Whether you’re marketing an international trade show, a regional conference, or an informal ‘tweet up’, there are a variety of social media tools out there that can help you boost attendance and generate widespread buzz for your event marketing efforts. I’ve pulled together a few social media event marketing suggestions that I’ve found helpful, organized by Before, At, and Following your event activities.
Before Your Event
- Invites – use a service like EventBrite to manage your invitations. EventBrite has all the features you need to manage RSVPs, payments, reminder messages, name tags and event follow up – and most of those features are free. This service will save you a ton of time managing your event.
- Promotion – you can share a link to your event through all your social networks using EventBrite or a similar service. Consider using a shortened URL that you can track, so you can get an early gauge on conversion (what percentage of your invitees register). Make sure to hit your various Fan Pages and Groups across your social networks, and ask them to share the link with others.
- Share Your Plans – get everyone affiliated with your event to share their plans on a service like Plancast. This is one of the new services out there that encourages you to share your plans. When people share their plans, their friends tend to jump on the bandwagon. You can publish your plans from Plancast to Twitter and Facebook simultaneously using this service. Another similar service is HotPotato. As a side note, this is a great way to find events you’d like to attend as well.
- Get a ‘Step and Repeat’ – ever notice how every celebrity photo you see at an event has company logos behind them? That’s called a ‘Step and Repeat’. While this technically isn’t a social media recommendation, ‘step and repeats’ are relatively inexpensive to print and give you an opportunity to take photos at your event (and share them via social media afterward). You can also rent a photo booth as another option. Most booths record all the images digitally, so you can share with guests afterward.
At Your Event
- Status Updates – you’ve probably been to an event where they were broadcasting tweets or other status updates on a monitor. This is a great way to generate buzz and encourage engagement at your event. Consider offering an incentive, such as a giveaway, tied to tweets (i.e. everyone that tweets is entered, best tweet wins, etc.). Most designers know how to set these monitors up. Use a Twitter background that ties into your event theme or complements your brand. Make sure to display your event’s Twitter hashtag on the monitor (and all other event materials).
- Check In – they probably will anyway, but encourage your attendees to check-in at your event via Foursquare or Gowalla. If you’ve got some money to put behind your event, consider working out a custom promotion with either company. In the case of parties at larger conferences and similar events, the number of check-ins can largely determine who attends your event over the other options.
- Stream It – nothing beats being there in person, but not everyone can make it. Setup a live stream of your event to expand your audience outside of your event. Don’t announce the streaming option until the event, to avoid discouraging people from attending. If you haven’t streamed an event before, Ustream is a good place to start.
After Your Event
- Thank Attendees – how often do event organizers send you a thank you note? This small amount of effort can go a long way towards getting people to sign-up next year. Why not send a coupon for a percentage off your next event? Better yet, the more personal the thank you the better. While handwritten notes might be out of the question, a personalized email is the next best thing. Use any email service provider (ESP) to send customized emails.
- Share Photos (and Video) – provided you took pictures or shot video at the event, post the photos (and video) within a few days following your event. Your attendees want to see (and share) these pictures. While it won’t do much to boost attendance this year, those photos could help increase registrations next year. The photo booth option I mentioned above is also a great way to send personalized ‘thank yous’ to those that attended (provided the pictures are flattering and you know who the people are).
- Share Presentations – you might want to work this out with speakers beforehand, but encourage them to let you share their presentations via a service like Slideshare following this event. Not only does this extend the reach of your content from this year’s event, but it can serve as an enticement to get people to register for next year.
- Start Marketing Your Next Event – if your event is reoccurring, invite attendees to keep in the loop on new events by signing up for your emails (opting-in), liking your Facebook Fan Page, or following you on Twitter. If you offer these options, don’t wait until next year to start promoting your event. Update would-be attendees throughout the year, as you put together more details of your event. Announce your keynote speakers, venue selection, hotel rates, etc. If you start on the heels of this event, you could dramatically increase attendance for your next one.
- Solicit Feedback – consider doing a survey following your event to find out what you did right, and where you bonked. Keep it short and sweet, but get feedback as close to the event completing as follows. If you can offer an incentive for completing the survey, your chances of getting a response are much better. Use feedback to improve your next event. A service like SurveyMonkey can make this process easier – there are dozens of survey tools out there.