Social Media Event Sponsorship is Strange, At Best

Gillian Sisley

I’m on-site, on break, and spilling the tea about how weird social media sponsorship can be.

Photo by Sara Kurfeß on Unsplash

For the next two days, I’m stepping back from my online essay writing side of business, and focusing in on my social media marketing company.

More specifically, I am spending the next two days as a Social Media Sponsor for a maritime fundraising conference talking place in my city.

That means I’m spending the next couple days live-tweeting the event, and walking around with my eyes glued to my phone, looking like your most basic millennial in all the land.

But I’m not just a millennial screwing around on my phone — I’m actually a professional business woman volunteering her services and time to an incredible educational conference for non-profit fundraising professionals.

And honestly? Social media sponsorship sounds cool, but especially on the day-of, it’s actually just really weird. And here’s how:

I’m a creepy lurker.

People just assume I’m anti-social. Or lost.

After having done events like this for several years now, I’ve joked about carrying around a sandwich board over my torso which says: “SOCIAL MEDIA SPONSOR”, because the lanyard just doesn’t cut it.

I am constantly asked if I need directions, or if I don’t know where I’m going.

When I’m taking a photo for Twitter, and I’m standing in the doorway of a session, sometimes speakers stop mid-sentence to invite me in (with a certain undertone which suggests they’re trying to call me out for poor behaviour).

There’s just a lot of confusion. There’s a lot of questioning what I’m doing. There’s a lot of stank and side-eyed, when all I’m doing is my job.

The safest place for me is at the back of the room, being as invisible as possible, but that simply doesn’t make for very good photos.

I’m not being obvious. I’m not being outwardly rude. But there are many who view my standing around on my phone, snapping photos and tapping away, as unfavourable behaviour.

I don’t know what to tell you — I’m doing my job. My name tag says, “Social Media Sponsor”. I’m not trying to infuriate the masses.

You glare at me, and yet you liked the tweet I just sent out, expressing your gratitude, through a retweet, for sharing this wonderfully inspiration quote/piece of wisdom.

Huh. Interesting.

I’m just that rude conference attendee who can’t get off their f*cking phone.

Live-posting events in real time is really easy for social media sponsors like myself, because we can be so subtle about it. We can just snap pictures and then send out a tweet and that’s the end of it. Easy peasy.

Only, that’s not the end of it.

If I’m sitting in the crowd, I’m on my phone, typing away non-stop. I get self-conscious, worrying that the speaker thinks I’m just rude as hell, and I can see the stank eye others are giving me from the tables around me.

After a certain amount of glaring, sitting in my seat lifting my phone the odd time, being rather discreet, I get up and move to the back of the room.

Around this point, I’d say about half of the guests start to understand what I’m up to. If I was really just a rude attendee, I would stay in my seat on my phone. If I’m standing at the back of the room, then I’m an important person doing important things.

The pictures just really aren’t as great from the back of the ballroom.

I’m often the easiest sponsor to forget about.

When it comes to my smaller clients, they often only outsource two things: social media and bookkeeping.

When there’s any financial issue, that client needs to cut back on their spending and they have to select which service to cut, which do you think they cut first?

Yeah, you guessed it. Not the bookkeeper.

For some reason, this seems to be a similar trend in social media sponsorship, as well. The first sponsor they forget, letting it fall through the cracks, tends to be me.

Even though my contribution, between the hours on site, the social media planning before hand, and all of my additional support, the value of my sponsorship is usually several thousand dollars worth of work — I still often get overlooked or forgotten.

Social media is a weird form of marketing, because people can believe it’s important, but not necessarily understand how it works or appreciate what it takes to make it happen.

Because anyone can do social media, right?

Famous last words, my friends. Social media is precarious.

I often advise others, if they ask for my advice, to only allow someone to manage their social media if they have a PR or marketing or branding background — or ideally, all three.

There is a reason a reputation can completely crash and burn through one social media post made in poor taste. This form of online activity is POWERFUL. With great power comes great responsibility.

Final word.

Why do I sponsor local events, despite some of the uncomfortable realities?

I’m committed to my community. I believe in giving back as good as I get. I highly value volunteering.

This is a way my company and I can give back to my city so that we can encourage it to thrive and grow.

For all of the awkwardness and confusion, the end result in knowing that I’ve done my part in helping a group of committed volunteers and employees arrange a fabulous event which has really made a real difference in the lives of other people.

That, to me, is a priceless reality. And makes it all worth it.

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