As a spectator in the audience, it’s hard to appreciate the amount of planning and detail that goes into putting on a successful live event. Whether it’s a sporting event, conference, or music festival, there can be hundreds of people working behind the scenes to make the event happen without a hitch. At MITTERA, we’ve been fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work as part of the social media team for several live events over the years. And although social media is only a small part of the behind the scenes crew, it can also represent one of the biggest challenges.

Normally, a social plan involves pre-identifying relevant and engaging opportunities for content, brainstorming, creating, and scheduling. But for a live event, much more of the content is done on the fly and based on live action. Planning can only take you so far.

Below are a few recommendations on setting you strategy, finding your content, and building your social media team for your own live event — large or small.

Set Your Strategy

The first step to success is to create an overarching social strategy document to establish goals for the social channels, detail the social platforms you’re going to use, and the purpose for each. For example, using Twitter for customer service to answer questions and give attendees practical information about tickets, opening hours, and parking. Facebook for photo albums and recap stories, Instagram for user engagement and outreach, etc.

You’ll also use the document to clearly identify the roles and responsibilities of each member of your team — who’s gathering content and for which platforms, who’s responsible for posting to the pages, and who’s the go-to for customer service answers are just a few of the roles you’ll want to account for.

Identify Your Audience

Event attendees will already be engaged with your brand at some level, so social media is a perfect opportunity to build on the relationship. There’s also the opportunity to reach people who are not attending, but following the event online. Identify who’s worth engaging with for each group, and why.

 Have a #PLAN

What are the official event hashtags and what hashtags might attendees use in error? All of these need to be monitored to find user submitted content and opportunities for engagement. Next, plan how you’re going to get your official hashtag in front of users at the live event. Beyond just printing it on signage, in media guides, or programs, also consider live steaming social media boards, rotating the hashtag on digital signage, and/or including the hashtag into giveaway items such as drawstring backpacks or water bottles. The more eyes on the hashtag, the easier it is for you to wrangle in the content.

Follow the Leader

Before the event, make sure you’re following and engaging with high-profile people connected to the event on all social media platforms you’ll be using. For a sporting event, create lists of user handles for all players and coaches. For a conference, create lists of all speakers or presenters. Create lists of all local and national media that will be covering the event to look for engagement opportunities and to potentially tag them in certain content for PR opportunities. It’s also important to be sure you’re following and have a list handy of all event sponsors. Being able to engage with, and potentially share, sponsor candidate can be used as an added value to the sponsorship by giving them additional exposure.

Try Something New

Events are a great time to try out some new hot platforms plus test new features on your current channels. At a sporting event we worked last year, Periscope was the big new thing. This year, for the same event, we launched Snapchat and incorporated Facebook Live into our plan. Don’t be afraid to try new things and have fun with it. New platforms typically allow for more creativity, because rules and best practices aren’t as hard set as the Facebook, Twitter and Instagram’s of the world.

Rapid Response

At live events, you need to be able to respond to questions and comments almost immediately. Users expect quick responses from social media channels, and they are increasingly using Tweets and Facebook messages as the go-to for customer service. It’s helpful to have answers for Frequently Asked Questions already typed out for quick copy and paste, and using the useful built in features of the platforms (see our blog about increasing your response times using Facebook Messenger).

At a sporting event we worked earlier this year, a user tweeted he was walking up to the gate and left his tickets at his house. We reached out and had him direct message the page, and within 10 minutes we were able to verify his purchase and have new tickets printed out and waiting for him at will-call. This type of proactive service builds brand loyalty better than a FAQ page with an email address ever could.

All Together Now

You need several people to properly capture content at a live event. We’ve found the best workflow is that all content comes through a central source (group text message, group email, shared DropBox, etc.) by all members of the social content gathering team. Then, have one person who’s always at a computer to post all of the content to the relevant pages and engage with users. The roles of each member of the team should be clearly spelled out in the strategy doc you created prior to the event.

Corporate Communications: Elyssa Appleton,