How to Attract Influencers to Your Annual Meeting
Good word-of-mouth marketing draws a crowd and industry bloggers are well-situated to get your meeting some attention, but how do you get theirs?
Identify the Top Bloggers/Influencers in Your Industry
Before you can attract them you want to know who they are and their topic of choice. Just because they are top bloggers in your industry doesn’t mean you want them covering your meeting (What if their specialty is revealing areas of egregious expense? Is this the kind of person you want milling around your buffet?).
When it comes to identifying a top blogger, influence on audience is more important than sheer numbers. It doesn’t matter if the person has 20,000 followers if no one shares her content. Instead of pouring over dozens of profiles on social media and manually recording their stats for comparison purposes, look to use existing tools such as Traackr (a favorite with PR pros), Little Bird, followerwonk (it’s free), PeerIndex (identifies people by topic), Kred, or Klout, to assess influence.
In addition to these influencer tools, there are a few ways to isolate top bloggers in your association’s niche:
– Take a look at industry hashtags on Twitter. Who’s the most vocal?
– Search industry magazines and publications to find top influencers.
– See who your members are retweeting and sharing.
– If you have a private online community, look to your most vocal participants.
– Talk to your marketing staff.
– Place a call on social media for industry bloggers the way you would speakers.
– Search topics in your industry on Quora.
Once you’ve found people with engaged followings, take some time to read their about page/profile, most recent posts, and tweets to get a better idea of who they are and what they do. Narrow that list down to those who are most closely aligned with your industry and your mission.
How to Attract Top Influencers to Your Meeting
Now that you’ve identified who they are and have a better idea what they specialize in, you can look at ways to attract them to your event.
This is the most basic tip on how to get them to attend. If you want someone to come, you have to ask. However, there are a number of things you’ll want to have in place to make your invitation to your annual meeting more enticing.
Give Them Something Special
If you’d like bloggers to attend your event you need to do something special for them. For instance, Content Marketing Institute offers a bloggers den at their meeting. It’s a room set aside with plenty of charging stations, comfortable seating, refreshments, and more. It’s a quiet space for bloggers to duck in to gather their thoughts, and put together their posts, without having to retreat to their hotel rooms. It also feels pretty special when you excuse yourself from conversation “to enter the den.”
Another way to make them feel special is a sticker on their name tag identifying them as a blogger, a badge for their website, or an asterisks denoting them as a blogger on your member list. This may also get them more followers.
Rate Them Accordingly
Comping someone’s meeting attendance so she’ll cover your event, is questionable blogging ethics. Anything you give them directly that has a monetary value (like a comped ticket) must be declared. Even if the blogger is up front about it, the blog will look less authentic and resemble more of a paid advertisement so it’s best to avoid these potential pitfalls.
However, some associations offer a press pass. Press passes can be free or offered at a discounted rate. Normally there are requirements of members of the “press.” At the American Society of Association Executives Annual Meeting in Atlanta a few years ago, the “press” had to attend a debriefing where the mayor spoke of all of the exciting changes and opportunities in Atlanta.
If you offer a discounted rate for bloggers, it should be available to all bloggers who meet certain requirements. While those requirements are up to you, they should be in writing.
Remember, you want to avoid offering a free pass for a blog post. The requirements should speak more to their credentials and influence (i.e., must be a daily blogger with at least 2,000 Twitter followers) than asking them to do something for the free ticket.
Know Influence is More Important Than Title
A person needn’t be a blogger to have a great influence in your industry and they needn’t have a large blog following to have a large social media following. For this reason, asking your association members and attendees if they’d like to blog about the event, can bring some interest you may not expect. For instance, you may have a very well-known attendee, who has many industry connections, and a large social following, but he has never written a blog post even though it’s something he’s always thought about. While not an influential blogger, per se, he does have great influence, and the fact that he’s well-known in your industry will give his post lots of traction. Don’t be afraid to reach outside of traditional blogging lists to find someone vocal in the community and on social media.
Blogger outreach is important to your annual meeting because it amplifies social reach, increases awareness of your meeting and your association (plus lots of talk about your association is good for your Google rankings), and ideally more talk about your conference will increase future attendance, and may increase membership in your association as well.
In finding influencers you want to look for engagement with the audience (whether on social media or through a blog). When you work with influencers for your meeting, you’re building a network of content creators and curators, many of whom will continue to share your content long after the meeting is over.