Elevate Event Participant Engagement with User-Generated Content

Continuous audience engagement is a top priority for events this year.

Creating a personalized visitor journey with multiple touchpoints at every step of the event is essential to creating an immersive, memorable event experience. Attendees who start interacting with you at the very beginning and continue to do so throughout the event are more likely to participate in various events, ask questions, actively communicate with other professionals, and subsequently promote your events and the community through positive reviews.

However, in today's world, virtual event fatigue makes it difficult to maintain continued audience engagement at virtual and hybrid events. But don't worry, event planners can use user-generated content (UGC) to create an ongoing dialogue between businesses and their audiences while maintaining authentic human interaction in the digital environment.

Incorporating user-generated content into an event engagement strategy allows you to turn attendees into content creators and create an equal opportunity for virtual and face-to-face audiences to interact and communicate.

From the audience's point of view, content creation is a fun activity that allows them to contribute to the discussion and experience content created by others who share similar interests. For some event attendees, posting materials online can help them build their personal brand and establish themselves as industry experts.

For event organizers, encouraging content creation increases audience engagement and helps build excitement and anticipation before the event starts. In addition, having a dedicated space for sharing content helps build a sense of community after the show is over.

Here are some of the best strategies for incorporating user-generated content into every phase of your event:

Get Social

This is perhaps the most obvious move, as 89% of event organizers already use social media to engage attendees before the event. But what can we say? It always works!

Social media is considered the best source of user-generated content because it is widely distributed, accessible and real-time. They provide a platform for attendees to interact with each other and event organizers by creating content around the event using familiar tools.

According to Skift Meetings, Facebook (57%), LinkedIn (25%), Twitter (7%) and Instagram (7%) are the best social channels for community building and year-round engagement.

Tip: Don't forget to remind your audience to tag your company page when they post about your event on social media. This will make it easier for you to collect, track and distribute these messages to build brand awareness.

Use hashtags

Regardless of which platform you choose, before the event starts, be sure to unify all the conversations online around the event with a hashtag. Hashtags help you consolidate all the messages you and your attendees post about an event and give your audience an easy way to communicate with you and your event at any time.

When choosing a hashtag for your next event, choose something simple yet unique. Try including the name of the event or the year. Consider using unique words or puns to make the hashtag more memorable. And always remember to do a quick search on Twitter to see if the hashtag is already being used and to make sure it's not associated with negative content.

If you're hosting a hybrid event, try to include local hashtags as well to make the event searchable for people who want to attend in person.

Once you've chosen an event hashtag, be sure to promote it across all of your brand's channels to build audience awareness. Include it in your social media posts, newsletters, venue marketing materials, and other event materials. Also, encourage speakers, attendees and sponsors to post about the event weeks in advance.

Why? So that later you can collect and use all user-generated content created by your visitors and partners!

Create a social wall

The event social wall allows you to display content posted by attendees and speakers on various social media platforms in a single feed. It serves as a social hub and can be embedded on event websites, apps, and next to live streams to encourage discussion and content creation.

Putting your social wall in the spotlight during an event provides much-needed attention to your community. This helps eliminate the vacuum that separates people during virtual and hybrid events, where attendees don't know what others are doing and talking about.

By collecting and displaying the content that people tag the event with hashtags, you, as the organizer, create a safe space where their thoughts and ideas are valued. An event social wall often serves as a platform to bring everyone together in a community and helps you turn your attendees into active participants in your event.

Encourage visitor participation with prizes

User-generated content serves as social proof that your audience loves the event your team designed. Your brand becomes more intimate and human when real people share their experiences and perspectives. So why not reward them for it?

Launching a prize draw shortly before the date of the event will help you increase the visibility of the event and attract new potential attendees. Event organizers can encourage user-generated content creation and increase awareness of the event by offering a prize or incentive for completing a specific task, such as sharing which session they enjoy the most.

During an event, a well-designed contest can serve as an interactive break between sessions. Make sure the contest is easy to enter, has clear rules, and gets people excited. For example, you can ask your listeners to post a selfie from where they joined the event right on the social wall, or invite them to tweet their favorite speaker quotes. The more you know your audience, the more creative you can be with contest and giveaway ideas!

The great thing about user-generated content contests is that they allow you to engage your audience at different levels and host a community-led event if you let the audience choose the winner. One way to do this is to set up a poll right on the social wall of the event and let people vote for their favorite options.

If you're including a game in an event, consider attaching a game call to a specific action. For example, if members post selfies on a social wall, you can give them a game code that they can redeem for points. This encourages members to share their own posts and encourages some friendly competition.

Go beyond social media

We have previously talked about how important it is to create equal opportunities for everyone to contribute to the creation of event content. However, event organizers should not forget about people who cannot or do not want to use their personal social media profiles - or those who do not use social media.

Fortunately, user-generated content is not limited to social media.

It can be in the form of a selfie from a built-in virtual photo booth, a direct message on a social feed, or a survey result. Focus your engagement strategy on interactive elements that allow attendees to influence the content of the event in real time to garner truly unique user generated content.

Year-Round Event Strategy

Don't let your marketing efforts and all the user-generated content they helped create fall apart after the event is over. Instead, find ways to repurpose it and serve it back to audiences across all marketing channels.

Marketers love user-generated content because it helps build trust and brand authority, maximize reach, and lead to more sales or registrations for future events. A thousand positive responses can serve as valuable proof of a successful event for your future attendees and sponsors.

You can weave user-generated content into the post-event communication and support the wrap-up campaign with attendee comments, video clips, and social media posts. The key here is to keep the conversation going by initiating a steady stream of recycled user-generated content and showing appreciation to your audience.

Let's say your goal is to create a sense of community between virtual and hybrid events. In this case, you can maintain an active event website with live social channels that will collect content from your own channels and create connection points for your community.

Create an immersive event experience with user-generated content

By investing in a user-generated content-driven engagement strategy and offering multiple ways to create content, you empower attendees to take ownership and establish genuine communication at every stage of the event.

Make sure to use tools like a social wall to collect all user generated content around your event in one place, moderate it in real time, and present alternative content sources throughout the visitor journey.

The more you, as a host, put in the effort to make content creation an integral part of the visitor journey, the easier it will be to connect with your audience, whether they attend the event virtually or in person.