Let’s say your client is having an event and he tells you that he’s “told everybody at the office about it.” You’d be surprised how often clients think that this is enough! When attendance looks bleak, I’ll often ask them what they expected to happen. What about invitations, flyers and a landing page with links, I ask? In her book 101 Ways To Promote Yourself, Raleigh Pinskey says, “Without promotion, something terrible happens –NOTHING!”
When social media was limited to MySpace, back in the day, traditional event planners would say, “I don’t have the resources to support social media.” Then and now, this area of event planning costs very little. In fact, it’s often free! The only thing it will cost you is an investment of time. Starting early can really help. Why not think strategically, re-inventing yourself while earning the respect of your client? You can do that by mailing post cards, but it’s cheaper and faster with Twitter. Depending on the event, you may wish to build up excitement beforehand. Having appropriate signage – such as a large poster on an easel, a photograph with a bio, or even a promotional video playing on a television for people to see as they arrive – are excellent ways to build buzz. Your guests should look forward to the exciting program you have planned. But a “white label” website put up online by you for your client is a better way. There are a lot of places online to promote an event. There are networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. You might get coverage in the online version of your local newspaper. Maybe a local blogger will write a post about the events. Put a video promoting the event up on YouTube. In every case there will come a point at the end of the article, post, video, or tweet where someone will want to learn more about the event. Where do they go for that?
You guessed it. An event website! Prospects will link to it once you’ve piqued their interest. Just providing the main phone number may work fine for a radio spot or a printed newspaper ad, but it doesn’t work online. People want to take action in that moment. If you don’t let them immediately link to your event, there are hundreds of other websites and emails that will pull their attention away. With an event website you have absolute control over the information provided. Nothing has to be cut for space. There’s no editor who doesn’t want to put anything out that sounds too commercial. You can put a big “buy now” button smack dab on the middle of the page. You and your client are steering the ship. The website is going to be the hub. It’s where you will funnel all of the online activity. When you post an update on Facebook, you’ll include a link back to the website. Sent an email out to your mailing list? They will get a link to the website. This is the point at which people will move from being casually interested in the event to actually attending and/or purchasing a pass.
Sometimes you can use a page on the client’s existing website. I mean, the event is probably going to be mentioned on the company website under “Upcoming Events.” But is that enough? Maybe. If the company website allows you to make updates to the original information, sure. If not, or if you’re required to go through a company webmaster who only updates things every couple of weeks, you’re in trouble! In that case you’d be better off just having the webmaster put a link on the company site leading traffic to your white label page that has all the information. You can even make this site look similar to the client’s company website, which is probably not a bad idea. Regardless of how you choose to lead people to it, there should be a website – unless it’s a really small event, in which case your services probably aren’t needed anyway.
Put up a Facebook page. The real advantage in getting involved with Facebook is the remarkable ease with which you can tap into the networks of everyone else involved with the event. If you go “Facebookless” you are counting on you, your client and his company shouting from the rooftops about the event. You may have a few people that are quite comfortable with this idea and do it naturally, but you also have some folks that just don’t operate that way. The family is gathering for a holiday or their friends are all together for someone’s birthday, and they don’t want to make the night all about them. So they don’t say anything. But if you introduce Facebook into the mix, things get a little easier. You can do status updates on Facebook and “tag” employees and potential attendees. There isn’t room here to delve into all the intricacies of Facebook, but by tagging someone, your status update will appear to all of that person’s friends. If you snap a great photo or video and upload it to Facebook, you can then tag the people in the photo and it can be viewed by all of those people’s friends. Now they are seeing a striking image of someone they know well. Some of those people are going to want to click through to learn more about this event their friend is going to. They dig deeper and wind up on the website you created for the event and attend.
The Facebook effect isn’t just passive. When you have a great shot of your client and his co-workers, they will likely leave comments on Facebook about that picture. The first effect of this is it lets a visitor see more about the people putting on the event. They get to know them a little better, which increases their odds of attending and warms them up once they are there. The second effect is that Facebook assumes photos and status updates that are commented on are more important and interesting. As a result it will display those items higher on the page when someone is checking their newsfeed.
Here are some of the creative ways you can use Facebook to promote an event:
-Create a fan page for the event
-Add other admins as necessary
-Update the page portrait
-Update the info about the event
-Upload photos and videos of employees attending
-Invite all your client’s contacts to become fans
-Get 25 fans as quickly as possible
-Create an easy alias for your page
-Put a button on client’s website to like event on Facebook
On the other hand, to the great consternation of the online media geek squad, some people just don’t use Facebook! I know it’s hard to believe but it does happen. There’s definitely an age skew to this, but, people under fifty across all kinds of demographic groups ARE active on Facebook. Facebook has over 500 million active users and about half of those users log on to Facebook every day. It also grabs people when they are in the right frame of mind. Someone logs onto Facebook because they are bored at that particular moment and want to be entertained. That’s the right time to present them with news about an upcoming event!
Another very important resource is local bloggers. These folks have websites where they write about what’s going on in the area. You don’t necessarily have to restrict yourself to bloggers who write about your clients’ area of expertise. Local blogs and Chambers Of Commerce will mention your event if you ask them to. In my area, Las Vegas, there’s a great site called Vegas Means Businessthat lists all the events coming to Las Vegas, where they are, when they are and how many attendees are expected. For any story related media coverage, you’ll get the best results if you can provide an interesting angle for the news outlet to mention your event. A great site to blast all the newspapers in the city housing the event is PrWeb.com.
While there can be too much social media (e.g., follow us on Twitter, Like us on Facebook, Join our Group on LinkedIn, Read our Blog, Watch our Videos on YouTube, etc.), events with a small, cared for presence (possibly in channels where potential attendees hang out) can work beautifully. A constantly updated and engaging Twitter account can work. A vibrant, exclusive LinkedIn Group is such a treat and more than enough for the scope of most events’ social needs. You may find that a Facebook page with early-birds and special offers works wonders for generating event buzz. Start thinking about what social networks you could use to help clients get maximum attendance, so that when they call on you you’ll have the answers.