Using Social Media to Plan and Promote Your Events

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1 Using Social Media to Plan and Promote Your Events Constant Contact, Inc Trapelo Road, Suite 329 Waltham, MA Phone:

2 How to Use Social Media to Plan and Promote Your Events An event be it a networking gathering, open house, fundraiser, or class is by nature a social affair. People attend to connect, interact, and share with their peers. People join social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to connect, interact, and share with their peers. Sound familiar? Given their similar natures, it makes perfect sense to use social media to help plan, promote, and build excitement for any public event you re hosting. If the goal is to get as many people as possible interested in your event, social media is a perfect compliment for spreading the word to your core base of customers, members, and beyond. Of course, if you re hosting a private event for select guests, broadcasting its existence through social media networks is probably not the right approach. But for those who are hosting an open house, teaching a class, or throwing a fundraising gala and using Constant Contact Event Marketing for registration and invitations social media networks can and should be utilized to their fullest extent. In this guide, we will give an overview of the major social media networks and show how they can be used throughout the event lifecycle, from pre-event planning to promotion to post-event follow-up. The combination of Event Marketing and social media can be a powerful tool to spark attendance and create a deeper relationship with your customers and members. 2

3 What Is Social Media? Before we get into the how-to of marrying Event Marketing and social media, let s take a step back for those just jumping into the social media waters with a quick primer on each of the major social media networks. If you re already well versed in Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, you can skip ahead to the next section, Event Marketing and Social Media Working Together. The three major social media networks that garner the most attention and more importantly users are Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. All use similar methods for connecting with friends and colleagues, and they also allow multiple types of content to be shared through their services. Facebook Facebook is the largest of the social networks, with more than 400 million active users a number greater than the population of the entire United States. It s also the most multimedia-friendly of the big three as members can post text, pictures, audio, and video. Users sign up for a free account, and then can make connections with other users on the service by friending them: When you find someone you know on Facebook, you request to be their friend. If the request is accepted, you can see that person s profile information, status updates, photos, and more (which is why you wouldn t want to be friends with someone you don t actually know). Your friends in turn can see your profile, status updates, and photos. If you don t want to share all your information with all your friends (for example, if you connect with coworkers or family members), there are privacy settings available to limit who can see what information you post. More important for small business and nonprofit users of Facebook are Fan Pages. Fan Pages allow a business or organization to set up an information hub that other users can become fans of. Anyone can build a Fan Page. You don t have to be an actor, musician, or politician to have fans on Facebook, and you don t have to be accepted to be a fan. These pages are the preferred method for most businesses and organizations to reach Facebook users because a business owner or nonprofit manager can use them to share information with fans, and the pages are public-facing (though only Facebook members can become fans). Constant Contact s Fan Page is at 3

4 What Is Social Media? Twitter Twitter is one of the fastest growing social media networks, with an estimated 75 million users at the end of Twitter s philosophy is simple: Users can post 140-character status updates (or tweets ) that are viewable by anyone following their Twitter stream. For businesses and organizations, this means you can easily get a quick message out to people who are interested in your activities, products, or services. You can also use Twitter to get real-time feedback from customers, members, and event attendees. On Twitter, the follower relationship is not two-way; you don t have to wait for someone to approve your follow request and vice versa. Your Twitter updates are public as well, meaning non-twitter users can also view them. For instance, the Constant Contact Twitter feed is at is our Twitter handle ). Even without an account, you can use that link to see all our updates. Constant Contact s corporate Twitter handle at twitter.com/constantcontact When you follow someone on Twitter, you ll see his or her tweets in real time on your private Twitter home page, along with updates from everyone else you follow. If you follow many people, this can create a bit of noise, especially if those people are heavy users of the site. That said, another beauty of Twitter from a business perspective is the ability to search all updates for a certain term or phrase (using as the search spans the entire public Twittersphere and not just your followers. (This is especially useful when looking to keep tabs on customer service issues.) 4

5 What Is Social Media? LinkedIn The third of the big three, LinkedIn is one of the more professional of the social media networks. Individual users profiles are tantamount to an online resume (complete with recommendations and endorsements) and, like Facebook, connections between users must be confirmed by both parties. Businesses and organizations can have profile pages as well that outline the who, what, and where of their operations. Two of the biggest benefits of LinkedIn are the community and question areas, which tend to be more professional in nature than those found on Facebook or Twitter. Answering questions in your area of expertise can help establish you and your business or organization as experts. Constant Contact s LinkedIn page is at For business-to-business events, LinkedIn should be given more weight when it comes to promotion since most of what takes place on the network is professionally oriented. Other social media sites that can compliment your event marketing efforts include: Flickr A popular photo-sharing community, Flickr is a great place to post photos of past events and share them with a wide audience. Free accounts are available and users can create sets of related photos, which can tie all photos from an event under single, sharable URL. If multiple people are taking photos at your event, you can also set up a group on Flickr that serves as a central source for everyone s pictures from the event. Note that you must have a Flickr account to contribute to a group, but do not need an account to view photos. 5

6 What Is Social Media? YouTube YouTube is a free and highly popular video sharing service. Anyone with an account can upload a video of 10 minutes or less to the site and share it with the world through a URL or by embedding the video in a blog or website. Videos can also be easily shared on Facebook, Twitter, and other sites with a single click. YouTube is an easy way to share video content with a wide audience without having to pay for bandwidth or hosting. Get signed up If you don t already have accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, you should sign up. Even if you don t plan to use any or all of the networks right away, they re free, so there s no financial barrier to entry. Additionally, signing up will make sure you reserve your company s name in case you decide to use the sites in the future, and will prevent someone else from taking your spot while you decide. Constant Contact s YouTube page: It s recommended that you keep your professional and personal online personas separate, so you have the freedom to share family photos and other personal things just with people you know, and your customers can only see things that relate to your business or organization. To do this, you may want to create separate business and personal accounts on the networks you plan to use. Facebook users should also set up a Fan Page as soon as possible, if only to keep your company s name reserved for later purposes. Let the world know: We re on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn! Once your accounts are established and you re comfortable using the social media networks, begin telling the world about your new online presence. Add links to your social media accounts to your newsletter, in your regular signature, and all the promotional materials for your event. And, where applicable, put the same links on your website, event homepage, and your blog. You might be using social media to help promote your event, but the event can also promote your social media presence. It s a two-way street. Users of social media networks are always looking for like-minded people and companies to friend and follow. If you re participating in the same networks, there s a good chance people will become a fan or follow you. The more places you link from, the more likely people will find you on your social networks of choice. 6

7 Event Marketing and Social Media Working Together Pre-event planning Before it s time to start promoting your event to the public at large, social media can help. When working on planning the details of your event, social media networks can be used to solicit feedback on potential event details. You can also ask your followers or fans about recommendations for caterers, photographers, and other services you may need (this is known as crowdsourcing ). As the idea for an event begins to percolate, if you re unsure if others will share your enthusiasm, you can mention your idea on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or some combination of the three. Ask your fans, followers, and connections what they think about the idea and whether they would be interested in attending. An open-ended question ( We re thinking about hosting a summer open house to show off the fall line of merchandise. Are you interested? ) or a link to a short poll would suffice. If you get enough positive feedback, you have reassurance that the event idea is worth pursuing. Social media can help with logistical planning as well. Use an online survey to ask potential attendees for their preferences on date, time, location, and potential food and beverage offerings. The URL to your survey can be posted on any of your social media networks for soliciting feedback. As a bonus, the mention of the event and fact you re looking for feedback from would-be attendees can help build buzz for the gathering. Beyond the what, where, and when details, your array of social media contacts can be an excellent referral service (word of mouth marketing!) for caterers, venues, photographers, musicians, or any other vendors you might be looking to hire for your event. Crowdsourcing can be particularly useful when the event is being held in an unfamiliar venue or outside your home territory. 7

8 Event Marketing and Social Media Working Together Event promotion Promoting your class, seminar, fundraiser, or open house to customers, members, and other would-be attendees is the bread and butter of using social media to compliment your event marketing efforts. As the key details of your event are set, such as date and venue, you should post a Save the Date notice on your social media networks to alert people and get on their calendars. If you ve already built and published an event homepage in Event Marketing, link to the page from your social media networks to provide more information and future updates. You should also send out a save the date to those on your contact list who have expressed an interest in attending, again linking to the event homepage for more details. Within Event Marketing, the homepage is not a requirement to publishing an event and accepting registrations, but we highly recommend it if you re going to be promoting your event through a social media networking site. There is only limited space available to tell your story (140 characters on Twitter), so an event homepage can provide greater detail before people commit to registering. If you re not ready to take registrations quite yet, you can remove the Register now button from the homepage until you re ready to turn registration on. With a save the date sent or open registration announced, the social media marketing component of your event really takes off. You can continually promote your event through your social media networking circle with more frequent posts than you can with . Yes, you should send invitations to target attendees, with a polite follow up as the event draws near, but with social media the rate can be a bit more frequent without irritating fans and followers. Plus, with all the noise and continuous stream of updates on sites like Facebook and Twitter, it s good to put out reminders once in awhile to catch those fans and followers that may have missed your previous updates. 8

9 Event Marketing and Social Media Working Together That doesn t mean every tweet, Facebook post, or LinkedIn network update should be promoting your event. We recommend at least an 80/20 ratio for all your social media efforts, with 80 percent of your updates focused on informational and non-sales posts, and 20 percent on straight sales and promotion. If all you do is sell, your fans and followers will tune you out and may stop following you all together. As you promote the event over time within your social media circle, varying the language and tactics will help keep the message from going stale: Build Interest through scarcity by announcing there are only a limited number of seats left (if that s actually the case). Only 5 tickets remain. Get yours now Fill last minute cancellations when people run into conflicts. Rather than having an empty seat, use social media posts to let people know there are a few last-minute seats available for those who still want to attend but may have originally missed out on tickets. Promote what attendees can expect at your event by posting short updates that build buzz and excitement. For example, Johnny Speaker will explain the meaning of life at Open House 2010! Will you be there? Or, We just added five more items to our tasting menu. Bring your appetite! Brand your event with a hashtag on Twitter. Hashtags are typically a word preceded by a # sign and can be used to unify tweets from multiple people on the same subject. Brand all posts about your event with the same hashtag (i.e., #OurBigEvent) and encourage attendees to do the same when they mention your event in their own Twitter updates. Hashtags can be easily searched to give an overview of everyone mentioning your event, even those you re not currently following. [One tip: Keep your hashtag short you only have 140 characters to use, after all.] 9

10 Event Marketing and Social Media Working Together There s a calendar built into Event Marketing that can be useful if you re promoting multiple and/or recurring events and want to push out a single URL to your fans, followers, and connections. The calendar lists all published public events in your Event Marketing account. Attendees can access detailed information for each event listed by clicking on its link. To push the promotion of an event beyond your contact list, Twitter followers, Facebook fans, and LinkedIn connections, you can post a mention of and a link to your event on sites like meetup.com, eventful.com, and Zvents.com. All three offer various categorical and geographical options for promoting and classifying your event. Check with your local newspaper as well to see if it offers a free events listing page on its website. During the event If your event is more promotional in nature say, a private sale or open house having a wireless Internet connection available so attendees can further promote your gathering is essential. Social media users tend to be a chatty bunch, and while your event is in progress, they ll want to tweet their presence or mention where they are on Facebook. If you re using a Twitter hashtag, mention it at the event so people use it in their updates. This has a two-fold benefit: For attendees, it helps with networking because they can see who else is there, and for you, it furthers your message beyond those in attendance. Encouraging others to use social media during your event is particularly effective for regular classes or conferences, where you want to build interest among those who are not in attendance. If people see what fun is being had, or what is being learned, they may sign up for the next event so they don t miss out again. Note: This might not be appropriate for all events you don t necessarily want people tweeting away proprietary information in a training class to those who haven t paid to attend so use your own discretion. 10

11 Event Marketing and Social Media Working Together Post-event After your event ends, social media can help extend the buzz and, if it s a recurring event, help promote the next installment. You can: Upload pictures of the event to a service such as Flickr. Showing how much fun was had can be a great selling tool for the next time you host the same event or something similar. If there were a number of people taking pictures there, create a Flickr Group so everyone can share their photos from the event. Upload videos where appropriate to a free video site such as YouTube. Depending on your event, you could post videos of speakers, demonstrations, or attendees talking about your event. Like photos, the videos could be used in future promotional efforts and can be used by those who missed the event or by attendees who want to review what they learned. Thank attendees for coming through your social media channels. When doing so, post links to pictures, videos, and other sharable material from your gathering such as presentation slides. Doing so provides greater value to those who attended and gives non-attendees a taste of what they missed. All three suggestions are particularly effective for recurring events, as they can show customers and members who didn t attend what they missed out on. You can also link to these assets when promoting the next event to provide a visual of what future attendees can expect. Your Event Marketing homepage can be edited for up to 30 days after your event ends, so you can use it as a central place to link photos, videos, handouts, and other assets if you don t have another site available (i.e., a website or blog) for aggregating your post-event materials. Also, make sure to add links to your social media sites and a Join My Mailing List box to your homepage to ensure customers, members, and clients can connect with you however they choose. 11

12 Event Marketing and Social Media Working Together Leverage your blog If you have an active blog, it too can be used to promote your event, drive registration, and as an added bonus, help with search engine optimization. Your event homepage should explain what the event is and give logistical information to people, but a blog can go deeper than that. Use your blog to give a behind-the-scenes peek at your event from pre-event planning right through to post-event thank yous. For events featuring speakers, post profiles of each speaker on your blog to provide additional information on who attendees will hear from. Have your speaker(s) provide a guest post on your blog that gives a taste of what will be presented at your event. Use blog posts to further explain the benefit of attending your class, seminar, fundraiser, etc. Obviously, the event benefits your organization, but make sure to explain how it benefits attendees. They, too, have to get something out of coming. Individual posts can be linked to from Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn for additional promotion and to provide greater detail about the event. After the event, thank attendees in a blog post and include links to photos, videos, slides, and other appropriate materials generated during the event. If yours is a recurring event or class, link to your Event Calendar or list upcoming dates for future events. No matter what method of promotion you use be it a social media site like Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn, or your blog, website, or an invitation remember to direct prospective attendees to your event homepage for logistical details and registration. We hope you learn from this guide that social media networks are not just for saying, Look at me! Rather, they can be leveraged multiple ways to build anticipation and drive awareness about your event, reaching beyond standard invitations and website links to engage past, present, and future attendees Constant Contact, Inc

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