Events, big and small, have historically been an important marketing tool. Internet Week New York, consisting of over 200 smaller events, and Social Media Day, comprising over 700 Meetups across six continents, show the power of social media to significantly transform the impact of an event to achieve a variety of goals. Social media was a critical component of these events in terms of raising awareness, encouraging participation, and enhancing the experience.
7 Reasons to Add Events to Your Marketing Mix
Events can help marketers attain a variety of business goals whether your firm has a permanent physical presence or not. Here are seven reasons to create and/or participate in events:
Create revenue opportunities by offering either additional or related product or by charging admission.
Expand reach to new prospects who either hear about and/or attend your events.
Build your brand cost-effectively, either directly as the creator of the event or as a sponsor, advertiser, exhibitor, or presenter.
Enhance relationships with existing customers.
Provide education and/or training related to your offering.
Gather consumer input, especially for testing new business ideas and products.
Use as an internal tool set to enhance employee team building offsites, annual meetings, or fun outings.
7 Types of Events
From a marketing perspective, consider the type of event and match it with the appropriate social media to achieve your company's goals. Here are seven options from which to choose.
Festivals are often consumer-oriented and include established, recurring events, such as those around holidays like Independence Day or annual events like Fashion Week. The social media version is a Twitter festival organized for social good with offline events. For example, Twestival Global 2010 consisted of 175 offline events focused on education. Company participation can vary from sponsorship to special-related activities.
Conferences, including their less structured social media cousins, unconferences, and the online version, virtual conferences. These can be important revenue-generators for businesses. Alternatively, companies can be sponsors, exhibitors, or presenters. For example, ThoughtLead created The Influencer Project. Billed as the world's shortest conference ever, it presented 60 social media experts in one hour. The event was promoted and shared using #Influencer.
Meetings and their social media variant, Meetups, can be organized around business topics such as WordPress or consumer interests such as knitting. For example, SEMPO NY has a Meetup group with over 1,100 members.
Classes may be a fee-based line extension to provide skills to enable users to more effectively use your product or a means to encourage additional sales. Online video demonstrations also fall into this category. One great example is WordPress.tv.
Webinars - while most frequently used to reach a business audience in order to raise awareness or engage prospects, Webinars can be adapted to help consumers with complex topics like finance.
Twitter chats - promoted on Twitter and blogs, these are discussions that occur on Twitter where participants contribute to the conversation using tweets. They are identified through the use of a hashtag. (For a list of Twitter chats, check out this.) One popular example is #blogchat, which occurs Sunday nights.
Tweetups - formally or informally organized real-life meetings promoted via Twitter. Location-based services like Foursquare also enable impromptu gatherings at a specific location. For example, Boston and Chicago have regularly planned events.
7 Ways to Use Social Media to Promote Your Events
Social media expands the reach of your event while generating content that can be used to promote your events.
Organize events. Use of products like Meetup.com and Eventbrite facilitate keeping on top of meeting details.
Provide venues for the online participation in events using Twitter and Facebook, for example.
Promote events with a variety of media formats such as blogs, Facebook, and Twitter to encourage participation. Enhance the reach of your event by making content about it socially shareable. To this end, create a unique event hashtag like #smday to aid findability across social media platforms.
Enhance live events by providing concurrent commentary and capturing salient ideas using Twitter, live blogging, and live streaming. For example, moderators at live panels can incorporate comments and questions sourced from Twitter.
Extend audience for live events via online participation both in real time and on-demand. For example, the contents of Facebook's F8 conference are available on its site.
Enable attendee interaction through Twitter, blog posts and comments, blogs, video, photographs, and Facebook. For example, check out the highly popular NY Tech Meetup's page.
Record and post record of events via Facebook, blogs, video, and photo sharing. For example, here's the record of Social Media Day on Flickr.
7 Metrics to Track Event Success
As with any marketing program, it's critical to measure your results to determine their effectiveness. Among the salient measures to track are:
Participants. Monitor separately how many people attended your event live and online.
Shares of event-related content. Users that share feel strongly enough to spread word of your event to their contacts. Remember that sharing can happen across a wide range of platforms.
User-generated content created in a variety of formats including tweets, comments, check-ins on location-based services, blog posts, photographs, and video. In addition to tracking the number of comments and uploads, assess the sentiment of the contributions to determine how they reflect on your company and brand.
House file. As a result of this event, how many new prospects registered to receive your e-mails, catalogs, tweets, RSS feeds, or other forms of content?
Media attention. Did the event garner additional media attention? How large was the audience for this "free reach" and what were its demographics?
Revenues. Did you generate additional sales of product via new streams or any other related revenues such as training or conference fees?
Expenses. What was the cost in terms of the event and related marketing? Was additional headcount needed to support the event?
In addition, don't forget to track less quantifiable variables. For example, did the event improve employee moral or brand recognition?
While events in themselves don't constitute a total marketing strategy, they can be an important component of the mix, since they provide benefits for both marketers and consumers. By using social media to enhance your events, you can extend your reach while providing additional means to connect with your firm.
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Heidi Cohen is the President of Riverside Marketing Strategies, an interactive marketing consultancy. She has over 20 years' experience helping clients increase profitability by developing innovative marketing programs to acquire and retain customers based on solid analytics. Clients include New York Times Digital, AccuWeather.com, CheapTickets, and the UJA. Additionally, Riverside Marketing Strategies has worked with numerous other online content/media companies and e-tailers.
Prior to starting Riverside Marketing Strategies, Heidi held a number of senior-level marketing positions at The Economist, the Bookspan/Doubleday Direct division of Bertelsmann, and Citibank.