. They’re like, “We just want more followers,” and I had to have a serious conversation with them. I said, “Why do you want more followers?” They’re like, “Well, because shouldn’t everybody want more followers?” I was like, “Well, no, and not everyone can get more followers. You’re a very niche event, and you’re a very niche association. How many association members do you have?” And their Twitter followership reflected how many members they had in their association.

So I was like, “You’re probably not going to get that many more followers. So, if that’s your only goal, I can spend 15 bucks and go buy you some followers if that’s really what you want, but let’s take a look at how can we engage the followers that you do have and make your engagement more valuable for them. How can we make sure that the people who are following you are getting value out of following you?” We took a different tactic and a different strategy of what their goals were, and we changed it. It wasn’t about followers anymore.

Will Curran: Awesome. I love that so much that you really have to take a step back and look from the get-go like, “What are your goals?” Sometimes there’s things as vanity metrics, like you talked about. They sound awesome [inaudible 00:32:21], but do they really matter? So, I’m going to take a step back and talk about a very specific scenario that I think would be very applicable to other event planners. This is coming from me, the host. For those who don’t know, me and Alex both attended INBOUND, as you mentioned earlier, a HubSpot’s user conference, and for those who don’t know, the event actually took place in the middle of the election. Day two was on the day after the election. So, you can imagine the sentiment of the United States right after this all happened. Some people were happy, some people were sad. It all varied.

For those who don’t know, there was a very big writer who came in, and he basically started talking a little bit about … He scrapped his speech, and started talking about what happened the last night and how he felt about it. This is a guy who writes politics for a living and very, very passionate about this sort of stuff, so it made sense. But when you looked at Twitter, because it was an INBOUND Marketing conference everybody was on Twitter. Basically, every single person had Twitter. It was a big marketing conference, so everyone was tweeting, and you saw this massive, crazy split between some people that are like, “Rah, rah, rah. Yeah, we love this guy,” and then you had some people who are like, “This is the worst thing I’ve ever seen on stage. Why did they do this? This is horrible.”

You, also, saw it with people leaving the physical keynote as well. They’re standing up, they’re walking out. It was obviously a very rare scenario. I hardly ever see this happen at events. But I was curious, when you have an audience who’s so split like that, and you have this crazy sentiment where some people are extremely happy and some people that are completely mad and it’s almost 50, 50 right down the middle, what would you recommend how someone should engage with this sort of scenario if this were to start happening on social media, almost a debate happening on Twitter itself inside of the event?

Alex Plaxen: I’m going to take a broader approach with this to start and then I’ll talk about that. It is not the role of the event planner to play moderator of what people are posting on social media. One of my clients, we had a protest group who was tweeting and responding to every single tweet, from our exhibitors, from us, to our attendees, basically saying, “You guys are awful and what about this proposition that’s going on,” or “What about this law that just got placed,” or these taxes or whatever. For me, we were in control of the social media. We were hired from the client to take care of that, so for us you can’t control who’s using your hashtag and what they’re going to say on the hashtag.

That’s one thing that a lot of event planners come to me and they’re like, “How do we make sure that this doesn’t get posted on our hashtag,” or “If we create a hashtag, then this could happen.” You have zero control over what someone says and how they use your hashtag. What you do have control over is how you participate and how you tell your side of the story. So, for HubSpot, they went on their Facebook page. They did not apologize for the speaker, but they did say, “We understand that this happened and that some of you were upset and some of you really enjoyed this. We strive to make sure that there is equal representation and different ideas on our stages,” and that “We don’t intend to offend anybody, but there’s lots of other education that’s going to be here throughout the entire week,” and “We hope that you’ll find something that’s worthwhile to you.”

They didn’t apologize for having that speaker, but they made sure to one, acknowledge that they understood what people’s thoughts were and that they were listening, but then they also, essentially, said, “It’s our responsibility when we have 17,000 attendees that we have content that is for everybody. Not everything is going to be for everybody, but there will be something for everybody. If you need assistance finding the sessions that are for, we’re happy to do that.” So, that’s how they took that approach, and that was really smart of them. One thing they didn’t do, which a lot of event planners might be inclined to do, they start responding to every single tweet and saying, “Oh, we’re so sorry. We’re so sorry. Don’t leave, and blah, blah, blah.”

They didn’t do that. They also didn’t get in the middle of arguments. Some attendees started back and forths with each other. Some said, “This isn’t what I signed up for, and this sucks,” and then another attendee responded to them and said, “Hey, did you not read the speaker’s biography? You should have known.” HubSpot and INBOUND did not get involved in those conversations, but they did acknowledge that they were listening and that they saw what those conversations were. I think they also made a plea for civil discourse. If it really gets out of hand, that’s all you can really do.

Will Curran: Awesome. I love that you bring it back again to showing people that you’re listening and that you’re there being transparent about it, but not necessarily having to respond to everything. Just absolutely fantastic. I know a lot of people, we started to get questions on how do we [inaudible 00:38:06] analytics for people who watching, what happens if your team is not big enough, so I wanted to get in the nitty gritty of the tactical. How do you pull off social engagement at the events. So, starting off with tools. Do you have any sort of tools that you recommend people should use to manage their social engagement? Do you need a really expensive social media management tool, or can you get this done with just What are your recommendations on how do you pull this off?

Alex Plaxen: I’d say you can just use if you want to, if that’s all you can afford, but both Buffer and Hootsuite are really cheap options just as far as scheduling posts and being able to see … At least in Hootsuite, you can put down a hashtag and then monitor that feed separately there while you’re also posting. We use a service called mentions, and obviously, we use the more expensive package that has all the features that includes the data analytics and the Sentiment analysis and us being able to respond directly from the site. We also use something called Awario, which is more of data analysis of the brand and how it’s being talked about on social media. So there are services out there that we use.

Obviously, there are different price points, and I would not suggest purchasing them if you don’t have someone who’s going to be using them on a regular basis. We use this for all of our clients, so it makes sense for us to purchase an expensive feature-packed service. But if you’re just looking for monitoring a hashtag, that’s something you can do just on during your event if you just want to sit someone down with a laptop. But don’t just sit someone down with a laptop. Don’t just put an intern in front of a laptop and say, “Hey, go for it.” You need to have a strategy in place. You need to know how to respond to certain tweets that go out.

We have an entire game plan that we write up as to if this happens, this is how you respond, if this happens, this is how you respond. It’s the same kind of thing that you would have for risk management for your event. You know, if there’s a fire alarm, this is where we go, or if this happens, this is what we would do. It’s the same with social media. It’s very parallel to what the strategy is going to be for the event, but we make sure that we get that information beforehand so that we can respond in a timely manner.

Will Curran: Awesome. I love it. You started to dip a little bit into my next question, which is going to be about how should you format your team. A lot of people seem to think, “Hey, social media. Let’s just give it to an intern. One person do it,” or “Let’s just give it to the graphic design person,” or “Let’s give it to the person who does all the other social media marketing.” What sort of recommendation … Start at what does a dream team look like and then what does a smaller-scale team look like, maybe someone on a budget for pulling this all off. Do you put people into specific roles? Do you put them in charge of different tools? All that sort of stuff.

Alex Plaxen: Yeah, so dream team. Don’t refer to the social media team, don’t put them in the silo of marketing only, because obviously I’ve discussed engagement strategies, I’ve discussed customer service, just broadcasting information. There’s a lot more that goes into social … Social media is a tool, it’s not a job description. A lot of people like to attach marketing to the end of social media. That shouldn’t be the case for your event. The strategies are completely different. A marketer wants the strategy should be just cost and growth. That’s not going to happen with your own event. You really have to look at an event more as a product launch. Obviously you’re going to have high engagement when the product launches, but then that’s going to drop off and you’re going to have build-up to when that product launches. You kind of have to look at an event that way.

So, for us, beforehand, we have one to two people who are taking care of the social media, typically one person who’s just monitoring the conversations and one person who’s creating the content that we’re putting out there. We like to do some livestreaming beforehand, so someone’s going to be responsible for making sure that the people are camera-ready, they know what to say on camera, things like that. We do speaker sneak peeks, so someone has to be in charge of managing the speakers, making sure they have access to their social media accounts similar to a social media takeover. So, that’s the beforehand team.

Onsite, we have people who are dedicated just solely to monitoring the hashtags and responding and engaging with attendees, so it is their job to literally sit there and just watch the feed and just make sure that they’re responding, make sure that they’re sharing information, make sure that they’re engaging with people. It’s literally just their job to sit there and respond and post on these platforms. Usually they’ll monitor Twitter and Instagram. Facebook is difficult. You have to do it within Facebook. So, usually, one of those people will be responsible just for Facebook. Then we have our content creators onsite, so that could be someone who’s responsible just for livestreaming on Facebook or Instagram, creating photos and taking photos on the show floor or at the conference or in sessions and posting those to Instagram and Twitter and Facebook. People who do man-on-the-street-type interviews.

We have those content creators, and depending on what kind of content you want to create and how much coverage you want, that’s going to depend on how big your team is going to be. For one event we had one session out of four concurrent sessions was being covered at a time, so we only had one person who was livestreaming and one person who was live tweeting. Then we had two people who were monitoring hashtags, and then there was also a trade show going on at the same time so we had someone doing Instagram on the trade show floor during that education [inaudible 00:44:41]. So, that was a team of five. Ideally, we would have had two more people. Someone who would have manned the cameras so that we weren’t like selfie-face the entire time, but that wasn’t in their budget. That was not in their budget, so we could not afford that.

But dream team, I probably have, depending on the size of the conference, anywhere between seven and 10 people. It also depends on how many platforms you’re using onsite, because if you’re having content creators, they have to be experts in the platforms that they’re using. So, narrowing it down to a smaller team, you need at least one person who’s going to be monitoring the hashtags at all time and then someone who’s just walking around creating content. At the bare minimum that’s what you should have.

Will Curran: I love it. For one looking for these people to be part of your team, is there certain characteristics that you’re looking for someone to do. So, first of all, content creator. Are you looking for someone with graphical experience or someone who’s handy with taking good photos? What is your recommendation on that?

Alex Plaxen: For my team, I do graphic design, so I don’t find someone else to do that for me. Eventually, when I’m too busy, I will hire someone else who has that expertise, but right now that’s something that I can handle. When I look for people, a lot of people have asked me, “Are you just looking for someone who is an expert in social media?” That’s not the case. Most people who are professionals in social media are professionals in social media marketing. They don’t understand how events are run. They don’t understand how to engage. They have different goals and different strategies. So, for me, what I’ve seeked out is people who are experts in events, people who have planned events, people who have spoken at events, people who do podcasts and shows and create content about events, and I brought them onto my team.

Even if I have to teach someone who’s an expert in hospitality and customer service. Those are the kind of people I’m looking for because it’s easier for me to teach them how to use the social media tools like how to tweet and how to post on Instagram than it is for me to teach someone who is a social media expert and knows how to use those tools how events are run and how they should be engaging and how they should be responding to customer service complaints and things like that. It’s easier to teach someone how to use the social media tool.

Will Curran: I found that same way, too, here at Endless is that it’s really easy to teach a tool or a skill, but to change mindset and make sure that they understand the mindset of everything is so hard to teach or the culture, getting that right. It’s awesome that you’re hiring people who are used to support and hospitality and then we’ll teach them how to do the tool, because the tool is watching a couple YouTube videos, reading a couple FAQ pages and getting in the tool and playing around with it. Right?

Alex Plaxen: I taught someone how to live tweet by setting them in front of a computer screen and I said pick out a TED Talk that you’ve never seen before and now live tweet it. Then go do it for 20 more TED Talks.

Will Curran: Awesome. That’s huge.

Alex Plaxen: That’s how I taught them how to live tweet, and they were nervous as hell at the beginning like, “I don’t know how to do this. This is too much stress.” By the end, they were live tweeting onsite and doing a better job than I was.

Will Curran: That’s awesome.

Alex Plaxen: So I was just like, “Yeah, let’s do this.”

Will Curran: Like a boss. Awesome. That’s so cool. I love that idea to do the live tweeting during a TED Talk as practice. I’m going to steal that. That’s really cool. Awesome. I have one more question coming from the audience. We only got a couple more minutes left, so audience, if you have any more questions, get them in now. A lot of times, and I think we talked about this last week on the event trends episode, but a lot of people with livestreaming as obviously becoming the forefront of people being able to watch literally live as almost they’re there. But even before then with just social media, people posting recordings afterwards or live tweeting or taking pictures and quotes, a lot of people complained and said, “You know what? I’m really worried that if we put too much content …” And I know you’re going to shake your head. “You put too much content out there, people aren’t going to want to attend the conference. Right? There’s no reason to, especially with livestreaming.” What are your thoughts to those people?

Alex Plaxen: Be in control of the content that you’re putting out there. I’ve had that issue with some of my clients before. They’re like, “We don’t want to livestream the actual education session.” So I said, “Okay. Well, what if we livestream an interview with the speaker before they go on stage, like a behind-the-scenes kind of thing?” And they’re like, “Yeah, we can do that.” I said, “Okay, so let’s do that,” and we just figured out which speakers were open to that and who had the time and when could we do this. We made a schedule, and we put out get behind-the-scenes content. When you create livestream content, most of the time your attendees who are present onsite are not the ones who are viewing it until, maybe, after the show when they go back to get a recap.

It’s going to be people who aren’t at your show. The reality is, the data backs it up, you are more likely to get those people to then attend in person than you are for the people who attended in person to be like, “Well, now that it’s all online I don’t need to come in person this year.” You’re more likely to get someone who has that fear of missing out, they get a little taste of what the content could be like onsite, and then they’re like, “I got to attend this next year,” than you’re going to get someone who’s going to go back to your page, see everything that you posted during the show or during the event and then be like, “Oh, my God. It was all here, and I didn’t have to spend the money to come in person. Well, now I’m not coming back next year.” It’s just not likely to happen.

Will Curran: No. I know that’s never happened for me on a personal … If anything, yeah, it creates that [inaudible 00:51:03] that I want to go to it.

Alex Plaxen: Yeah.

Will Curran: Awesome. So we got a couple minutes left, so I want to end on the last two questions that we always our amazing guests, our icons. I know you’re full of awesome tips, but you only get to pick one. What is your one tip that you have for planners going into 2017 to make their planning process easier?

Alex Plaxen: Start budgeting for social media. I know, Will, you mentioned it multiple times during this is “Well, what if we just can’t afford it?” You have to start thinking of social media as a need and not a want. You have to do this now, and if you don’t have the people as part of your team who can do it, you need to hire someone who can, whether that’s Little Bird Told Media or some other companies. There’s companies out there that will just be onsite concierges for you on Twitter. They’re out there. They exist. That’s a small part of what we do. But start figuring out how you can budget for that. One of those things could be a lot of events aren’t taking advantage of the fact that with the analytics that you have from social media, you should be able to sell sponsorships.

You actually are able to say this is how many people saw your tweet about your company and your product, or this is how many people watched the Facebook Live stream interview at your booth onsite. You actually have those analytics that you can present to a potential sponsor, whereas someone who sponsors the keynote lunch, you have no idea how many people are actually paying attention when your logo is up on the stream. You have actually broad data that you can present. Also, with social media, you can sell a lot more sponsorships. So, for 100 bucks, if you promise a post on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, a lot of these sponsors will be like, “Okay. 100 bucks? Sure.” Then you have 250 of them and all of a sudden you’ve got $25,000 that you can spend to hire a social media team, and then that social media team is going to execute those sponsorships for you. So, it’s actually really easy to find that money if you’re using social media to boost your budget. That’s probably my biggest tip.

Will Curran: I love that idea. Yeah, using social media as a sponsorship. A lot of times on the AV side, we always tell our clients like, “Hey, for example, if you’re doing an outdoor event, get an LED screen because you can turn it into a social media wall with ads in between, and boom, all it takes is for you to sell one sponsorship at five grand. Boom, it pays for a single LED screen, and look, you just created this awesome resource to make your event better.” So, I love that. If you can ever create ways to tie in sponsorship before you get those services as well, I love that idea for people who are on a budget, too. Awesome Alex. I know you’re full of, you’re similar to me, you have lots of resources. You use some awesome tools, and you’ve mentioned Hootsuite and mentions and Awario and Buffer. What other cool resources do you have to share with people, whether it’s a new favorite blog post you just read, a cool book that you recommend that people read, a cool tool, our favorite scuba masks … I almost said hockey mask. What cool resources would you have to share with everyone out there on the intrawebs?

Alex Plaxen: I know I’ve shared this with you, Will, a couple times, but I want to raise awareness because I think this is really cool. A lot of people are talking about AR and VR, the virtual reality kind of thing and how you can actually feel like you’re at the event, but what a lot of people aren’t considering is audio helps with that feel that you’re actually there. There is a company called Hooke, H-o-o-k-e, and after a year of they were in this limbo where they were waiting to be able to get the made for the iPhone certification or whatever, they finally got it so they’re actually able to now sell this product. It’s headphones that you wear that record 3D audio onto whatever video you’re creating on your phone or a 3D camera or whatever.

So, you can actually walk your trade show floor, be taking video, have these headphones on who are recording 3D audio, and then share that on your social media platforms, tell people, “Hey, make sure you listen to this with headphones in,” and they will actually feel like they are walking through, because they will hear the sound moving around them. So, if someone’s having a conversation over here, they’re actually going to hear what that conversation sounds like as they’re walking by. It’s just a really kind of immersive experience that even 360 video can’t offer. I think it’s something that no one’s talking about right now, but I think you’re going to start hearing about it because video is really where this industry is going, especially live video. Instagram just introduced live video. Snapchat’s probably going to be doing it pretty soon. Facebook spent 1.6 million dollars advertising, “Hey, use Facebook Live and go live on our platform.” They’ve never advertised for anything ever before. You’re going to start seeing this push for video and for people to create that content themselves, so having that kind of audio to add with that is going to really make you stand out from the crowd. So that’s kind of like-

Will Curran: And I wanted to interrupt. At first, when Alex told me about this, I’m an audio guy, obviously, and I was kind of like, “I don’t know. It sounds like a gimmick,” but then when you go on their site and Hooke audio and you play some of the sample videos, you can see some of the detail that it picks up on and then you really feel a lot better there because it’s not pulling from a … For those who don’t know, on a camera on your phone, it’s pulling from a single microphone, which means it’s recording in mono, which is like imagine you’re taking the same single and sending it to the same thing to both ears. But wouldn’t it be great if you could do stereo so you could, for example, when you turn the video, it picks up the audio from the exact spot you have it. It’s really cool. You definitely got to check it out. I just wanted to give you my endorsement on that one. Alex, did you have any other cool resources that you wanted to share?

Alex Plaxen: If you’re looking for up to the date social media updates, things that you need to be paying attention to, there’s some Facebook groups that you can look for, like Social Media Mastermind groups, Livestreaming Mastermind groups, things like that. Just go on Facebook because those people are in this field most of the time, so they’re pushing that information out when it’s still in beta when it’s only been released to like 100 people. You’re going to hear about it first on their site. The fact that YouTube is going to be launching a livestream app in 2017, that’s how I heard about it. If you want to know what these new tools and resources are, those are great ways to find out that information. It’s just Social Media Mastermind group on Facebook or Social Media Experts or things like that. Then just go read their feed and just follow it and be like, “Oh, okay cool. Instagram just introduced livestreaming today, an hour ago. Awesome.”

Will Curran: Awesome. I love it. I think, especially with social media, it’s moving so fast. It’s so important to stay on top of it, because the reason I think a lot of times it’s overwhelming for people is because they’re getting updates in floods. They hear about Instagram live video and then they hear about this, then this and this, and it’s like five different updates, but if they had been watching it live unfolding, they’d see, “Oh, this isn’t all happening at once.” It’s more so this happens over the course of six months or so, and it’s just happening very slowly. I love that idea of watching the Facebook groups, and again, it’s free and gets you used to using other types of social media. I believe Facebook groups … No, just kidding. I was going to say Facebook just launched their Facebook groups dedicated app, but they just launched their Facebook Events dedicated app. So, sike, just kidding. Awesome. Any other resources, Alex, before we sign off for the day?

Alex Plaxen: No. I would suggest being aware of and doing your research. There’s a lot of social media experts and gurus out there. Just do your research and make sure that you’re getting your information from the right people. If there’s an article that’s written by someone about telling you how to use Instagram for your event, for an example, go do your research. Look who’s writing that, are they even on Instagram, what is their authorization, what makes them an authority on this matter, because there’s a lot of wrong information out there. So, just be aware, do your own research until you know is this the correct information before you just share it to everybody, because we need to do a better job in our industry of making sure the right information is out there.

Will Curran: I love it. Awesome. Well, thank you so much, Alex. This has been so amazing. I have learned so much. It is so fantastic to have you in front of the camera for once so you could share all the awesome things that you’ve learned that I’ve learned from you as well. It’s such an honor to have you on the show and have you be part of the show, so we are going to let you get out of here because we know you’ve got more live tweeting to get back to.

Alex Plaxen: Thank you.

Will Curran: So big shout out to Alex. You can catch him every week on this show. He’s the one who live tweets, so give him a shout out next time you’re watching next week’s episode. Give a little tweet to Hello Endless and that’s Alex behind the keyboard mashing all the keys, getting all the awesome gifts out, and all the awesome quotes, and always making sure that we laugh plenty much after the show. Thank you so much again, Alex, for being on the show. It’s an honor to have you on the show.

Alex Plaxen: Thanks for having me.

Will Curran: All right, you guys. Well, we got to get out of here, so next week you want to tune in once again. We’re going to be live again next Wednesday, so 5:00 p.m., Eastern. We’ll see you guys all back here on hashtag Event Icons.

Will Curran

Author Will Curran

Information junkie, energetic, and work-a-holic are just some of the words we can use to describe Will Curran. Aside from spending 20 out of 24 hours a day working as the Chief Event Einstein of Endless Events, you can catch Will ordering a chai latte or watching The Flash with his cats. He is also well known for his love of all things pretzels.

More posts by Will Curran
Share via
Send this to a friend