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Event marketing | 28 April 2017

Event Marketing Wisdom from 12 Social Media Experts

Brandon Rafalson

If you’re not marketing your event on social media, you’re missing out. According to Content Marketing Institute, Hubspot, Social Media Examiner, and Regalix—social media is one of the most important marketing tactics out there for both B2C and B2B companies. Nowhere is there more opportunity to build online communities into offline communities than with in-person events. But with so many different channels—Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Snapchat, Pinterest—where is an event marketer to start?

We recently asked 11 social media experts for their advice on making noise for live events on social media. The result is an extremely comprehensive guide on how to market your event on social media.

Given that this piece is about “making noise,” we also asked them the timeless question: If you had to be stuck on a desert island for a month with the music of one artist or band, whose music would it be? Get ready to rock!

Courtney Smith KramerCourtney Smith Kramer

Executive Creative Director & Co-founder, Pure Matter

I think like anything else on social media, promoting an event will be as successful as the story you paint about the experience someone will have if they attend. After all, events are brands in and of themselves, and if there’s no context around the brand, the compelling reasons to believe won’t be there.

After all, you’re competing against life itself for their attention and attendance; getting work done, or pajamas on the couch can be much more compelling than the thought of focusing on a webinar or Tweetchat for an hour – or even worse – putting on fancier clothes, arranging for a sitter and driving somewhere for the event.

Here is some advice for making the experience a positive one:

  • Know what your attendees expect out of attending, and paint them a picture about why they’ll get it. If you’re running a webinar series about your product, clearly outline the benefits the audience will take away from watching. Will it be new actions they can use to do something better? If it’s a conference, don’t forget to include the fun after hours activities with the balance of the business insights they’ll learn. If you’ve ever attended a conference before, you know most of the good relationship building happens in the bar after a long day of sessions. In any case, the story you tell should never be about you; it’s always about creating the conditions to attend.
  • Include the hashtags of others who will be part of the experience. The best way to encourage others to share your promotions is to include them as part of the bigger story. We help run the influencer program for a well known entertainment brand, and host a monthly Twitter chat about different genres of movies to give our Influencers a chance to partner with them. At the end of January, we promoted an Awards season-themed chat by appealing to fans of the individual movies nominated for an Oscar. We sent out promotional tweets that included hashtags like “You think #StarWars #RogueOne will take home the statue?” Using the popular #StarWars and #RogueOne hashtags was in context of our event, and attracted fans of that franchise to come and join in on the fun. More Tweets were generated specific to the other films nominated in our event promotion online. The ripple effect of reaching new audiences on Twitter resulted in us earning close to 70% of our entire monthly Twitter impressions in just 4 hours on event day.
  • Make it easy for your influencers to help promote. Even if you’re not running a formal influencer program for your brand, you likely have a handful of existing “superfans” who organically share your content. Tapping into these people who already love what you’re doing can really help event attendance – but you have to make it easy for them to share. In the example from above, we created social tiles graphics for our influencers with their own quotes and wrote Tweets for them so all they had to do to help promote the event was copy and paste. This way it’s a win/win – your brand gets some extra hands to promote your event, while your superfans earn credibility by being publicly affiliated with your brand.

Desert Island Music:

Justin Timberlake.  I think I’d be highly entertained, even when he wasn’t making any noise at all!

Neal SchafferNeal Schaffer

CEO & Principal Social Media Strategy Consultant, Maximize Your Social

I have blogged about this in various posts,

  1. Have a very clear hashtag. That hashtag should permeate anything and everything you do. Obviously that’s going to be huge because the day of the event you want people to post about it.  Letting people know about your event hashtag in advance is an amazing promotional tool. When people start seeing tweets and retweets and posts that have a certain hashtag—even if they don’t know what it’s about—that hashtag will make people interested in it and go to the event. More than promote the event, it can also be used to promote the content of those participating in the event. When those participants start sharing their content—which you’ve promoted for your event—you can see how that turns into a natural way of promoting the event.
  2. Activate your speakers as advocates. Instead of just publishing—if you have an event page or even if you are publishing information about your event from your website—instead of just promoting and promoting and promoting, you also have something of value to share that is a great lead-in to your event. It also makes your speaker really happy that you are promoting them in advance of the event.
  3. Utilize the content of your speakers for content curation. The flipside is that if your speakers become advocates, you help prepare landing pages for them, special discount codes, you interview them, help them create content that they can share with their networks. These networks are often vastly underutilized by most events that I see out there.
  4. Make a better use of paid social. Retargeting is a standard practice these days, but not every event marketer is retargeting. Use paid social. Build community. Get people to the website. Retarget. Not rocket science. Don’t know if everyone’s doing that right now. It bears reminding as a best practice. And really, there is only so much that you can do on social organically. You have to have a component of paid social if you want to be successful on social in 2017.
  5. Celebrate your fans. If you’ve done this event in the past, find out who your top tweeters are. Give them free admission in hopes that they will be doing as much tweeting to spread the word about your event. Celebrate those people that go out of their way to spread the word about your event, and bring them in for free—or a significant discount. Get them to help you spread the word. That’s one of the inexpensive ways and from a customer experience marketing perspective, one of the best things you can do, as well.
  6. Influencer marketing. Give them free admission. If there are compelling influencers that you can invite as speakers, as moderators or as part of a panel, then do it. Have these at your event. It will pay off for you—from a social media promotion pre-event, during event, and post-event, as well.

Desert Island Music:

I guess Elvis Costello would be one of the people I think of. I’ve been a long-time fan and have seen several of his concerts. He has a lot of stuff from his early punk or new wave days to even country music ballads and other interesting experiments so that whatever mood I was in, I’d have music for.

 

Andrew and PeteAndrew Pickering and Peter Gartland

Co-founders, Andrew & Pete

It’s no good just saying ‘come to this event, it’s going to be great for X, Y, Z reasons’ – you should SHOW it.

If it’s an event that has happened previously – then get sharing videos and photos of previous successful events, maybe even video testimonials from those who attended. If it’s something brand new there’s still things you can do too.

One of the best ways to do this is via live video. How about showing people around the venue via live video? How about doing little guest interviews with speakers via live video leading up to the event? Or if the event is for a good cause, how about showing (not just talking) how the event is going to help those people and the impact it will have? Or if it’s a music event – how about getting one of your band to play a live show via Facebook live? Whatever content you decide to create for the event it should give people an idea of what the event is going to be like – give them FOMO – so they need to buy a ticket!!

Desert Island Music:

Andrew: Lady Gaga. I am unashamedly a little monster. Pokerface and Bad Romance remind me of fun times at university, and I think she’s eclectic enough to not get too bored after a month!

Pete: David Guetta would help turn the beach into a BEACH PARTY!

Wahiba ChairWahiba Chair

Senior Social Media Strategist, Instructor, and Speaker, Wahiba Chair Consulting

The biggest advice I would give someone / an organization is to have a strategy and tactical plan that outlines who will do what when re: event promotion. I see so many events with great potential missing out on exposure and buzz simply because there is no well thought of integrated campaign. Or, because of lack of oversight on details; a common one being that different parties are not tagged properly on social. And speaking of, let me give you a real world example.

Last year I started #YVRSocial, a community of social media enthusiasts and professionals in Vancouver, BC. Our first event sold out with 100+ attendees, and trended on Twitter. But that was no accident.  It was a well thought of and executed integrated campaign that involved all of our stakeholders (i.e. speakers, sponsors, venue etc.). When that happens, and it happens well, everyone wins.

Here are the high level steps we took to make it happen:

  1. Identify event objectives: Our primary objective was to drive event registrations. Secondarily, it was to drive engagement.
  2. Develop an event digital promotional plan around our objectives inclusive of various tactics including email, social engagement (mostly organic), media sponsorship, and cross-promotions. We allocated different tasks to team members based on strengths and availability.
  3. Execute the plan and make it easy for people to participate. For instance, we had a media kit with promotional images (seized correctly for each social channel) and sample tweets, Facebook and LinkedIn posts that speakers, sponsors, and volunteers could easily share. We also ensured to tag the right parties in relevant messaging in order to help us amplify our voice to their respective communities. I find Twitter is one of the best channels to do so. Another small tactics we used is to find people who registered on Twitter and then share an “excited to see you soon” message/GIF which they generally would amplify to their respective communities. This helped us build advocacy into the event promotion.

Example of a “pre-event” tweet to attendees by #YVRSocial volunteer

YVR Social Tweet

Desert Island Music:  

I would probably pick Bob Marley. Though I’m not a huge music buff, I’ve become a bigger fan of his after visiting Jamaica last year.

Joel CommJoel Comm

CEO, Author, and Speaker, Joel Comm Inc.

Social media is a great place to promote your events. If you are going to be doing repeat events, having a Facebook group for members is a great place to start. Think of like a meetup group of sorts. And then, you’ll want to set up a specific event page on Facebook for each event you conduct.

I find it helpful to create banners and graphics specific to the event. These can be shared across all the social platforms. Be sure to include a url on the image and in your posts that points to where people can register for the event or purchase tickets. (If you are in the Denver area, you are invited to our big event on June 30th at comm.us/smsdenver.)

Desert Island Music:

This question is always so unfair because I think no matter what I pick I’ll eventually get sick of it! For now, I’m going to go with my #1 album of all time, Dark Side of the Moon.

Sunny LenarduzziSunny Lenarduzzi

Social Media Strategist and Consultant

I always say break it into pre, during and post. In the pre-promotion, you want to use a lot of quick hit video teasers across social platforms and have them highly stylized to create hype around the event. If possible, you also want to highlight testimonials from past events to build buzz. During, you want to create FOMO by sharing as much live content as possible. Also, you’ll want to share event recaps and ask influential attendees to share their thoughts on the event through social/blogging platforms.

Desert Island Music:

Al Green. I know that sounds weird, but I’m on a major soul kick right now and his voice makes my heart happy.


Daniel HillDaniel Hill

Social Media Consultant, Daniel Hill Media

Show the fun that people had. Show the real-world results that came from two people meeting. Show the conversations, and how the introductions became relationships. Show how 90% of life is just showing up, and this is their chance to do exactly that.

A picture is worth 1,000 words – so I would recommend using Instagram for some of the great pictures from prior events. Show people smiling, shaking hands, making connections, and building relationships. Show well-known speakers talking in a small group of engaged listeners, indicating their accessibility before and after sessions.

Knowing that a picture is worth a 1,000 words, how much more is a video? I went to a conference last year that built anticipation by releasing a video trailer as a preview of the content. This worked extremely well because it could be shared with others and get them interested in attending the conference as a guest. Video on Instagram can be up to 60 seconds, and that same video can be posted on YouTube, Facebook, and other sites. The goal is to make the video content so engaging that the immediate reaction is to share it and tag others in the post to draw their attention to it. It takes time and effort to make a great video, but the people watching will know exactly what to look forward to.

Desert Island Music:

Red Hot Chili Peppers but only from the Californication album onward. Nothing before 1998 except for “Soul to Squeeze”. Their music has the underlying funk groove that you need to really get into the state of flow when you’re trying to work, or when you’re flying down the highway on the way to the beach. On the plus side, if I’m stuck on a desert island, I’ll already be at the beach.

Luria PetrucciLuria Petrucci

Co-founder, Live Streaming Pros

One of the best ways to promote your event is to get your audience INVOLVED in the process so they’re totally invested in it and they feel like it’s as much THEIR event as it is yours.

How do you do that? With a Buzz Campaign. Go LIVE on social channels (Facebook LIVE, Periscope, YouTube LIVE or Instagram LIVE) early and often in the event planning process and bring them along for the journey.

Talk to them about what you’re doing. Involve them in the decision making process (you don’t have to give up control, but ASK them what they think). Share your experiences, your stress, the things that go wrong and the things that go right.

The bottom line is… the more they feel a part of the creation of the event, the more likely they are to HAVE TO be there at the event!

Desert Island Band:

Hmm… that’s a hard one! LIGHTS or Brandi Carlile (I cheated and picked two because I just can’t decide!)

Dorien Morin-van DamDorien Morin-van Dam

Social Media Marketing Consultant, More In Media

Step 1 – Create a written plan for promotion. Write down goals, objectives, target audience, budget, social media channels to be used, etc.

Step 2 – Create content to be used for the campaign(s). This includes written content and images in all sizes for your chosen platforms and videos.

Step 3 – Implement any and all ideas for promotion on as many social media channels as possible. This includes outreach to bloggers, podcasters and vloggers to be on their show/blog as a guest, paid advertising, email marketing campaigns and a brand ambassador program.

Step 4 – Measure results daily/weekly and do more of what yields best results. Adjust as you go!

Desert Island Music:

It would have to be Adelle! I could scream with her, croon with her, sing with her, dance with her and cry with her.

Alon AlroyAlon Alroy

Co-founder & CMO, Bizzabo

Unleash the Power of Your Audience: Part 1

Find a way to turn your attendees into promoters on social media because your voice is never objective when you promote your event. Think about reaching out to sponsors and vendors, but speakers, as well.

It’s not just enough to create a speaker card and be done with it. It’s a matter of iterating and optimizing to reach maximum engagement.

One useful tactic is to create speaker cards. People like to retweet things that make them look good. Simply find a photo, tag your promoter, and post it. Make sure to include any other relevant hashtags or handles.

Take for example this simple speaker card that Liz King recently created for her event TechsyTalk.

Alon Alroy Speaker Card - TechsyTalk

I saw this image on Facebook and thought, I want to share this! Notice the position of the text in the lower right-hand corner. One thing that King does that is great is that she constantly experiments with where the text is placed in her speaker cards. It’s not just enough to create a speaker card and be done with it. It’s a matter of iterating and optimizing to reach maximum engagement.

Unleash the Power of Your Audience: Part 2

Another great way to turn your attendees into promoters is with technology that incentivizes them to promote their event. For instance, Ticket Boost allows attendees to recoup a percentage of their registration price for every other person they get to attend using a special trackable link in social media. It can also be setup to reduce the ticket price of those who buy from your attendees for a double-sided incentive. Because these links are trackable, event organizers can see who their top promoters are and engage them appropriately.

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Partner Up with Other Conferences

As long as you are not overlapping in dates and topics, partnering up with other conferences is a great way to amplify your event marketing efforts. This lends itself to cross promotion on-site, in newsletters, and on social media. For instance you can feature something like “Check out our sister conference” on your event’s Facebook Page. To get the most out of these partnerships, make sure that the conferences that you partner up with have a big social media follower base.

Desert Island Music:

Barbara Streissand [I actually asked Eran, our other co-founder about to answer on behalf of Alon. I think this one is a joke.]

Nick BorelliNick Borelli

President & Strategist, Borelli Strategies

The three top tips I have for promoting your event through social media:

  1. Know Your Audience. Before you promote your event, do as much research as you can on the types of attendees you are trying to sell to. Find out the answers to what excites them (what gets the most retweets), who is the most influential (check Klout scores), and what problems they have (join Linkedin and Facebook groups around your event’s topics). To be effectively social within a community, you have to become a native. If you just start selling at them you will become part of the noise they already don’t pay attention to.
  2. Build A Team. Don’t promote your event by yourself, give tools to the people who are in the best position to help raise awareness and convert. All of your event’s formal stakeholders (sponsors, presenters, and vendor partners) should be given graphics, suggested social media copy, and links to help ensure this endeavor they are contributing to is successful. Determine who is the most influential to your potential attendees and incentivize them to promote for you as well.
  3. Be Social. In order to sell tickets, you can’t always post about selling tickets. Focus on the mission of your event. If your event is educational, host Twitter Q&A sessions with experts. If you are planning an event to celebrate achievements, your posts shine a light on those who are contributing to the area you focus on. Your posts are just as much an extension of your mission as your event is.

Desert Island Music:

I’d have to go with something that is a bit cheerier than what I usually listen to (Bon Iver, Iron and Wine & Sufjan Stevens). I listen to different music depending on my mood, season and environment and Vampire Weekend would probably be exactly what I needed for that scenario.

Wrapping Up: The Power of the People

There’s no shortage of great event marketing advice from these social media pros, but several tips have come up again and again:

  • Plan Ahead: As you begin preparing for your event, make sure that you have a social media strategy outlined. Before, during, and after your event, there will be ample opportunities to market it on social media.
  • Record Your Event: In both photos and videos, make sure you are recording your event. Interview attendees and speakers, put together a sizzler reel, show the world that your event is awesome. Facebook Live and other live video mediums will be helpful.
  • Utilize the Power of the People: Whether you use an influence marketing, brand advocacy marketing, speaker cards and content, or a social media tool like Ticket Boost, make sure you tap into the power of the people surrounding your event.

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