14 Free Social Media Event Planning Tools
Originally posted on Mashable
Free tools make planning events easier than ever. From the first stages of planning through post event followup, there are tools for every detail. The following list offers a taste of some of the best resources out there. You can think of it as a toolkit for planning events of all shapes and sizes. Let us know in the comments what your experience is with these tools and what others you’ve found helpful for organizing events in the past.
For most events, invitations are an important step. Whether it is an internal company meeting, a birthday happy hour, or your next city-wide tweetup, there are endless invitation platforms available. Each is unique and works best for different scenarios. In general I use these tools to set up planning sessions or small impromptu events.
1. Doodle.com is a slick tool for finding common, free meeting times for a group of people. It allows you to easily overlap the different schedules of a group of people that needs to meet. Each person selects their availability and a simple color coded calendar shows everyone what the obvious meeting time should be. It works perfectly for small groups, but obviously, with the more people you add to the equation, the lower the chances you will find that perfect meeting time when everyone is available.
2. Twtvite.com is an easy, simple, and quick invite tool based completely on Twitter. What it lacks in long term event planning resources, it makes up for in ease of use. It takes just seconds to set up an event, includes all the necessary details, and makes it incredibly easy for people to see who is attending, RSVP, and spread the word to their network through Twitter.
Events can overload us with information and logistics, from planning the location to organizing information for attendees. Fortunately there is a tool out there for pretty much every organizational task you’ll come across. Whether you need to work with people around the world to plan your event or you just want to gather resources for your attendees in one, easy-to-find location, there is an online resource designed for the task.
3. Wikis – For events that are organized by multiple people or in multiple cities by volunteers, a wiki can provide an easy communication and organizational platform. Barcamps and Social Media Clubs have launched quite successfully using wikis for planning and organizing. They offer immediate engagement for people interested in your event and when someone is able to get involved right away, they become a champion of the event. Wikis are one of the best tools for this.
4. Google Maps – If your event involves multiple venues or a city that is away from home for your attendees, consider creating a custom Google map as a visual guide of useful places and addresses. For people that have concerns about the area, especially looking for the right hotel, this can be a great resource.
5. Slideshare is a must use site if your event utilizes presentations at all. Especially if you have multiples presentations. Create an account for your event and gather all the presenters’ presentations in one place. These are commonly featured on the front of SlideShare.net, which offers added promotion for you. Also consider creating marketing slide shows or FAQ slide shows to allow those who want to evangelize and promote the event to easily access and embed the information.
It is getting pretty easy to plan and market an event entirely online these days. Marketing your event to the masses is probably the most wide open category for online event planning tools. Almost any social network or community presents marketing opportunities. Find the one that fits your event and target audience the best and try to use the tools creatively.
6. Facebook Events offers an “invite your friends” feature that is one of the easiest share opportunities online. Consider making your Facebook event stand out by marketing a chat or livestream of the event instead of the event itself. This allows people that may not be attending the physical event to participate in the invite process and promote for you.
7. Ustream – Livestreaming of events is becoming more and more common, and streaming your content for free is a great marketing tool. But Ustream and other livestreaming services (Justin.tv, Livestream.com) are more than just video feeds. You can use them to do things like interview speakers beforehand to generate buzz, and emphasize the chat features that take advantage of Twitter and Facebook, sending their interactions with your content to their networks.
8. Avartize.com allows attendees to champion your event with very valuable real estate: their avatars. The site lowers the barrier for people to be able to support your event in a very visible way. Send them to the site, they select the avatar they want and through Twitter OAuth they are given a new avatar in seconds. There are two main options: provide an overlay such as a logo in the corner or replace the avatar completely with a full image advertising your event.
If you have multiple or repeating events, you need to try and organize the community that will inevitably form around them. These resources range from loose affiliations that allow you to browse groups to more complete social networks. Many groups will start on the lower end of the scale, say a Facebook Group or Meetup.com, and evolve over time into more of a complete social network of their own.
9. Meetup.com is built to help people form grassroots offline meetup groups. Groups are $72 a year and come with a nice set of community and invite tools. There is a large built-in community waiting for groups to form around niches in which they are interested. Email notifications are sent to Meetup.com users when a new group in their area is created around a niche that they have expressed interest in. If you want to form a niche group that meets monthly, this is an ideal tool-set.
10. Twitter Lists – If a good portion of your attendees are on Twitter, consider forming a Twitter list as people register. Publicize the list and help attendees connect before and after the event. This is also an easy way for people to see what attendees are talking about the day of the event.
Spotlighting and monitoring the ideas, discussions, and debates that take place at your event is very useful. Being able to show everyone the conversations others are having about the event makes introductions easier, broadens conversations, and generally opens people up to more of the content. Monitoring this conversation can also alert you to opportunities to improve an event.
11. VisibleTweets.com includes stylish animations, and takes two seconds to set up. It’s incredibly useful for live event keyword showcasing. They offer three different animation options, all of which are visually engaging and eye catching, while remaining very readable. That makes VisibleTweets.com ideal for projecting the Twitter backchannel during an event.
12. TwitterFall.com is impressively robust for setting up a live search of your event keywords, and it allows several speed, animation, and sorting options. Especially useful are the exclusion options for keeping things clean and the geo-location option for keeping things local. A single column of several tweets are displayed with text size options to fit your needs.
Additional Resources: TweetGrid
Full-Featured Event Planning
If you know you need long term event planning management, you need to take a close look at some of the more robust, full-featured tools. These sites can even serve as your complete event home page if you wanted them to. From ticketing, to social tools, to managing attendee databases, these resources can be a life saver for any business or group looking to plan multiple events.
13. Eventbrite.com is the most popular event planning tool in this category, and for good reason. The web site is very intuitive and lists almost any resource you can think of on their main management page, keeping most tasks one click away. If you are managing multiple events with multiple invite lists, EventBrite is a very solid choice. They also allow very easy setup for affiliate marketing opportunities, letting others promote your event for you while earning money for themselves.
14. Amiando.com is the biggest international event management service with the most languages supported. If you need multiple languages for your event site, Amiando is the perfect fit, and it also has a better community feel than Eventbrite, its main competitor. There are modules for commenting, video, photos, polling and more.
Jason Keath is the founder of Social Fresh, a social media conference for marketers. He organizes social media events across the country, consults with companies on social media, and blogs at JasonKeath.com.
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