How Not to Stress Out Managing Social Media at In-Person Events Like #CMWorld

This post was originally published on LinkedIn.

From Twitter chats to a marathon 24-hour live event to a weekend firestorm of tweets after a brand's viral post (and yes, I hate the word "viral"), I thought I had seen it all as a community manager. But after last week's Content Marketing World, I will admit, I was overwhelmed. With 3,500 attendees and 50,000 tweets and posts, I entered a social media whirlwind.

But it’s important for a community manager to remember to keep her cool, particularly when online groups go offline with in-person events.

When I would share with #CMWorld attendees that we did not have the luxury of a large social media team, they often stared at me in disbelief. How could a single individual handle the sheer number of social media posts being sent and received?

Yes, the weight of the responsibilities fell on me. But I found there are ways to lighten the load and alleviate stress.

Prepare Pre-Event
You want to present your best self at the event. But you can't do so unless you've planned - personally and professionally.
  • Get some sleep. You're going to be working long hours. Rest up so you can craft witty tweets (and look good in event photos doing so).
  • Create Twitter lists. I placed all of our attendees and speakers in separate lists. I then made a list specific to our event hashtag. Lists ensure you can monitor conversations that may not specifically tag your organization but are relevant to your conference.
  • Think of every possible scenario for your conference. Then determine how your brand would want to react. I drafted a FAQ document based on what I believed to be typical questions asked by conference attendees. What time does registration open? Am I able to request a gluten-free meal? Where can I charge my phone? The FAQ included 140-character responses, perfect for use on any social media channel. Having pre-written answers saves time during busy event days.
  • As important as the FAQ is a Crisis Communications Plan. Our plan provided a response tree, identifying which key individuals should be involved in various hypothetical situations. It is then the job of that team to determine a plan of action for the crisis at hand.
Create Your Own Command Center
Throughout an event, it is the community manager's responsibility to respond quickly and positively to attendees on social media. Larger enterprises will create a command center for their teams to monitor conversations. With a smaller brand, it was beneficial for me to create a personal, mobile “command center.”
  • Charge your phone, tablet and laptop and be prepared to walk the convention center. Capture moments real-time by sharing speaker quotes on Twitter, taking photos for Instagram or live-streaming video. Situate yourself in the middle of the action so you can truly experience what attendees do. Working from the confines of an office contradicts all that is good about social media – and the concept of being social.
  • No matter where you set up, make sure the spot has a reliable Internet connection. It will save you a huge headache. Trust me. Nothing is more frustrating than a tweet that won't send because the Wi-Fi has gone down.
  • Use a social media management tool with which you are comfortable. In your daily dealings, you have trained your brain to view certain posts in particular way. For me, red flags go up when I see tweets appear in a certain column in TweetDeck. And I have keywords set up in SproutSocial.
Try Something New
I remember running my first half marathon. I was warned not to wear new shoes or try a different energy gel for fear something would go wrong. Terrific advice for runners. But for a community manager, I believe the opposite to be true. An event is a fantastic time to experiment. What better way to test and gauge social media posts than with captive conference attendees? Ask yourself, “What resonates with my audience?” At Content Marketing World, we tried Periscope and Blab for the first time, and judging by the response we received, it likely will not be our last. Don’t be afraid to fail. Try something new, test, measure, and repeat if warranted.

Understand The World Does Not Stop
No matter how prepared you are for your event, do not forget about your community that is not in attendance. Your followers at home are just as important as those at the event. Plan to post content you would typically share if there was no event. Moderate LinkedIn Groups. Respond to emails. Schedule time to engage with non-attendees and strengthen that connection you carefully created.

And Know The World Does Not End You and your team worked hard to produce a one-of-a-kind event. Take the time to enjoy it. Meet community members in-real-life. Peek into sessions with thought leaders you admire. No one will notice if you do not live stream the polka band on Meerkat (and yes, we did have a polka band at one of our Lunch & Learns). The world will not end if you miss a tweet or two.

Being a community manager, it’s our job to bring people together. We must bridge the gap between online and offline relationships. When you’re managing social media at an event, you aren’t just improving the experience for attendees. You are inviting those who aren’t able to be present to join in on the conversation. Forge a bond with your community by creating engaging content and leveraging social media. Your attendees will definitely “Like” you for it.