Over the years I’ve experimented with a wide range of methods to promote events online to get the word out about small scale intimate affairs to large scale three-day conferences with hundreds of guests.
Recently I spoke at a SCENE, the Sunshine Coast Events Network event, a great initiative by Sunshine Coast Regional Council to bring together those with an interest in the business events industry about how to promote your event online.
But first, what is it exactly you are trying to do?
At the event I shared that I often meet event and venue organisers, and indeed every day business professionals, who set up a Facebook page and claim they are ‘doing social media’. The first step should actually be to answer a few key questions:
• What business objectives are you trying to fulfil?
• Your target market?
• Your resources (time, money)?
• Your skills or who else could be responsible?
• Is assistance needed?
• How will you monitor ‘buzz’?
• How will you MEASURE results?
Only when you have answered these key questions are you ready to progress to promote your event online. Otherwise you risk being very busy, but not achieving the desired result.
An integrated approach to promoting your next event online
It is important to understand that when it comes to effectively promoting your event online, there is no one source. No holy grail. A holistic and integrated approach is what I have found works best.
Given specific examples can be a good way to learn, and I only had a 30 minute speaking slot at the recent event, I thought using the example of how we promote our bi-monthly professional development and networking events called Web Wednesdays, would be the best way to demonstrate our approach. In a nutshell here’s what we do each and every event in regards to online channels (not to mention a bunch of other PR & advertising in addition to this):
1. Website + sharing
First up we list the event on our website. Prominently on our home page which links to a dedicated inner page with full details for the event and the ability to book and pay online. If you are running events and need an affordable way to arrange this, we use and recommend Eventbrite.
Equally important as listing the event on your site and making it quick and easy to book is to include share buttons. With the average person on Facebook having 220 friends, by enabling this feature, if just one person shares your event page via one network i.e. Facebook, your event has the potential of being seen by 220 people. Imagine if you can get the viral effect going. People promoting your event while you concentrate on making the event an enjoyable experience.
2. List on other sites
Where ever you are based, there are bound to be a range of websites that you can list your upcoming event on. Some suggestions include:
- Your council – does it have a business or other section of its website you can list your upcoming events?
- Local directories – on the Sunshine Coast we have mysunshinecoast.com.au and whatshappening.com.au among others. Find out what yours are and list there too.
- Business networks – Can you list your event on your local chamber of commerce’s website? What about gender specific or industry specific industry groups? Find them, list on them.
- Local newspaper – can you list your event on your local newspapers website? For instance the Sunshine Coast Daily provides the option to list your event.
- Local TV/radio stations – For instance the Community Connect website allows anyone to submit their event details to be shared and promoted across Southern Cross Media’s network.
3. Facebook event
You can list an event on Facebook as an individual or as a business page. I recommend listing it as your business page and then inviting people to it. See Facebook’s helpful instructions on how to do this here.
4. Linkedin event & message contacts
More people probably know about Facebook’s ability to list events but Linkedin also offers this free service. If your event is targeted at business professionals, it’s a good idea to list it here too.
5. Google+ event
Okay so not nearly as many people are as engaged on Google+ despite the numbers (400m) as use Facebook (1bn) or Linked (300million) however a very cool but little known feature Google+ has is the ability to list an event. Having used these for a while now, my favourite part of it is that if you invite people it automatically populates their Google calendar, whether they confirm they will attend or not. Not only that but it will display as a cute little icon in the calendar which stands out well. See sample below. Find out more.
6. Emarketing – direct & via partners
Whilst there are loads of cool things you can do in regards to social media, emarketing direct to your own list and via your partners is an activity that should definitely be included as part of the mix too.
7. Schedule social media posts
We all know that to get attendees to an event, they need to be marketed at on multiple occasions, and through multiple channels. Break the back of the social media side of things by using a social media scheduling tool such as Hootsuite to schedule your event marketing messages in advance.
My formula for promoting our Web Wednesday events, which are bi-monthly and which feature 3 panellists per event is as follows:
- Approx 4-5 weeks out – initial announcement i.e. event topic, date, location
- Approx 3-4 weeks out – announce first panelist and their specialist knowledge
- Approx 2-3 weeks out – announce second panelist and their specialist knowledge
- Approx 1-2 weeks out – announce third panelist and their specialist knowledge
- Approx 1 week out – 1 week to go – tickets going fast
- 2 days prior – final chance to get tickets!
Naturally this formula should be varied depending on the frequency of your event, speakers and other components of the event.
Blogging is another activity not to be overlooked. I’ll admit it. When I started blogging I found it a bit of a one way street. I’d write and no one appeared to be reading, and certainly no one responded. But I perservered and now it works a treat. So I try and promote each Web Wednesday by writing a blog post about a related issue too. Read this previous post focusing on the issue, but also mentioning the opportunity to come along to the related and upcoming event.
If you’re going to go to all this trouble, you’d be best to monitor it’s effectiveness throughout so you can capitalise on opportunities as they arise. We use a range of monitoring devices to measure the effectiveness of the promotions of any given event, some of which include:
- Hootsuite – to monitor and measure the level of interest on social networks
- Facebook Insight – to monitor and measure the effectiveness of our posts on Facebook about the event
- Google Analytics – to monitor and measure use of the dedicated event page, as well as conversions through Goals.
- Sales reports – to monitor the level of sales
- Google Alerts – to monitor mentions about the event online
- Media monitoring – to monitor whether we have achieved any positive press coverage for the event
Finally, and similar to the above, we use these same tools to measure the effectiveness of the promotions of any given event. Typically all involved in the event will meet up soon after while the event is still fresh in our mind to analyse the statistics and discuss informal feedback also so we can modify where required to maximise future events.
Happy event planning and promoting. Let me know if you found this post helpful or of any other tips you think should be included here.