These days, there are a lot of opportunities for online professional development (including some really stellar social media blogs *cough* *cough*). Still, nothing quite beats a well-organized, networking-heavy conference.  As events of all shapes and sizes begin to incorporate social media into their endeavors, it’s important to avoid the following pitfalls:

1. The ever-elusive “free wi-fi”

The Problem: The more social media evolves, the more that it becomes part of the event experience, rather than a simple add-on. However, encouraging users to socialize and promote your event online can backfire if the connection is spotty or nonexistent.

The Fix: This one’s easy – provide wi-fi at your events, and make sure it’s powerful enough to handle the capacity you’re expecting. If cost is an issue, consider raising the cost per a person and start listing “wi-fi provided in all event locations” as one of the many ‘perks’ of your event.

2. The “one-way megaphone”

The Problem: Nothing is more distracting from an event’s social-flow than an obviously pre-scheduled event stream.

The Fix: Make sure that someone – on-site or off-site – is keeping an eye on the event stream and contributing timely retweets and commentary.

3. The “throw-away event hashtag”

The Problem: Many event-goers will naturally continue the conversation for years to come, but hashtags created with poor insight can keep those discussions from happening in public view.

The Fix: Avoid hashtags that focus on the year, and create a general hashtag for the event, especially if it is a touring or recurring conference.  Check that no one is already using your hashtag for another purpose (hey, you’d be surprised at how often this doesn’t happen.) And remember that shorter is (almost) always better.

4. The “app for app’s sake”

The Problem: An event-specific mobile app can greatly boost the feel of an event and save on printing costs, but an app with poor functionality or redundant purpose can serve as a large distraction.

The Fix: Put some time into developing your app or choosing your third-party provider.  Get buy-in from several different stakeholders (participants, organizers, presenters, exhibitors) before launching a full-scale app.

5. The “shy Twitter bird”

The Problem: No matter how amazing your social media strategy for events is, it could have very little pay off if you don’t drive audiences (especially NEW audiences) to interact with your brand.  Many events with otherwise great online presence, fail to really push their handles and hashtags via print and other media.

The Fix: Make your handle and hashtag a part of of the language surrounding your event (both verbal and printed) and encourage (or require) all presenters to do so as well. I know one presenter who takes 30 seconds before each workshop to highlight the event hashtag and his own handle and, surprise, his sessions often get twice the quotes and retweets than other presenters, making his sessions look MUCH more popular to the casual observer.

Photo Credit: Flickr user oflittleinterest