2014 is the year that event marketing gets personal. Is your strategy ready for the shift?


In a recent article, Mark Schaefer contended that while digital publishing platforms like blogs, Facebook, and Twitter have changed the way we market, they haven’t done so in the way that many experts would have us believe. Rather than radically shifting the marketing paradigm, they have actually returned it to its roots: People are again buying from businesses that they know and trust.

100 years ago, before the rise of mass media, people made purchasing decisions based on the quality of the merchandise, their relationship with the merchant, and the merchant’s standing in the community. The digital platforms of today provide much the same opportunity for consumers. As a result, they are seeking out a more personalized experience based on responsiveness, honesty, and social affinity.

Using social media to market your event means creating a more conversational, interactional dynamic with your audience. You might be participating in not only two-way exchanges, but also three and four-way discussions as part of a string of questions or remarks. Just be approachable, friendly, and helpful; this simple, human approach to “word-of-mouse” marketing has proven incredibly effective even for some of the biggest businesses on social media.

There are a number of different channels and tactics to consider when using social media to promote your events. Here are our key recommendations for implementing a practical yet effective social media plan.  

An introductory word of advice: Don't assume that you need to embrace every social network under the sun. Determine where your audience hangs out and focus all of your effort on those networks. If your audience is on Linkedin but not Twitter, don't spend time on Twitter. It's that simple.

1. Event hashtag 

Hashtags are a way to connect conversations within social networks. Although they came to prominence on Twitter, they can now be used on Facebook, Google+, Instagram, Tumblr, and Pinterest. Google has even started to feature hashtags in search results. Create a unique hashtag for each of your events so that related posts can be easily monitored and responded to.  It will be especially helpful when you begin to analyze your interactions post-event.

You will likely want to feature the name and, for annual gatherings, the year, such as #nwfoodfest2013. Be creative; just try to make your tag short and memorable.

2. Twitter

Due to the volume of posts on Twitter, it’s advisable to tweet frequently so that your audience is sure to see your messages.

  • Tweet when registration opens and as accounts register (“Thanks for signing up, Jake’s Ice Cream Shop!”)
  • Tweet to countdown (“X days to #nwfoodfest2013, don’t forget to register!)”
  • Tweet reminders of the date and time (“Join us on March 7th from 10-6 for #nwfoodfest2013”)
  • Tweet about your guest speakers and promotions (“Don’t miss Bobby Flay’s tips for spicing up your menu!”)
  • To increase engagement and excitement, encourage live-tweeting at your event.  Stage a Twitter wall to showcase tweets with your hashtag or keywords as they’re made.  Tweetwally makes this a snap. (Convince & Convert)

3. Facebook 

In addition to regular reminders about your event, post teaser content like videos from your guest speakers. This can help fence sitters commit to registering; just be sure to include links to the website.

Use contests to enhance excitement leading up to and at your event. Give rewards to the first people to correctly answer trivia questions. Conduct a scavenger hunt and post photos of prizes hidden around the show floor (Convince & Convert).  This can also be a great way to drive attendees to certain booths.

4. Linkedin

Regularly post about your event in your ‘Updates’ stream. Target your relevant LinkedIn Groups and provide the “what, where, and why” of attending your event. Just be sure to link back to your event website to encourage registration.

5. Meetup

Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin may be the 800 pound gorillas, but don’t forget about Meetup.com. Try partnering with a Meetup group to promote your event to its members. Not only will you expand your network, Meetup automatically facilitates a lot of the marketing for you, including reminder emails a few days before the event. (Steam Feed)

6. Foursquare

Create an event in Foursquare so that attendees can check in on their phones as they arrive. This is a great way to generate referrals and leverage your attendees other social profiles, to which Foursquare is connected. You might also create secondary check-in locations for your seminars and demos to generate buzz around your speakers and educational opportunities.

7. Pinterest

Did you know that visitors referred to your website from Pinterest will spend, on average, more than twice the amount as Facebook or Twitter referrals (Tailwind), and, according to Wishpond, 70% more than visitors from non-social channels?

As a highly visual social platform, Pinterest is ideally suited to event marketing. Not only can you pin photos, you are able to showcase videos, graphics, and even blog posts. Partner with exhibitors to share images of their new products. Post graphics to highlight your promotions and images of your guest speakers. Pin images of your event website and links to register.  

When designing and sharing content on Pinterest, keep in mind that 80% of its users are women (SocialFresh). Content that appeals to a mostly female audience will likely gain more traction.

Stay tuned: In our next post we'll address the role of your company website or blog, printed collateral, and search. How are you liking our event marketing blog series so far? Has your brain started to hurt from all of the new knowledge? If not, we'll have to try harder!