Once of the elements of meetings and conventions that captures the imagination of attendees is the notion of "swag" - free stuff, often useful and sometimes expensive, given out as gifts or promotions. Hardened industry veterans of a thousand press conferences will drop their air of experience and claw through a crowd for a free tote bag; there's just something appealing about free stuff.
Everyone knows the phenomenon - you go to the trade show or the big industry meeting, you get acquainted with a dozen or a hundred new contacts, you go home - and suddenly you realize that you have absolutely no real bond with the people you just "added" to your network. Was it John from Toledo who thought the new product line was going to turn his business around? No, that was Terry from Jonesville. Wait, Terry wasn't from Jonesville, Bob Jones was from…wait, was Bob Jones the one with the funky ties, or the one who always got a chicken salad sandwich at lunch? You have no idea, because you didn't really connect with these people - you met them, you duly memorized a couple of facts (maybe), you put them in your Smartphone or your contact list, but a genuine human connection? Nope.
This isn't a sign that you're a terrible human being or a bad networker. Superficial contacts are not organic to the way our brains process social interaction; someone we see only at a distance or fleetingly or intermittently might be marked by your brain's social networking software as a friend, but in reality they're just a slightly more interactive part of the landscape.
If your company has developed a social networking presence on Facebook (and even if it really hasn’t), you can use Facebook as an inexpensive, effective, and scalable tool for promoting specific events. The more investment you’ve made in your social media presence, the more effective this strategy will be – but even Facebook newbies can get good results for compelling events. Here’s a step-by-step mini-guide to effective event promotion.
Step One – Create an Event Page
It couldn’t be simpler – click on the Events section of your company page, and click “Add Event”. Add as much exciting information about the event as you can. The earlier you can nail down specifics, the better – paid or free, exact time of day, exact address of venue, etc.
Step Two – Alert Your Network
Invite everyone from your company’s fan base for whom the event would be appropriate. You can do this directly on Facebook, and you can increase the response rate by also sending out an email blast to the same folks as well as to your general promotional list. Remember, lots of the people who aren’t (yet) fans of your company are nonetheless still on Facebook – so be sure to let them know the event is on.
Step Three – Support From Outside
Don’t just use your Facebook event page as the event’s main web presence. There are still people who aren’t on Facebook, or who have mixed feelings about the site, or who just aren’t very active there. You will want to have a standalone event page or website outside the Facebook infrastructure, and have your Facebook event page point to that external site.
Step Four – Encourage Viral Spread
The real strength of social media isn’t your company having a platform to show off its message; the strength is that your customers and fans will do the sharing for you. Nothing is more powerful than an organically viral message spreading because your fans are excited about something. Encourage that spread by providing ‘Like’ and ‘Share’ buttons on your Event page (and on your off-Facebook page as well). Write a blurb for the event on your company’s main page, and post regular updates about the event both on the event page, and the company page. Have your employees and staff post notices about the event on their own Walls.
Step Five – Tout Your Numbers
Know what makes people want to attend an event? Seeing that a lot of other people are attending too. The higher your attendee count rises, the more likely indifferent or wavering target customers are to sign on themselves. You can pre-build some momentum by accumulating a group of people who are going to come before actually posting the event page, so that you start off with a quickly-growing numeric count. That can really build momentum in the early days of an event announcement!
There are many other ways to leverage Facebook for event promotion, but this covers the basics you need to get your event moving! Find out about more ways to increase attendance through promotion and advertising with Plan Ahead Events.
Promoting your event on Facebook is no longer optional. Making the most of the opportunity is important. Here are some ways it can be done.
First set up a Facebook page for your event.
When promoting your event, post a link to your Facebook page on your website. You can also opt to integrate the actual Facebook Widget on your website so people can see who is “Like-ing” your page and yout page can even feed your latest posts directly into the widget. You’ll definitely notice a significant impact in the increase of “Likes” after Facebook is integrated.
Make sure that you upload an appropriate profile image and utilize the space to its full potential. Try using a vertical banner image that contains all the necessary phone and web details to your event. When choosing colors, make sure they match and are limited to 3-5 different colors within the image.
To make it easy for Facebook users to register and/or to purchase a ticket for your event, provide a direct link to the page where you are selling tickets online. Make the link attractive and visible so that your attendees will easily be able to buy tickets for your event.
Re-use the same page for every event. When you’re creating a Facebook page and actively promoting it, you’re essentially building a list that you can market to (in some sense it’s like an email database). So you should make sure that your page can be utilized for multiple events in the future!
Facebook has proven over and over that it is an effective event marketing tool. It reaches a broad audience for potential event attendees. Don't waste the opportunity!
The copy you write for your event promotion has never been more important, whether that copy appears on the web, in a social media vehicle, or in old-fashioned direct mail. People are bombarded with opportunities and competing for their time has become more challenging. If you examine your competitors’ promotional copy, you’ll probably notice that more and more, they are missing a critical component of well-crafted event promotion copy: the call to action. What do you want your prospects to do?
Too often the copy forgets to provide an answer to that time tested question: What’s in it for me? And don’t forget, after you tell your readers (1) what you want them to do and (2) what’s in it for them, tell them one more thing: (3) this is how you do it, whether that means a link (that actually works!), a phone number, a sign-up Facebook page—you get the idea.
Don’t leave anything to chance. Give specific directions and develop an incentive for prompt action: a discount, a premium item that is valuable to your prospect. Make sure that your event tops your prospects’ lists of priorities.
Exhibits at trade shows are a strange breed. The best spots generally go to companies who have long track records for exhibiting at the show. Frequently these are not only premium floor placements but also the larger exhibits. So what's a first time exhibitor to do when you're stuck in a less than desireable spot, can't afford a mega-booth and need to make contact with attendees? The answer is promote, promote, promote your presence in advance. Think about it: the average trade show attendee doesn't know that space 2301 is a less desirable space than 231--or vice versa, depending on the hall. Before the show, the trade show is an even playing field. Create social media buzz before the show opens; social media, for all we hear about it, requires work but little cash outlay. Create a special e-newsletter to send to clients and prospects that are already in your data base, and if show management has captured pre-registration email contacts, the value of that list is definitely worth whatever the price.Get on the phone and call hot prospects or people you certainly wish to see at the show. Even if you leave a well-scripted voice mail message, you are raising awareness. Consider spending the money on a 'room drop'--a special invitation delivered directly to attendees' hotel rooms. There are many ways to connect before the show that are only limited by your imagination!