Social media influencers: What are they and how do I get them engaged in my event?

While social media has long been a primary marketing tool within the events industry, not all organisers are getting as much from it as they should be.

Social media has now become ingrained in all business marketing plans - it would be very hard these days to find a business that is not using social media in one form or the other. Because of this, event planners need to find new ways to engage their customers (there are only so many blog posts you can write). This is where social media influencers come in.

Social media influencers are people who have a strong online presence and due to this can influence their followers by posting with different products and at different events. If your company doesn't have the biggest social media following you can enlist an influencer to engage your customers for you.

Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube have become hubs for influencers over the last 6 years with people like YouTube star Zoella who can wear a dress in an Insta post and that dress can then sell out in less than a week! (To be fair she does have over 10.5 million followers).

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As they say, "with great power comes great responsibility" and if you get the right person who is passionate about your event they can:

●    Help create awareness of the brand and the event
●    Make the event credible through their influence
●    Help reach a new/larger demographic
●    Interact with people before, during and after the event
●    Encourage participation within your event

Below are 7 steps to consider to better develop your experience when engaging with social media influencers.

What you want you want the influencer to achieve for you? You need to know what success looks like. Is it more ticket sales? More people donating to your charity? Increasing your brand awareness?

Benefit for the influencer. How are you going to ensure that it is mutually beneficial for both parties to work together? You will want to build a relationship between you both so remember not everyone is in it for the money and the cross-promotion could benefit them more.  

Influencer type? You know your event so you need to find an influencer with the best link to your event. If you are holding a restaurant opening, you should be looking at lifestyle and food bloggers. Holding a charity rugby game? Why not check the charities website to see who their ambassadors are.   

Invite. Chances are these people get invited to lots of different events, so you need to make sure that when you invite them to your event you personalise it. Tell them about your event. You have already extensively outlined why you want them there so put this planning to the test. Go big or go home!

It's all about the buzz! You want the influencer to be creating hype around the event so make sure your event has a "#" so when people start to become interested in it they have an easier way of searching for other people going. Make sure you have provided them with website links and logo's so they can use them in their posts. The stronger the interest the stronger the chance of turning that interest into tickets.

Right, you've gotten people to your event (yay) now it's time to capture what's going on. A picture can say a thousand words so have photo opportunities all around the event so people can use the #. The great thing about social media is that things can be posted in real time and people not at the event can interact too, so make sure you have great Wi-Fi.  

This is where the influencer has a lot of power. If they are writing a blog post on your event, it can go one of two ways; they either really enjoyed your event or they didn't. If they did, brilliant it will be a great marketing if you are planning on doing the event again as their influence and impressions could convert to suggestions for making the event even better.
However, if they didn't, you need to remember the reason you're working with an influencer is because people value their opinion so you need to be ready if that opinion isn't in your favour. Good or bad, a blog post is marketing for your event and can help keep the interest around your event even after it has finished - any press is good press.

Just because the event has finished, doesn't mean the relationship with the influencer does. Keeping the relationship could turn into the influencer becoming a brand ambassador for you, so anything you do in the future they can talk about to their network.

Sharing is caring. Keep them up-to-date with what you have going on in the future. Be sure to follow them on all social media and an "@" tag them to get them involved in talks of the future. If your happy to share with them what you have going on they will be more likely to share what you have going on to, even if it's just a retweet. 

Whatever you have agreed in terms of benefit to the influencer, be it money, free stuff or content in return, be honest about it. Keeping everything transparent between your audience means you won't get caught out. It's important to be honest about what both of you are getting out of the relationship to your audience, the people that follow influencers will be used to plugs - there is nothing wrong with them - just don't lie about the plug. 

Social media influencer marketing is fast becoming the go to when promoting events and the power of word of mouth between an influencer and their audience can reach millions (in Zoella's case anyway) so you could find your message being propelled to more people than you though. In turn, the influencers' audience could become your audience.

Written by Zoe Jagoe-Williams, Event Co-ordinator at Grapevine Event Management.