Whether you’re thinking of setting up your own event or you’ve taken the plunge already – at some point you MUST consider how you’re going to promote it before, during and after. Where on earth do you start? What channel do you use, and when? This post has been designed to present a formula / strategy of what to do and when.
In order to do this, let’s start with looking at the potential digital channels at your disposal:
You need to get started early, well before the event. At this stage you need to think about securing names, websites, social profiles etc.
You need to have a central place for anyone to check if and when they stumble across your event. Your website should have the following information:
Make sure you set up accounts with all the main social media platforms e.g. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus, and any more you wish. I suggest using a tool like Name Checkr, Knowem, or the litany of similar tools that exist to check which profiles are available for you to claim.
Start to list build and network across Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook. Leverage existing networks that you and fellow partners have to slowly build the follower group. At this stage I suggest using a tool like BuzzSumo or FollowerWonk to establish a list of influencers you want to engage with. For example, if you’re hosting an industry conference or training seminar, you’ll want to approach the key decision makers e.g. Senior Executives, Managers, HR Managers etc. Simply perform searches related to these criteria plus any related keywords. For example, if you’re hosting a medical event, then make sure you’re searching for key terms like “medical”, “medicine”, “health”, “doctor”, “hospital”, “pharmaceutical” and any plural or associated synonyms.
Stagger your efforts by engaging with your list – RT, like, comment and follow. Do this sparingly and over time. You do not want to spam.
Whilst community building on your newly formed social media properties, make sure you place your event on as many relevant listings as possible. When it comes to event listings, you can find stacks of community and media meetup listings to publicise your event – e.g. local listings and news websites. Additionally, there may be a trade-specific event listing site or community.
This takes us onto ticket management, because these bring with them their own perks. Use sites like Meetup and Eventbrite to list your event and manage ticket sales. Eventbrite is a paid for platform, but it does give you more data to leverage. These sites are also great at helping to build a community and buzz around your event. You can even power the ticket sales on your own site with Eventbrite, making ticket purchasing even easier.
A word of caution – do not put your event on too many platforms. Split your allocation across platforms as you don’t want to over-subscribe your event. For example if you’re capacity is 100, look to sell 50 tickets across two different platforms.
Once you’ve got the fundamentals sorted, now is the time to outreach to significant people and generally promote your event to garner interest. Depending on the type of event you wish to host, you’ll want to segment your efforts into the following groups:
Perfect if you have a database of customers / users to target. If not, these can be purchased using a litany of database providers; however, the quality of these lists is quite arbitrary, so it’s always better to build your own over time. If you don’t have a dedicated list I suggest either leveraging an existing one, or factoring in the list building before launching your event. LinkedIn, BuzzSumo and FollowerWonk are perfect for this, but email addresses may not always be listed – so it’s not without its own challenges.
Create a number of email templates and messages for each audience type and at various stages of the buying cycle. For example, your email message to attract speakers will need to be different to one attracting attendees. Additionally, as and when people engage (or don’t engage) with your email communication, you can sort your lists into further segments and deliver follow-up emails.
It seems obvious to say, but when using paid advertising, I suggest only advertising the event itself, for attendees. If a potential attendee sees that you’re advertising for speakers, or commercial partners, you’ll be shooting yourself in the foot when it comes to getting bums on seats.
There are a host of options available to you here.
I wouldn’t invest a lot of time, money or effort in Content at this stage, but there are ways it can help with exposure. For example:
Content that’s sharable and linkable will help massively to increase exposure and help with underpinning your SEO strategy, so it’s well worth doing for that reason alone – any traffic and conversions are an added bonus.
Make sure you’re active across the main profiles. Regular updates on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are essential. Additionally, you want to get everyone using the event hashtag. Whether it’s questions, feedback, opinions, sharing pictures, videos, quotes or key takeaways, be sure to give delegates the hashtag and remind them to use it. Offer an incentive – best tweet of the day gets a prize.
During the conference, you may want to promote related content, products, services or future events. Using our medical conference example, you may want to encourage more email sign-ups for future conferences; to do this you may want to push downloadable content or ads to sign-up for cheaper memberships. Bid on hashtags or target those attending the event. You could even run a campaign for those who didn’t get to attend and offer them a way to get the next event’s tickets before anyone else.
This is a great opportunity to get people sharing event related content – to really garner more exposure. Live blogging, conference write-ups and reviews all play their part in achieving this. Either allocate someone to do this on behalf of the event organisers, or speak to your brand advocates and offer them an incentive for doing so – for example, the live blog with the most social shares gets reduced tickets at the next event.
Additionally, you want to encourage anyone covering the event to use platforms like SlideShare to add presentations and Lanyrd to add write-ups. There is also Storify, which is a great way of collating all of the mentions of your event on social media and turning it into an easily consumable story.
As mentioned during the event, the more write-ups the better. If your event had people presenting or performing, be sure to add relevant content online. For example, slides on Slideshare, videos on YouTube / Vimeo, Photos on Flickr. The more content the better, anything to keep the flame alive that little bit longer.
Push this content on your social media channels. Additionally, go back onto Meetup or EventBrite and push this content out, likewise you can go back onto LinkedIn groups and other communities you have built up as well as email this content to all of your followers.
This is a great way to keep in touch with those who attended, as well as those who sadly missed out. Be sure to segment these into various groups – just like you did before the event.
As mentioned, you can follow up with content from the event, as well as feedback to the delegates and speakers / performers. This is an opportunity to offer kind words to those who missed out, to keep them interested in any follow up event.
I would suggest pushing early-bird discounts for future events or a list of upcoming events for your new dedicated followers.
Don’t rest on your laurels, and don’t assume everyone has seen your event online. With multi-touch points, you’re making it harder for your event to go unnoticed, so be sure to use a variety of channels as suggested. This needn’t cost an arm or a leg, but likewise, it isn’t a straightforward process. Just like any form of digital marketing, you need to be strategic and targeted with your efforts, and once you have a select group on board, make the most of that opportunity to take your event to the next level each and every time it’s hosted.