Q & A: How Can I Leverage Social Media at My Local Birth & Breastfeeding Event?

Lauren, a local friend and birth professional, asked a great question on our facebook page last week. We wanted to share the Q & A with you–read on BirthGenius friends!


The Q


Hey BirthSwell!

Here in Ithaca, our group, BirthNet of the Finger Lakes, is hosting a birth fair in September. We’ll have local providers available to chat with the community, workshops, a red tent for sharing birth stories, birth movies, and other fun stuff. Any ideas about how to bring in a social media component to the fair? Do you think it would be helpful to have some kind of how-to-find-high-quality-infor​mation-about-birth-online table?

Welcoming all your birth-genius thoughts and ideas!!



The A


Hi Lauren!

Social media can effectively do two things for your local birth fair: help promote your event in advance and deepen participant engagement on the day of your gathering.

Today we’re going to be talking about engaging with the people who come to your birth fair.

In your case it sounds like your audience is made up of both birth practitioners, service providers and businesses and the women and families they serve in your community. The right social media strategy can work to engage all audiences and not only with the folks running the birth fair, but also with each other!

First, some homework.

Find Out Where Your Local Birth & Breastfeeding Community Spends Time Online

Be A Social Scientist

Does the answer seem obvious?  Maybe you have a rocking Facebook community – or you might have no idea about your community’s online habits. Whether you need to confirm a hunch or learn the basics, asking is the only way to find out for sure. And you might be surprised by the results!

Two ways to ask:

1. Online: If your birth community has a digital presence capturing most of your intended audience (a facebook page or a listserve) ask there. It is easy to create a free questionnaire (google docs or survey monkey are two options). Both generate a link you can share in an e-mail or facebook post.

2. In person: Ask people at the birth fair! Next time you will know which platforms will help you reach your goals.

BirthGenius Tip: Hold a raffle and ask people to check off their favorite social media platform on their entry ticket.

Information Helps Make You More Effective

Once you’ve done your homework you’ll have a good idea of your local birth community’s favorite ways to engage online. You can then customize a social media strategy for future events.

Here are some general ideas for the most popular platforms available to you:


Choose and Display a Customized Event Hashtag

Have an active Twitter community? Embrace it! Choose an event hashtag (think short and smart) and display it at the door with an invitation to tweet.

Display the stream on a screen using Tweetchat.com to encourage participation and share the conversation. Announce workshops, encourage intended actions and help move people towards your main attraction.

BirthGenius tip: Designate a Birth Fair “Twitter Concierge” who is dedicated to monitoring the event stream and engaging with participants.



Let your community “check-in” to your Facebook event

Facebook places allows people to check-in to places, creating a live buzz for your event that can move local crowds your way.  Last week I saw a good friend check-in to a hip restaurant in Boston. “Good for him,” I thought. Then I noticed a few other mutual friends check-in. “Hey, it’s a party! I want to go!”

How-to directions here.

BirthGenius Tip: Enter an address on your event, allowing your community to check-in. Display a sign at the entry point asking people to check-in via facebook.


Check-in and engage. An event inside an event.

Up-front admission: I only recently signed up for a Foursquare account. Here’s why I’m checking it out: when integrated with an event and an active community, it can powerfully increase engagement.

One of the reasons I don’t have much experience with Foursquare is that my community is not very active on this platform. Lauren, this might not be the platform for the birth fair, but it might be very effective in a community that is actively engaged on Foursquare.

If you want to learn more about using Foursquare with your local birth or breastfeeding even check out these great resources:

Guide to Creating Foursquare Events

How to Set Foursquare Event

I think foursquare has potential for high engagement and I look forward to learning and testing it.

Grow Your Email List!

Your email list is one of your most valuable assets.

Capturing email gives you a way to contact the people who have shown interest in your organization and the information/services you are offering. These are people you want to be able to contact for future events. We recommend using Mailchimp to build and manage your email list since it gives you full service emailing capabilities for free (up to 2,000 subscribers).

BirthGenius Tip: Provide an ipad or laptop for people to enter their email address at a table you’re expecting to see heavy traffic. This eliminates the extra step of having someone hand enter emails one by one after the event.


Spread the Word!


Once you have a social media plan in action let everyone know what you have planned as well ways they can participate.

Tell practitioners and businesses early so they can prepare their own strategy and and participation and make sure you tell women and families coming in the door how they can participate using social media.


Lauren, hopefully we gave you some ideas to get you started. My best advice is to think of it as a big social experiment. Try something, see how it works and tweak it to serve your community better.

And above all–keep up the amazing work of creating and maintaining resources for your community. It is birth professionals like you who make all the difference.

What do you think? How can Lauren use social media to create better engagement at her local birth fair?

Have a question about social media and reaching the 2.0 mom? Head over to our facebook page and ask away.

About Jeanette McCulloch

For more than five years, Jeanette McCulloch of BirthSwell has been helping professionals and advocates build businesses and organizations, change policy, and spread your birth genius (and breastfeeding and MCH genius) through strategic digital communications.

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