How to promote an event: Use online tools

eventbrite screen capture of a KitchenerEats event

You can use tried and true methods to promote your events but you probably shouldn’t rely on them. There are many online tools available today that make promoting an event much easier and cost-effective than previously available to us.

Use them. Make them a part of your promotional mix. You might even be able to promote your events without using any traditional methods as I have done to build Social Media Breakfast: Waterloo Region into a successful series of events.

Organizing and promoting events online

Here’s a look at how you can organize and promote events with online tools.

Have a home base

You should have a place online that acts as your events home base. Yes, you should use all the tools available to you on your website to promote your event but it’s not your online home base.

Facebook

Set up a Facebook event page if your event is free. Be sure that you invite people! I’ve seen to many Facebook event pages set up where the organizer’s don’t invite anyone. You may be limited to your personal Facebook friends but surely some of them would be interested. When you post it on your page, be sure to ask your community to invite their Facebook friends who might be interested. But no one should invite people to an event that doesn’t make sense like something in a distant city.

LinkedIn

If your event is free and targeting people for a work or professional related reason, a LinkedIn event page works similar to Facebook but is the better choice for these type of events.

Eventbrite

If you are charging a fee, I recommend using a tool like Eventbrite that is set up to help you to sell tickets or registrations online. (Here’s a quick look at some other online registration tools from Techsoup Canada). You can use Eventbrite’s own payment system to process most major credit cards or you can use Paypal which allows people to use American Express and bank transfers. There are charges but they are worth paying for not dealing with physical tickets and cash.

You can use Eventbrite for free if there is no charge for your event.

If you use a tool like Eventbrite, I recommend not having an event page on Facebook or LinkedIn. I believe you risk confusing people and if you want to have solid numbers and prefer advance payment, some people won’t go to your preferred home base so your numbers may be low or you may double count people. People given the opportunity to share an event with their online networks from Eventbrite and so it helps to give you the best of both worlds.

There are other benefits to using Eventbrite. I suggest the most important is that it collects people’s e-mail addresses. When you go to promote your next event, you can e-mail past participants to let them know about it. You could target people from specific events or as many of your past events as you like. You are able to do so because you have a recent relationship with them and they have the option of opting out if they do not want the e-mails. Over time you can build up a large list and if your events are delivering value to people, you can get a good attendance just from emailing that list. I don’t believe there is any way to build a database of past participants using event pages on Facebook or LinkedIn.

Use social media to spread the word

You’re using social media and have developed one or more engaged communities so that you can benefit from the personal networks of your community members. An event is an excellent chance to do that! Ask them to help.

Facebook

Do more than put a link to your home base up once. If your event is a priority, make sure it is pinned to the top. It’ll unpin itself after a week. Instead of repinning it, find a new reason or a new way to post it and pin that to the top. You should be posting it at least once a week anyhow.

I also recommend finding other reasons to post something about your event on Facebook. Do you have a guest speaker? Link to an interesting and relevant blog post or video they have made. Are you trying to raise food or funds for your food bank? Maybe post or link to photos from a similar event held a previous year or in another space. Post links to media stories related to why you’re having your event. And you don’t always need to hit people over the head by linking it to your event. Allow yourself to be more subtle and let them make the connection.

Encourage your community to share what you post with their Facebook friends. If you’ve developed a relationship with them and enhanced their feeling of connection to your cause, they will want to share it but some prompting can help.

Breaking news: I just learned today that participants can now connect an Eventbrite event to their Facebook account and see which of their Facebook friends are coming. A very neat new capability!

Twitter

A lot of my advice on how to use Facebook to promote events applies to Twitter too. In both cases, remember that no one (or very few people) see everything that you post so repetition and frequency are important.

Because of the volume of an active users Twitter feed, I think it’s difficult to have too high of a frequency but it is necessary to make each tweet a bit different and to spread them out so they are not too many too close together.

Be sure to tweet about your event with a link to your home base at least once a day. Do it at different times of the day so that you catch people who are on at different times. If they share it, be sure to thank them. You might even RT and add “Thx for sharing” before your RT starts.

Blog

While your blog should not be exclusively a place to push out promotions, you can use it to promote events if it is a part (preferably a small part) of your content mix. You can also make your post less self-serving by using some aspect of the event as a jumping off point to elaborate on your speaker, your reason for holding the event or something else that people may find interesting beyond just learning about the event and getting a sales pitch.

You can also make a point of writing blog posts that may not even mention the event but that reinforce the theme or key messages of it. And of course, all your blog posts are content for your other social media channels.

Other social media channels

If you are actively using other social media channels like Pinterest, be sure to think about if they can be used to promote your event. If your audience is there, there must be a creative way to use that platform to reach them. Not sure how? See what other organizations are doing and duplicate their best practices.

Use e-mail marketing

Promoting an event is also an excellent opportunity to use your online e-marketing tool to let your mailing list know what is happening. You can include it in your e-newsletter or send out more of an e-marketing piece featuring your event similar to a postcard, poster or brochure. You can send out multiple emails if desired. Chances are you can send more than you might feel comfortable sending without annoying anyone but increasing your conversion of your list into event participants.

What you suggest?

What other online tools have you used that folks should consider? Or maybe avoid? Please share how best to use or why to avoid.

What tips can you add to the advice I’ve shared? What else should people know?

Have you successfully promoted an event without using the tried and true methods?

6 comments
Lizz
Lizz

Thanks for covering so many areas in your article. Very helpful! We have an event coming up, and the members of our organization are setting up their own event pages on Facebook. Our VP says this is good marketing strategy because it allows members to reach out to their friends. I thought we should have one event page that we all share, but now I'm not sure. I've seen incorrect info about the event posted to these pages, which worries me. Would you mind sharing your thoughts on this? Thank you!

Ian Adams
Ian Adams

Certainly a good article James. I would consider a centralized event distribution platform like www.eventchocolate.com but that's just me :)

Donna Papacosta
Donna Papacosta

Good article. I would add one thing: pre-event podcasts, then podcasts recorded during the event.

James Howe
James Howe

Hi! Thanks for the question Lizz. If there is just one event, I'd suggest it best if all the members invite their friends to the same Facebook event page. That allows the outreach to friends and their friends your org desires and allows for a single source of accurate information. If you are referring to similar events held at the same time in different cities, you could do it either way. If that's the case, I might have a single Facebook event page the first year and consider separate ones in the future. Does that help?

James Howe
James Howe

Thanks for your kind words Ian! And thanks for bringing your online tool to my attention. I need to be honest that in general I'm not a big fan of the concept of updating across the web with one click. On the other hand, there is some room for automation if your mostly using the social media tools in a social way including what would get posted through your tool.

James Howe
James Howe

I've never used podcasts myself Donna but I can see how they could be an asset. Video could also be effectively used to create interest.