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There’s no silver bullet for online event marketing. Every event is unique, and audience specific. And in a swiftly changing digital world, marketing tactics that worked well for you yesterday might not be as effective today.
Faced with an ever-expanding number of event marketing options, how can you choose the right promotional channels and strategies? There are legions of books and bevies of blogs on the subject. But you don’t have time to read all those. You do have time to read this post.
Read on for an industry-specific analysis of how best-in-class event organizers are using paid social media, search engine optimization, search engine marketing, email marketing, and partner outreach.
1. Paid Social Media: Target With Expertise
Gone are the days when event promoters could hope to use organic (or free) social media alone. Today, your event page’s post will typically only reach about 2-6% of your followers. In place of organic reach, social media has become a “pay to play” model for event brands.
This is actually good news for your event. Social media platforms have sophisticated targeting capabilities and vast reach. This is especially true for Facebook and Instagram. They collect terabytes of data from their billions of users — data which you can then use to reach the right people for less spend than traditional advertising methods.
Here are just a few of the ways you can target specific audiences on social platforms:
- Facebook is the industry leader when it comes to demographic targeting. If your event-goers tend to share demographics like age, gender, and location, Facebook can help you reach them.
- LinkedIn is king for business-related targeting, such as firmographics. If you’re looking for event-goers with specific job titles or in specific industries, LinkedIn is for you.
- Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram all help you target custom audiences, such as people who have already attended one of your events. Use these channels to increase retention and reach an already-interested audience.
- Facebook is also savvy at finding “lookalike audiences” — people who are similar to people who’ve attended your events. If you’re looking to expand your reach, but want to keep your campaigns small and targeted, Facebook might have the answer.
2. Search Engine Optimization: Be The Answer To Their Questions
The effectiveness of organic social might be waning, but it’s still possible to reach a large audience without an advertising budget.
SEO, or search engine optimization, helps maneuver your event page higher up on search engine results. The trick to SEO is to craft your online content — such as your website, landing pages, and blog posts — to grab search engine attention. A solid SEO strategy is closely tied to your content strategy — you’ll need to research keywords, incorporate them into your content, and monitor progress over time. Start with this blog post about finding the right keywords for your event.
How can you be sure SEO is important to your event? Research shows that 89% of event attendees use search to seek out event information or buy a ticket. For most events, search drives between 5 and 10% of sign-ups.
3. Search Engine Marketing: Use Display Ads To Boost Your SEO
The other side of the search-engine coin is paid search advertising — the paid placements that show up alongside organic search results in Google. Like social media advertising, you can target your ads to best-bet audiences.
As an added bonus, there’s a symbiotic relationship between Google organic search and paid advertising. When you use Google Adwords to buy search engine placements, you also boost your organic search ratings. According to Harvard Business Review researchers, people are more likely to click on a search ad after seeing a display ad from the same company.
4. Email Marketing: Reach Your Most Important Audience Directly
If you have an email list already, email marketing is essential for three reasons:
- It’s cheap.
- It’s easy.
- It targets the best possible audience: people who’ve already expressed interest in hearing from you.
Done right, email will help you sell more tickets. If you use Eventbrite, your event will automatically be included in emails to ticket buyers, targeted by their previous event activity. The personalized nature of these emails drives a higher open and click-through rate than the industry standard. To make your event the most appealing in these newsletters, make sure you have a concise event title, an intriguing thumbnail image, and select the most accurate event category when creating your event.
Your registration provider can also target sends based on event-goers friends’ behavior, or their own engagement with your event. For example, you might want to let event-goers know if two or more of their Facebook friends are attending an event, or send an email reminder to people who began to buy tickets to your event but didn’t complete their purchase.
But as we all know, email can quickly become an annoyance — and harmful to your brand — if you aren’t careful. Make sure you’re tracking important metrics like open rates, click-to-open rates, and unsubscribes.
5. Partner Outreach: Let Other People Do The Marketing For You
Tapping into your existing relationships is a powerful way to get the word out about your event. Partners, sponsors, vendors, artists, performers, speakers, and all types of collaborators can help with grassroots online marketing. Ask them to share details with their social media audiences, and you reach a whole new orbit of potential ticket-buyers.
Partners can also help you create a better event experience, which helps the event sell itself. Work with those that can contribute not just cash and marketing boost, but products and services that will enhance your event. Choose organizations and influencers that align with your brand values (and, of course, resonate with your target).
Beyond that inner circle, who else could help you extend your reach? Are their like-minded organizations or influencers you can work? Be tactical about this. Find organizations that share your greater goals but also your audience targets. Offer them equal exchange for their help, whether that’s mutual marketing or actual cash.
As you read about each of these potential elements of your greater marketing strategy, think about whether each is right for your event, target audience, and budget. Once you have a basic direction in place, never be afraid to experiment and try new things.
For a deeper understanding of the strategies you can use to promote your event, read From On-Sale to Sold Out: Marketing and Promotion for Events.