February 20, 2016
Getting Your Convention on Social Mediaby Patrick Delahanty, Executive Producer, AnimeCons.com and FanCons.com
Thirty years ago, a convention that was getting the word out to fans would make up some flyers, photocopy them, and drop them off at a local comic shop. If you had enough money, you might take out an ad in a magazine or local newspaper. Twenty years ago, conventions spread the word on Usenet newsgroups or services like AOL. Some of the more technologically advanced cons might even have had a web page set up. By the time the 21st century came around, it was essential for every convention to have a web site with all their information. They'd probably have a forum for community discussions as well.
Nowadays, social media is an essential part of convention planning. If you want to get people to your event, you need to be using social media to keep people updated on the latest developments and keep them thinking about your event year-round. However, there are still a lot of conventions that haven't quite grasped social media effectively and either fail to use it or end up over using it to a fault. This guide is intended to help convention planners establish and maintain a social media presence.
There are many social media platforms out there, but here are the big ones that you need to be on: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube (and Google+), Tumblr, Instagram, and Pinterest. We'll run down each of these, but it's essential that you get your convention signed up for an account as soon as possible.
It's best to have a standard username on as many platforms as possible. You'll want to grab your username and establish yourself as the "official" account before some random staffer (or worse, some random attendee) grabs it first. Even if you don't plan to use the platform, it's good to have the account and username reserved for the future just in case. Set up your account and make sure it points people to your site. We've also got a tip that we'll save for last as to how you can save time and set up automatic cross-posting to multiple accounts.
If at all possible, pick a username without hyphens, underscores, or numbers. For example, it would be better for Yatta Con to be "yattacon" on Instagram than "yatta_con_2016". Some of these sites make it a pain to change usernames or limit how often you can do it, so you don't want to have to change every year.
Before we start, we assume you've already got a domain name and web site for your con. If you don't, stop reading this and go get that taken care of first! Web sites are absolutely essential! Sure, people can read about guest announcements on your Facebook event page, but older posts get buried fast. (This is especially true if you're posting a lot of stuff unrelated to your convention just to "maintain an active community"...which some people may interpret as "spamming me with crap".) You need a place people can go to if they need to find information like registration, complete guest lists, contact info, directions to your venue, and programming information. Post that all on your site and save social media for the announcements and latest updates. Of course, you should also post links to your active social media accounts on your web site so that your attendees will know that they can follow you on their favorite social media platforms.
Okay, now that you've got your web site going on your own domain name, you should create an e-mail address that you'll use for signing up for all these social media accounts. Many sites won't let you have two accounts under the same e-mail address, so you don't want to use your personal e-mail address. Make a special e-mail address for these such as "firstname.lastname@example.org" that can be passed on to various staff members over the years as different people take on that role.
Many of these social media platforms will ask for a description or "bio", so it's good to have a couple sentences about your convention ready. Perhaps something like "Yatta Con is an annual anime convention held at the Lakeside Convention Center in Anytown, USA organized by the Lakeside Anime Club since 2005." It can be longer, but keep it limited to just the basics. Don't try to list things such as guests, registration rates, or news in your description or it will get outdated quickly. It's not something you'll want to be updating regularly.
The last step before signing up for these would be to have a "photo" ready. Create a square version of your logo that's fairly large. A size of 1000x1000 pixels is good. Make sure not to have anything important (like text) in the corners because sometimes this will appear inside a circle and the corners will not appear.
The first one we'll cover is Twitter. Signing up for a Twitter account is fairly painless. You can create an account at twitter.com/signup. Put in the con's name as the full name, your social media e-mail, and a secure password. After submitting this, you can skip the phone number request (unless you have a Google Voice number you want to use). On the third screen, you pick a username. You can use mixed-case in your Twitter username, so something like "YattaCon" would be acceptable and people will still find it if they type "yattacon". It's still best to avoid hyphens, underscores, or numbers...unless your first choice is taken. If Twitter makes some terrible username suggestions, you can ignore them and try again. You may consider adding "_Official" to the end if your first choice is taken.
After submitting your username, your sign-up is technically complete and Twitter's going to go through a process to try to get you to follow other users. Don't fall for this. When it brings up "Suggestions just for you", click "Select all" to de-select all those accounts and press "Continue". Then you get to upload a photo. After the photo, Twitter will again try to get you to follow people and you can just click "Skip this step" in the lower right. Once that's done, look for the confirmation e-mail to verify your account and you're in business!
The first thing you should do after verifying your e-mail is clicking on your icon in the top right and selecting "Settings". Here you can run down all the configuration options for your account, various preferences, and set notifications. Beware of the "Apps" setting and make sure you don't connect this account to your personal Facebook account.
Now that you've (probably) turned off a ton of e-mail notifications, click your icon in the top right again and select "View Profile". On that page, click the "Edit Profile" button. This is where you can copy in the description about your convention, the location, and put a link to your site.
After that's all set, it's time for your first tweet to kick things off. A good first tweet might be something like "Yatta Con is now on Twitter!" with a link to your site. You can find Twitter accounts for your guests and follow them. You may wish to follow your neighbor conventions as well. The easiest way to get some followers is to follow people who may be interested in your con and might follow you back. Starting with staff members is a great idea...and maybe follow our Twitter accounts for FanCons.com, AnimeCons.com, FurryCons.com, VideoGameCons.com, and/or AnimeCons TV.
With a limit of 140 characters per tweet, Twitter is great for posting quick updates. You can also post the headline of an announcement with a link to the full announcement on your web site.
Just about everyone is on Facebook, so we shouldn't need to spend too much time on this, but Facebook makes things rather complicated. On Facebook, there are pages, groups, and events. You'll want to make a page first.
When you're signed in on Facebook, you might see "Create Page" in the left margin...or just go to facebook.com/pages/create. You'll have to pick the type of page. "Company, Organization or Institution" is usually the best for conventions. ("Local Business or Place" is more for physical places like the convention center itself.) You can select "Organization" (or "Non-Profit Organization") from the drop-down list.
After you select that, you will be given a setup page where you should enter a description of your convention and a link to your site. Step two asks you to upload the profile picture. Step three gives you a button to add the page to your "Favorites" in the left margin of your Facebook page. Step four asks you to set your preferred audience...such as location, age (as low as 13), gender, and interests like "anime", "comics", "cosplay", etc.
After these steps are completed, Facebook will guide you through various buttons on the page and show you how to "Like" it and invite friends. You can upload some cover art now or do it later.
One of the first things you should do on your page is go to "Settings" (in the top right) and go through each of the options there to make sure everything is how you would like it. For example, the page currently allows anyone to post to it. You may want to limit that to prevent other people from posting to it.
When you finish adjusting settings, go back to your page and select "About" and fill out any relevant details in that section.
You can also invite fellow organizers and set them up to be page admins.
Once your page reaches 25 likes (which you should be able to do fairly quickly if you have 24 other staff members), you can claim a username. Go to facebook.com/username to claim it. You can do this for your personal account and any pages you manage from this one page. Select your con's new page from the dropdown and type in the username you want. Facebook usernames can only contain letters, numbers, and periods...which is why I previously suggested avoiding hyphens and underscores. Periods in Facebook usernames don't matter and neither does uppercase, so "Yatta.Con" is technically the same as "yattacon". Also, you should be aware that you can only change the username once after it's set (which is another good reason not to use the year) and you can't transfer ownership (although you can make other people admins). If someone else is using your username and you have it as a registered trademark, you can file a report with Facebook to get it back.
With your Facebook page complete, now you can make an event for your next convention. While on your convention's page, select the "Event, Milestone +" link at the top of your timeline. From here, you can make an event as your convention. (You want it listed as an event of your con, not a personal event under your personal Facebook account!) Name the event (and you can include the year this time), select the location and dates, leave "Co-hosts" blank (since your page admins will already have edit permissions), put your web site's registration URL as the "Ticket URL", enter a description, and select "Conference" (under "Interests") as the category. Then publish. You now have an event on Facebook that will show up on people's calendars after they join! Make a new event for every future con you've announced.
Facebook also has groups. You can make a group for discussion about your con (and maybe even a "staff-only" private group), but it's the page which should be considered king. Only the page can have a username assigned. (Technically, groups have can usernames too, but they require "/group" before any custom names...so that's less appealing.) Groups are really just like shared timelines with a group of people, but have no "About" page. You can make one, but a page is really the way to go.
YouTube (and Google+):
Google has made YouTube's new account creation process quite confusing. They assume you already have a Google account, but you should not create a YouTube channel for your convention under your personal account. To keep things separate from your personal Google account, start by creating a new Google account.
Google will want your name, e-mail, password, birthday, gender, and location. It asks for a phone number, but that's optional if you pass the anti-robot test. The birthday is not optional, so pick a date. Make sure you select a year that's at least 13 years ago or else it won't allow you to sign up. When you submit the form, a verification e-mail will be sent to the e-mail address you provided. (If you check e-mail with Gmail, you'll have to log in, copy the URL, log out, and paste that into a browser. It may be easier to use two different browsers like Chrome and Firefox in order to be signed into both accounts at once.)
After you've verified your e-mail address, head over to YouTube and sign in. Click the person icon in the upper right and select the gear in the menu that pops up. This will bring you to YouTube Settings where you can create a channel. When you click "Create a channel" and are given a "Use YouTube as..." form, click "Use a business or other name". On that form you can create a channel for your brand.
Now that your channel is made, you can give it artwork by clicking the circle icon in the upper right and clicking "Change" on the larger icon. This throws you over to Google+.
You may laugh and say, "Google+?! Who uses Google+ and doesn't work for Google?" While it may be true that Google+ isn't as popular with your fans as Twitter or Facebook, you'll get a Google+ account when you create your YouTube account...so you might as well set it up since you're here.
While on Google+, you can click the large circle icon to set your profile picture with your logo and the colored image on the right to set a cover photo. In the five areas below, fill in the appropriate information. At the very least, make sure you put in a link to your web site. When that's done, use the drop-down menu in the upper left to select "Settings".
In the Google+ settings, you will probably want to turn off a lot of the default e-mail notifications. At the bottom, you have the option to turn off options such as reviews. At the top, there's a navigation bar option named "Managers" where you can assign your personal Google+ account (and any other staffers) to help you manage the page.
Head back to YouTube by clicking the YouTube link at the bottom of your Google+ page. You should see your channel page. (If your profile picture doesn't show up yet, don't worry...it can take a little time.) Add some channel art to the top of the page. (The recommended channel art size is a whopping 2560x1400...so you may need to come back to that later.) Next, you'll want to click "Channel description" to paste in the description of the convention.
If you want a custom URL for your YouTube channel, you need to meet the following requirements: have an account in good standing, have 100 or more subscribers, be at least 30 days old, have an uploaded photo as channel icon, and have uploaded channel art.
After the hassle that is Google and YouTube, the rest of these are like a walk in the park! When you first go to Tumblr, you'll be greeted by the sign up page by default. Enter the e-mail address, a password, and a username. On the next page, you'll have to enter your age. (You'll have to be at least 13, so you probably don't want to enter the age of your convention.) After agreeing to the terms of service, you'll have to prove that you're not a robot.
Next, Tumblr asks you to select five interests. When you hit "Next", it will build a dashboard based on those interests. Click the little person in the upper right corner to see who you're following...and go ahead and unfollow Tumblr staff. If you know any Tumblr accounts you want to follow, you can do that there.
Click on the person icon again and select "Settings". To the right of the white box, select "Notifications" and turn off notifications. Then click your account name under "Blogs".
Here, you can edit your appearance settings. Click "Edit Appearance" near the top and you can then click the art at the top to put in your own custom cover art. Click the icon in the middle to put in your logo. Next, save that and alter the various options below. A few tweaks and you're good to go.
You'll have to sign up for Instagram using the mobile app. Luckily, they recently added support for multiple accounts, so it's possible for you and fellow staffers to share the account. After creating your account and verifying the e-mail and setting your profile photo, you're all set here.
You can sign up for Pinterest on the Pinterest.com site. Enter your e-mail and password on the first screen. On the second screen, select "Continue as a business". Fill out the form on that page and you'll then be asked to select five topics. When you've done that, skip adding the Pinterest button. You'll end up at your dashboard.
Next, click "Edit Profile" in the upper right and change your picture and other information. Once you've done that, press the gear next to "Edit Profile" and select "Edit Settings" to turn off notifications and modify other settings. You can link up Twitter and Google accounts here. (Don't link Facebook or it will go to your personal Facebook account, not your convention's page.)
Pinterest will give you a meta tag to put on your web site's main page to verify that you are the official account for that site. Once verified, you'll get all sorts of analytics on visitors to your profile and your engagement.
You may also consider signing up for Vine (sign-up in-app only), Snapchat (sign-up in-app only), and a creating brand page on Foursquare. Vine and Snapchat will let you share videos and Foursquare will let you leave tips for businesses on Foursquare and Swarm. You can also create lists, such as a list of restaurants near your convention.
IFTTT stands for "IF This Then That" and is what can tie most of these together so that you don't have to actually manage a ton of different sites every time you have an announcement. You should create a free account and you'll be able to create "recipes" right away. For example, you can say "If I post on Facebook, then also post that on Twitter." ...or "If I post on YouTube, also post it on Tumblr." The combinations are almost limitless. As of the writing of this article, IFTTT supports 272 different channels.
After you've made your account, go to "Channels" and link up all the social media accounts you just created. If you're still logged in, it should only take a few minutes. (When you connect your Facebook page, make sure you select the "Facebook Pages" channel, not "Facebook".)
The trick is to remember how you set them up. If you've set it up to take your Twitter posts and put them on Tumblr, you want to make sure you don't make a post on Tumblr first and then post the same thing to Twitter or else it will auto-post that same thing to Tumblr a second time.
Now that you've got all these social media accounts created, let people know about the ones you're using and get them following! Good luck!