The 2014 Social Media Week is around the corner, and that is one event Africa is looking forward to. With the theme ‘A Connected Africa’, no doubt there is need to take a look at how social media tools play a role in what events of the future will look like. In fact, we at Wild Ripples decided to submit an event for social media week to look at just that – The Future of Events.

Perhaps we are just too excited to wait to till February. After all the future is now and Omojuwa’s recent venture to host the #MTNfootball Awards 2013 on twitter is a great case study to get the conversation started.

Hopefully we’d have him join the online event on Spreecast later in February for more details, but for now, here are 5 lessons worth taking away from the twitter event.

[Pro] Logistics Nightmare Avoided

Having taken part in organizing conference, and award events from a small scale of 150 to a large scale of 20,000 people, I can first hand quantify the logistic nightmare that comes with  the business of event management. Even with a large team of organizers, volunteers, and managers, things still go wrong, and any good host will admit it’s all about mitigating logistical problems and not eliminating them totally, as that’s truly impossible. However with a twitter event, our good host might just be wrong. All you’d need is to have a pre-event campaign weeks before using an hashtag, avatar, and twitpics, to inform and engage with followers.

[Pro] Save Money

The cost associated with an online event such as the #MTNfootball Awards is infinitesimal compared to what would have been spent on all the traditional format with money going to securing a venue, not forgetting media and communication.  Virtual events could attract some expense especially if you decide to go with audio and video coverage but it still doesn’t come close to an offline event which are often laced with logistics nightmares and unforeseen expenses.

[Pro] Having and Building an Audience

Every twitter follower is a prospective attendee to an online event. With @Omojuwa’s +95,000 followers, that’s a good crowd to start with. Having an offline event at Eko Hotel’s Expo Center would have required radio, tv, fliers, and even social media to reach the same 95,000 people. Although all of Omojuwa’s followers may have not attended the Twitter event, they were available to get invited to the event from tweets he sent out.


[Con] Keeping an Audience

It’s not all upside for online events such as a twitter event. The attention span of tweeters is very short, and thus keeping an audience to be engaged in an online event is more difficult than having them in a room. Taking a look at the #MTNFootball Twitter Awards, a good number of people would have missed out on some tweets and in the process some votes falling through and affecting the outcome of who emerges winner. Sadly there is no solution for this than to aim for the time when you have most of your followers active so you maximize engagement and reach.

[Con] Platform Restrictions

With every platform comes a set of limitation. Voting on Facebook is often placed as ‘Share‘ or ‘Like‘ and on twitter ‘Retweet‘ or ‘Favorite‘ as Omojuwa employed during the #MTNfootball Twiter Awards. This is done as it is easier to count the votes, but truth is people are most likely to ‘Like’ a photo than ‘Share’ it, and ‘Retweet’ a tweet’ than ‘Favorite’ it. That’s because the former are habitual, easier, and less demanding as compared to the latter. I did notice some Reply complaining about this during the twitter event, and it is very possible that if the required actions where swapped, the outcome may have been different. Omojuwa did try to control this by asking only for Retweets for contestants in single tweets but the issue of “keeping an audience” then arises.

In all, the Future of Events is pro-virtual and social media tools are already and going to play a big role as they allow us connect and engage with people of similar interest, hence an audience. Offline events will still be very much around but will also adopt virtual legs to allow anyone to join in from anywhere in the world.

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