While most associations use Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter to push out information about their meetings, many event professionals don’t realize that social media can be even more powerful when attendees—rather than the organizers—become the evangelists for the event. That was the message behind “Beyond Marketing: What Else Social Media Can Do for Your Meetings,” a MeetingsNet webinar featuring Jeff Hurt, executive vice president, education and engagement, at Velvet Chainsaw Consulting. Hurt outlined four steps that can help get attendees to spread the word about your events. Medical Meetings Editor Sue Pelletier moderated the session.

Identify mass influencers. A mass influencer is someone with greater-than-average reach and word-of-mouth impact. Word-of-mouth is one of the most powerful marketing tools an association has, explained Hurt, because that’s how 91 percent of prospective members will hear about the organization. Using the terms developed by Malcolm Gladwell in his book, The Tipping Point, Hurt described two types of influencers: mass connectors and mass mavens. Mass connectors are people with huge followings on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media networks. Mass mavens are content creators: bloggers, reviewers, and contributors on industry discussion boards. You can find them by searching topics related to your industry at alltop.com, boardreader.com, delicious.com, klout.com, Googleblogs.com, postrank.com, Socialmention.com, Listorius.com, and Twitterchat.com, among others.

Deliver excellent customer service. “Ultimately, you want to give people reasons to talk about your meeting,” said Hurt. That means providing a great experience. But influence happens well before the meeting even starts—it starts right after registration. “Make them feel like they belong to your association. People get blown away by good customer service.” When customers are satisfied, they will become fans and evangelists for the organization.

Empower with information. Get information out to attendees about the meeting before it starts, perhaps via blog posts from speakers or Twitter posts with details about sessions so that attendees have something to talk about and share. Hurt suggests talking to presenters at the contract stage about hosting pre- and post-meeting webinars, posting a YouTube video promoting their presentation, leading an online chat at Facebook or Twitter, or writing for your blog, e-newsletter, or magazine. They might also do interviews on Blogtalkradio.com. Further, Hurt said speakers should encourage attendees to tweet about the session before, during, and after the presentation. They should ask the attendees before the meeting takes place what they want to know so they can shape the content of the presentation. Hurt says that speakers he’s worked with have been happy to oblige, seeing social media as an opportunity to raise their profile and boost engagement.

Amplify event fans. Acknowledge the people who are chatting up the meeting by thanking them. Amplify what they are doing and help their word of mouth go even further. Hurt suggests giving fans exclusive content about the meeting to share with their followers.

The free, one-hour webinar session is archived on MeetingsNet.com and can be viewed on demand.