Determining the best marketing method for your event is challenging in the age of social media. The number of tools to use has expanded, but they might not all fit your program’s format. Similarly, the method for generating a consumer-based trade show audience is completely different from what you would use for an internal meeting. That’s why knowing your audience still remains the key to creating a marketing plan that will reap the best return. Here’s a brief look at how today’s most popular digital tools may be used to promote events.
With its wide public reach, Facebook is an excellent tool for promoting events to a mass audience. Creating a fan page for your event is easy and free. The farther in advance of your event you can set it up, the more promotions you can build into it. Use the page to post speaker and agenda updates, photos of the destination and registration discounts. It’s important to have someone on your team maintain the page, create updates on a daily basis and respond to comments.
If you have a small budget, creating targeted ads for your event that appear on personal Facebook pages is an effective way to reach new people. Be aware, however, that if you want to run a contest on your fan page, Facebook has very restrictive rules that govern them. Rather than risk having them shut you down for violating their policies, have a Facebook contest app developed by a third party or direct your fans to register for prizes on your conference website.
Facebook is also a great post-event tool. Use it to summarize the event at its conclusion, post videos and attendee surveys. Once the post-recap is done, determine if you will keep the page active until your next event or delete it. There is nothing more detrimental that a dead Facebook page that lies dormant with no activity.
While Twitter can be used to generate buzz about events before they start, its strength really lies in its on-site applications. Developing a Twitter hashtag allows attendees, both physical and virtual, to keep track of what’s happening at your event as it happens and provides real-time feedback. When their tweets are picked up and retweeted by other people unrelated to the event, it enhances your brand awareness.
Educate and encourage attendees, exhibitors, sponsors and speakers to contribute to the Twitter conversation. Allow speakers to opt-into using real-time or moderated feeds to enhance session interactions. It’s important to designate someone on your team to manage the feed, create posts and respond to comments before, during and after the event. If a room is too cold, a mic isn’t loud enough or the audience has an issue with the speaker, the person monitoring the feed can help find solutions and diffuse potentially prickly situations before they spiral out of control.
While on-site, your staff can use Twitter apps like Twitcast and Twitpic to post live video streams and images of the event. Afterwards, curate the tweets, Facebook posts and other social media streams into an event story, using Storify. Because it has embed and URL codes, the final story can be e-mailed or embedded into webpages.
Best used for marketing to your internal audience, LinkedIn provides an exclusive way to give event updates to select groups. For example, if you create a LinkedIn group for your speakers, you can share information with them that is private. Perhaps your board members or committee leaders need a method of communicating faster than e-mail? LinkedIn allows the conversation to flow in real-time and enables the private exchange of documents through one portal.
LinkedIn can be used as a search tool to find potential attendees and speakers, to whom you can send messages. But because many groups prohibit members from marketing to each other, it’s not the best platform to broadcast event information.
Website and e-mail
Don’t forget the more traditional online ways of marketing your event. Some companies restrict access to social media sites during work hours, so it’s important to still have a conference website. Just ensure that links to your social media sites are prominently displayed.
E-mail announcements will keep your event top-of-mind with potential attendees. Prominently display social media icons so readers can click-through from the e-mail message. While you should update social media sites one to five times a day, limit your e-mail correspondence to one or two messages per week. Give an incentive to open the message such as a registration discount and mention it in the subject header. Write creative, brief copy and include attractive graphics that match your branding on all online sites.
Determine which vehicle will give you the most buzz and use the other tools to supplement this main platform. Garner Facebook “likes” and positive “tweets” through creative copy of interest to your audience. Track your Facebook and Twitter metrics through a social media dashboard like Hootsuite, and keep an eye on your Klout score. Seeing what people are responding to will help you change your strategy if you need to well before registration closes.
While not all marketing tools work for all types of events, experimenting and keeping track of where your audience heard about your program will enable you to target and refine your plan for the next year. So don’t forget to include special registration codes that are specific to each marketing effort or include a fill-in box that allows for registrants to tell you where they heard about your event.