According to Pew Research Center’s State of the News Report, 2011 made a splash as the “it” – year for a new phase in digital media. Keeping up-to-date on the digital front is imperative to maintaining a strong event strategy for any association. Hosting and exhibiting at events has traditionally been the go-to resource for networking, gathering leads, pushing out new products or content, and developing thought leadership. Events have always been known as the original social media platform, but more recently, marketers have inundated events through promotions, making social media a very noisy channel. You don’t have to look any further than an event’s hashtag to realize just how noisy event marketing has become.
As associations dive into a new year for marketing their organizations, what valuable strategies can you learn from events to make informative and impactful digital marketing plans to enhance your goals and improve your digital flare?
Mapping out your social media and digital goals is a great place for any association to start. Knowing up front where you want to promote the event you are hosting or speaking at is step one. Being seen as an innovator at your event is the goal to strive for. Here are 7 digital strategies to consider while planning your event program:
1) Start your marketing plan asap! Pre-event marketing should consist of the following:
- A clearly mapped out communications plan
- Social media tie-ins for promotion – let your event attendees know what the event objectives are. Who is speaking? Who has a booth? A new whitepaper? A giveaway? Socially promote it!
- Your association objectives to focus on pre, during and post event
2) Use clear, strategic email marketing techniques! The communications plan should be strategically centered on pre-event email marketing to entice attendees to stop by booths or attend high-profile presentations. Spamming inboxes with contests and promotions is not valuable to attendees today. Creating a clear call to action through email marketing is the way to go. Post-event, send out a thank you email to all attendees who stopped by booths or engaged in any way. Communication is key to keeping event leads engaged and wanting to learn more. It’s a great way to turn prospects into members, and to keep the communication flowing.
3) Use social media the right way! Social media is a great medium to keep attendees informed and excited about your event activities. Pre-event, message across to all of your association’s social media outlets. Share interesting topics about your event with your followers, when you may be speaking, and most importantly, what makes your event stand out from the crowd. Keep the messaging simple, but interesting. It should tell a story - who are you and why attendees should want to interact with your event? Attendees are customers or future members, and want to buy or engage with brands who they have an interest in. Those that connect with your story will become a part of you as they join in and spread the word about how amazing you are.
4) Create an event specific hashtag! Be creative and utilize an event specific hashtag by running a contest during your event which will entice attendees to stop by booths; update attendees in real-time on contest winners; announce new services and programs; etc. Using your hashtag will also drive conversations at the event about your association and attract the right traffic. As social media continues to scale, taking part in two-way conversations and reaching out to attendees through social platforms is crucial. Keep in mind that most people buy products and services today based on recommendations from friends, reading online reviews, or engaging socially. Don’t be afraid to interact – it’s the best way to keep conversations flowing, and develop personal relationships with attendees.
5) Make event specific campaigns! The campaigns should also be shaped pre event, during and post event. Leverage your event as a place where attendees can interact with you. Setting up a unique event campaign digitally and socially as the host, will give attendees the opportunity to talk about you long after the event has ended. Keep the campaign up-to-date with valuable content, and personally reach out to those who have interacted along the way.
6) Educate your audience in real-time! The best way to keep event attendees informed and engaged with your association before, during and after an event today is with video. Younger audiences have a need for speed, meaning on demand information, brought to their attention 24/7, any place, anytime. Associations can offer these younger generations the information they are seeking through video and social media. By creating special short videos at conferences in real-time, and having live digital feeds at your event, they can have the experience of learning virtually. Be sure to place your videos on all of your association’s social media channels, including Facebook and YouTube, to educate those who could not attend the event.
7) Be forward-thinking! The #1 way event attendees get information today is from their smartphones. Create a mobile app for your event, and be a part of the buzz in real-time! Establish sponsorship opportunities for vendors to upload content onto the event app. Make sure every sponsor’s company bios and logos are on the mobile app agenda, and allow sponsors to advantage of any mobile app opportunities to socially engage with event attendees.
Events are a great place to keep the momentum of your association’s story heard and spread by attendees. Strategically incorporate a digital plan around the events you host to enhance your program and engage with the right attendees you are targeting.