Hammock created and hosts
this pre-conference community for the
Society of National Association Publications.

For most associations, events are an integral part of their annual calendar. Despite the effect of the current economic situation on many events, the good news is that events provide associations a perfect opportunity to leverage the power and excitement of social media. There are so many ways an association can engage its members before, during and after an event with social media tools. Providing this type of new and exciting value to attendees is a smart way to provide additional member benefit and reverse shrinking attendee numbers for future events.
Here are five tips for associations looking to engage their members before an event through a social networking community site:

  1. Start early
    To generate momentum for your event, allow enough time. Each event is unique, but a good rule is to have the community site live as soon as the first marketing collateral is distributed. For some, that could be as much as a year before their event. You want the site up as soon as possible so that you can communicate to members in all materials the value of the site as it relates to their pre-, during and post-event activity.
  2. Be strategic
    Having a community site for attendees is the first step in providing a value-add to attendees, but you don’t have to stop there. During the event, social media tools can be used to create a conference destination point online for attended and non-attendees alike. After the event, consider a special digital edition or email newsletter to distribute to your members. For attendees, it will affirm their attendance and for non-attendees it will serve as a reminder of why they can’t miss your next event.
  3. Promote, promote, promote!
    Do not miss an opportunity to educate your members about your event community site. Include mentions in all association communications—mailings, the website, mail newsletters and all event marketing materials. Highlight the benefits to them and how they can easily get involved.
  4. Know your limits
    The idea of creating and managing an online conference community can be daunting for many associations. You might not have the internal resource bandwidth or skill sets to execute these ideas. Don’t worry—you can outsource some or all of this work and still have a conference community that does not break your budget. The important thing is to understand when you need help and to look for it far enough in advance so that you can still meet your goals.
  5. Measure your success
    Each association will have their own specific goals for creating a conference community site. Some will be looking to increase non-dues revenue through increased attendance, for others it will be to increase member value and for others it will be a way to create an online member community, not just for the event. Plan your strategy so that it is structured to meet your goals. And once you’ve successfully launched and implemented your social networking site, don’t forget to measure your success!

Read more about Hammock’s relationship with SNAP.