HOW TO engage a global audience

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Social gatherings used to be limited only to people in a single physical location like a bar or conference.  Now social gatherings extend past the walls of one location to the online social sites where conversation around a single subject can be scaled up. “Tweetups” blur the lines between in-person and online participation. For businesses big and small, these global niche events — such as Mashable’s Social Media Day or St. Supéry's #Cabernet Day, can be a great way to target and connect with people around a single subject.

On September 2nd, St. Supéry winery used meetup.com to engage people around the world in a celebration of wine called #Cabernet day.  Over a 24 hour period, over a thousand online wine drinkers and people at 75 real life meetups all posted messages across social sites like Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Flickr, Gowalla and YouTube.

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Mobilizing a global audience online and offline can be organized by one or two people using these strategies:

Find a common passion- Commonality leads to community.  Find your community using search tools Twitter Search, Yahoo Upcoming, Facebook or Plancast.

Have one central RSVP page- Keep it simple by driving everyone to one single page.  One page is easier to measure metrics from and it’s easier to organize one single event, even with multiple locations.  Jazz the page up a bit by adding a Twitter stream of tweets featuring the hash tag. Popular RSVP sites for social events are:

Eventbrite.com – Eventbrite is a solid option for posting and tracking RSVP’s.  Organizers can customize their page with graphics, Google Analytics, custom headers, links to the organizer and export tools for attendees to export to their calendar and announce it on their social sites.

MogoTix.com – Deliver tickets to attendees on their phones.  MogoTix will text you an image of your ticket with a scanable QR code.

Establish a unique short hash tag- Hash tags are the thread that hold the online conversations together.  They’re also what make a global conversation possible.  Every tweet, Facebook post, location check in or blog post in any country can be tracked real time using Twitter Search, Tweetdeck, or Booshaka for Facebook.  No matter where people are located, they can send or search posts using the hash tag.

Add the hash tag to the tagalus.com directory and open a search column in Tweetdeck to track the tag.

Engage participants- Online conversations work well when they’re extensions of in-person interactions.  Facilitate satellite events in different cities.  For #Cabernet, meetup.com/anywhere was used to schedule in-person gatherings in cities around the globe.  In the meetup descriptions, attendees were prompted on what the bigger social media message was and which hashtag to use.  For global events, it’s a good idea to make it a full day so “attendees” in different time zones can plan accordingly.  Another great tool is Plancast.  Plancast.com has a similar feel as Twitter, but instead of tweets you post plans.  People can subscribe to your plans, and they can opt in.

Add a Twitter stream everyone can see- Duing the event, make the conversation visual.  No matter how loud it is in a venue or a tweetup, you can still see what people are saying.  Twitter streams are often projected onto a large screen to show the real time conversation.  Twitterfall.com displays tweets with a keyword (you define) in a constant stream similar to a water fall.  You can set more than one search term—each one will be color-coded.

Share the Love- If you want to witness the power of social media, give all sponsors, hosts and contributors visibility equally.  You create a community-driven event where everyone has a vested interest in the overall success.  Show the logos of contributors on the main (Eventbrite) page, so they in turn have a reason to promote the event to their community.  The more they promote the event, the more they’ll collectively drive a larger audience to the main event page.

Have additional tools for engaging a global audience?  Leave them in the comments below.

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