Social media has drastically changed since I was in college. Thanks to Instagram, Twitter and FB, the hashtag symbol is becoming a larger topic when it comes to following, reporting and engaging with companies, friends or events. I personally love following the buzz during events that I cannot attend via hashtags. Savvy event planners can use hashtags to help our industry and business grow.
With many of my years being in the music and concert industry, I became obsessed with the Coachella and South by Southwest festivals. I wasn’t actually at those events, but through social media, I was able to know exactly what was going on. #SXSW was used heavily for pre-marketing, event reporting and discussion, and generated millions of mentions each year before the event even took place. I can compare older posts of the comments or photos that already happened to what is currently happening now as well as to the events to come.
While hashtag success can be planned, often the biggest social media hits are organic. Take Ellen’s internet-breaking 2014 #Oscars selfie, which brought the star-studded ceremony to the world with 3.2 million retweets and 2.2 million likes. It then became a Time Top 100 Influential Photo.
I experienced the power of the ‘#’ at the National Kidney Foundation of Michigan’s Kidney Ball. As part of our winter theme, we prepared a display featuring characters from the original Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer cartoon, including the enormous abominable snowman, Bumble. No signs were placed by the area, but the #kidneyfoundation and #bumble popped up all over social media. Guests posted and retweeted photos and comments throughout the night and the hashtag’s momentum continued for two weeks after. Even without being in attendance, we could see how the event was unfolding, how people were participating and what they were doing throughout the night.
Hashtags are a great way to get people involved in an event, to spread the word and generate excitement and to see how people are responding to your products and designs. They’re also timestamped and perennial, so they can be used as a record of an event well after it’s done. That’s great for attendees—and great for vendors, who can review how people respond to an event and make adjustments accordingly.
Hashtags can be seamlessly incorporated in so many ways – photobooths, geomarketing, contests and even stationery – and we’re looking forward to finding new and exciting ways to use them with our events. Check out some of my regularly used “#”: #linenhero #topthatevent #roadwarrior #eventprof #princessinpink
Kristen Porchia is director of business development and events at Top That! Event.