Dear Socially Stephanie,
I've just been promoted to event planner at my company, which is a B2B business that works with HR professions. Woo hoo, good news, I know, but I'm freaking out because we are hosting our annual conference in February. We can count on a solid turnout but we've never really been "social" about it. Since this is my first big job, I want to blow my bosses away. Any ideas on how to grow the attendance and build buzz before, during and after the event?
Eventful in Evansville
Dear Eventful in Evansville,
Bravo! Your enthusiasm is contagious. If anyone should be organizing and promoting an event, it should be you. For real. I want to come to your conference and I'm not even in HR. Great, see you there.
Now that I've managed to awkwardly invite myself, let's get down and dirty. Oh no, don't worry, not Christina Aguilera Dirrty. I'm talking about the knuckle grease kind of dirty. Roll up your sleeves because we are going dig right in.
Since this is an annual event, I assume you already have your website page up and ready. So, with that out of the way, the first thing I want you to do is get hashtag ready. Hashtag what? You heard me. Hashtag ready. Your hashtag is a key element to your social exposure. It has to be good and sticky, but also logical and constant. I'd use your event name sans year. Since this is annual, you don't want to have to change in yearly. So go ahead and put it down on paper. Love it. Live it.
Now plaster that all over EVERYTHING. It should be on your website, on the event page, in your Twitter profile, on your Facebook Fan Page, on your LinkedIn Company page and profile page, in your press releases, within your posts, on your emails and invites. The hashtag should be so many places that people are screaming to use it. Tattoo it across your forehead if you have to. You want as many people using this hashtag as possible, whether they are coming our not. The more your hashtag gets out there, the more buzz you'll build.
So now that we've assured that you and your whole company will be tagging your hashtag around this social web, let's talk about using the assets you have to help spread the word even beyond your current network. The beauty of social media is the ability to create a ripple effect. You want to empower your influencers. Your best assets at this point are past attendees and your speakers. Your past attendees can speak about the quality of your event, while your speakers can use their industry celebrity to get their network interested. The easiest thing to do is to ask for a little social involvement. Send out a newsletter to your past attendees and give them a discount for referrals. By making them sellers of your event, if they are invested if getting that discount, you better believe they are going to help spread the word.
Your speakers are going to be a force in their own right. You see, if you chose your speakers well, they will come with their own celebrity status and their own network of followers who will want to hear them speak. You might even want to add a few speakers who have a big network. People like to promote themselves, but by doing so, they will be promoting your event. Jackpot!
Now for the fun part. Create your content schedule to correspond with the topics that your conference will address. Each piece of content will serve as branded event information, piquing new visitors' interest based on topics that relate to them. Of course, content is only as good as its promotion, so you will have to push it out there. But hey, that's your job anyway! You can also get your speakers to guest blog to get that credibility up.
As far as content goes, you can take content from your past events, like photos and videos, to use as a teaser. Repurposing is a good thing. Think about how you can leverage each piece of content you own. This is going to be your go-to when you are pressed for time as the event gets closer.
A few other things you can do is create a group on Facebook or LinkedIn that is exclusive to the event. In order to be a part of the group you have to have a ticket or have gone the year before. With a good moderator you can really build up the excitement and build community around your event. Remember, where there is community, there is conversation. Conversations are what we aim for socially.
So, Eventful, are you ready to rock 'n' roll? I know you are!