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Facilities Friday: Social Media Best Practices for Event Operations

By Nate Engelhardt '14  

Each Friday, we feature a student-produced blog from Dr. Heather Lawrence-Benedict's Facilities and Event Management class. The blogs cover a variety of topics in the facility field. Check out the latest from Nate Engelhardt.


Nate EngelhardtWithin the realm of business, when we hear the words “social media” we are immediately driven toward the concept of how to strategize for advertising purposes. We look for new and innovative ways to service niche markets in order to draw more revenue from viewership. However, all of the hype around social media advertising would not exist if the “main events” did not occur. These main events revolve around the various sports, concerts, theater, news, and the multitude of happenings that draw interest from the viewers in the first place. Obviously, these events are produced with the end result of attendees and viewership in mind. Today, social media has become a double-edged sword when it comes to people actually attending events vs. the experience they may encounter outside of the actual venues. An increasing amount of focus has been made to develop ways to engage live audiences so that they continue to actually frequent these events. New and innovative methods of social media engagement have evolved within the realm of event operations. With that, a need to develop best practices for the use of social media has come to fruition.

Primarily, it is important for any entity to enforce disclosure, truthfulness, and transparency within all social media uses. In addition, policies, procedures, and training programs should be put in place and utilized for all parties involved with any social media program. Furthermore, all conversations must be monitored and any wrong information or misstatements must be corrected in a timely manner.

Event managers need to diligently monitor any type of social media that is utilized. This is due to the ever-rising ways in which users can embarrass the entity and/or the brands that are hosting these events. For example, just for the fun of it, individuals might post inappropriate content, bad language, or nudity. Obviously, the larger the event the more likely it becomes a target of such mal-publicity. For this reason, live events utilizing social media must take the necessary precautions to manage it.

One manner in which social media can be monitored is to employ moderators to selectively choose only that information which is appropriate and allowed to be disseminated. In essence, this allows for editorial censorship so that comments fit the actual action within the event. Another way to monitor social media is to utilize a strategy similar to a “tape delay” used in live television broadcasting. This technique employs deleting anything that is inappropriate prior to being streamed. Obviously, both of these strategies require trained personnel. The number of staff required to properly monitor an event accordingly will be dependent upon the size of the event. In order to reduce the amount of material that has to be reviewed, it may be helpful to add a filter for inappropriate material that is posted. It is essential for moderators to look for any obscured words and acronyms, as well as links and hidden messages within user posts. Users will generally not read terms and conditions. Therefore, it may be necessary to scrutinize users who do not follow the guidelines for posting content. The moderator should be inclined to strongly outline the law to ensure the image of the event is upheld. With the event’s image in mind, moderators need to respond to both negative and positive feedback quickly. Users are expecting a timely response, especially on Twitter. It is important to not allow anonymity, as well as ensuring that the topics on social media platforms stay on topic. Despite carefully executing moderation on social media, is it possible for such action to be deemed overt censorship? Could this perhaps create a backlash from customers?

Despite the obvious dangers and obstacles that must be overcome to implement social media, there are numerous ways in which this technology can be utilized within the realm of event operations. For example, at San Jose International Airport, social media has been utilized to interact with airport customers to provide information and to receive feedback from travelers in regards to facility improvement. Specifically, the airport engaged Twitter and Facebook pages to communicate with their customers concerning outages of mobile device charging stations during renovations. These social media platforms provided updates to this project. The airport also uses these social media platforms to inform guests if an airline changed locations or if a new restaurant recently open. They were also used to communicate spur-of-the-moment situations often occurring within an airport. Such communication includes security issues, terminal changes, and baggage pickup locations. In addition, the platforms can be used to inform facilities personnel when something occurs within the airport. In the same manner in which these situations were performed at an airport, where communication is key in order to function smoothly, these initiatives can also be executed within regular event operations. Ultimately, it is extremely important to respond to customers in every possible way and to keep them informed. Using social media is the fastest method of communication.

For this reason, event facilities can utilize social media to monitor and provide information during emergency situations. In particular, Twitter can be used to provide pertinent emergency communication. Facebook, YouTube, Pintrest, and Flickr can be implemented to illustrate evacuation routes, locations of fire extinguishers, and/or emergency equipment for staff and the public. This would enable equipment and devices to be more readily located. In addition, any of the emergency management information can be dynamically changed via social media dependent upon where a specific emergency situation exists. In particular, this would be useful if an exit was blocked because a fire posed a dangerous situation. Furthermore, event personnel equipped with social media enabled devices could readily communicate with senior emergency staff concerning the status of various locations during an evacuation process.

Another example of utilizing social media within an event’s venue would be to constantly monitor which gates had the shortest wait times to get into the stadiums. According to Brett Brecheisen, the Green Bay Packers utilized this at Lambeau Field. In this manner, fans who followed the Packers on Twitter and were approaching the stadium could be directed to the quickest gate. In addition, the Packers also used social media to distribute event updates in the event a game was delayed for weather or similar situations.

It obvious that social media platforms are becoming mainstream and are being utilized by more and more people everyday. Nevertheless, before implementing any social media campaign, it is imperative to have a proper plan in order to deal with the public properly. In addition, the correct amount of manpower and financial resources must be anticipated to be able to implement that plan accordingly. Is it possible that a formalized training tool is necessary as an industry standard to create certified social media experts? Is it necessary to regulate social media?


Sources:

Brett Brecheisen ('12) Interview

SocialMedia.org

"Using Social Media at Live Events" - eConsultancy.com

"How Facility Managers Can Benefit From Using Social Media" - Facilities.net


Ohio MBA/MSA informational video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qKc7jOSrfOE
Ohio Sports Administration website: www.sportsad.ohio.edu


 



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