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A Short Guide to a Successful Event Blog

By Julius Solaris
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This is a short guide to help you create an effective event blog. It sums up 7 years of my blogging experience, I am sure you'll find some value in it.

In a FacebookTwitterLinkedInYoutubePinteresting world, blogs are always there. They have been for the past 13 years and many think they will stick around for a while.

We have experienced first hand the demise of social initiatives such as MySpace. Blogs stuck around and resisted the attacks of microblogs, tumble blogs and social networks at large.

Why is that?

This post is meant to give you a few reasons why a blog is a wise choice for your event, a clear direction to set one up and best practices and examples in the event industry.

But first...

A Note on Methodology

As for my recent and overwhelmingly successful Twitter mini-guide for events, I thought to share my approach to creating a list of recommendations.

There are millions (this is not an exaggeration) of guides, posts and books on the topic. It is simply too much. Hence why I decided to make it relevant to the industry and in a concise form.

This guide sums up my experience with blogging.

I set up my first WordPress blog in 2005. In 2007 I started Event Manager Blog, now regarded as one of the top blogs in the event industry. Blogging pays my rent and I made national news (link opens pdf) in the UK because of it.

I have set up approximately 150 blogs for clients. Some very successful, some, well, less performing. I've made mistakes and learnt a lot through the past 7 years. I consider myself able to tell you exactly what will work in a (event) blog.

I won't include any tip that is somewhat flawed or that I haven't tried myself.

As always you'll get all the information I learnt, no "pay me to know more" or ebook promotion at the end of the post.

Now that I have your attention, let's start.

Index

1. Why a Blog?
2. Choosing What to Blog About
3. How to Plan the Content for Your Event Blog
4. Choosing Your Platform
5. Creating a Funnel
6. Writing Effective Posts
7. Promotion
8. Measuring Performance
9. Some Examples
10. Conclusions

1. Why a Blog?

When my clients tell me their Facebook page is the centre of their social strategy, I begin to feel very anxious and start sweating. I feel like those who had an airplane accident and are forced to fly again.

I've been warning those who put their eggs in someone else's basket that this is a risky strategy. The problem with focussing your strategy on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube etc is that if they decide to change their platform, you are, well, screwed.

The latest example is the Facebook Timeline redesign. A lot of brands and event marketers invested in a custom landing page as their sole social tactic. The new redesign eliminated custom landing pages leaving a lot of users in despair.

Which takes us to the first reason why you want to invest in a blog: you own it.

Your blog, called by experts such as Chris Brogan home base, is the social asset that you own and control. It is where you channel all your social media activities.

Darren Rowse builded up on this concept explaining how it works for his popular blog Problogger.

I embraced in full the above philosophy for all the projects I've worked on and have been always happy with the results.

The second reason to start an event blog is to take advantage of the SEO benefits. While there is still a bit of uncertainty on the indexing of Facebook or Twitter updates, we certainly know that Google indexes blogs. It means that you have the ability to write content related to your event that will increase the chances of being searched for on Google.

The third reason is influence on the decision making process of your audience. If you use social media to sell more tickets or to increase attendance levels you may want to look at this report on the state of the blogosphere published in November 2011.

Blogs give more information about your events and ultimately convince readers to attend.

I hope these reasons have convinced you to start a blog and make it become the center of your social media activities.

Now let's have a look at different types of event blogs.

2. Choosing What to Blog About

One of the first pieces of advice you'll get when starting a blog is to pick a niche. A very specific subject to blog about.

Working with events you are in a favourable position because events (if well produced) are focussed around niches.

Picking your subject should be as straightforward as picking the topic of your event.

Here is an article to better narrow your niche.

Now that you have a niche, you need a content strategy.

3. How to Plan the Content for Your Event Blog

Not sure if you noticed but we haven't talked about technology yet. I believe that deployment comes into the game only after you have a clear idea of your topic and what you'll write about.

A crucial step before starting to write is to lay down a content plan.

This mainly consists of two items: Personas and Content Plan.

Creating personas for your blog helps to set the tone of voice of your writing. You should create at least two. Follow this guide.

Secondly, you should write at least 30 post ideas/outlines for the kick off of your blog.

Here are 52 types of posts that are proven to work (haven't tried them all but most actually do work). Just apply them to your topic and you are set.

In addition to the above, event specific post types include:

- involving speakers in blogging if you are hosting a conference
- live blogging
- releasing news around the event
- behind the scenes posts
- previous events materials (videos, presentations, pictures)
- announcements (call for speakers, etc)

More about content strategy here and here.

OK, you have a topic, personas and 30 posts. Now let's talk tech.

4. Choosing Your Platform

Choosing the platform where to host your blog can determine the success of your project.

I can only suggest one platform: WordPress.org. WordPress powers the most powerful blogs out there.

I have started with Blogger but eventually switched to WordPress, everybody who is serious about blogging eventually does.

WordPress is open source. You own it and you decide how to lay it out.

I wrote a post on my website on what do to do before installing your WordPress blog.

Here are 25 Resources for WordPress tailored specifically for event websites.

In our WordPress based Event Manager Theme for event websites, a blog section is included by default.

Ok, you now have a topic, a content strategy and a platform, time to look at conversions.

5. Creating a Funnel

Your blog should be the primary social medium to achieve your marketing and PR objectives.

Whatever your objectives are, make sure you have a clear conversion path or funnel in place to stimulate the desired action.

If your objective is to sell more tickets, make sure to have links throughout your blog sidebar and at the end of each post to your registration page.

If your objective is to create buzz, ask your readers to share your posts and offer sharing capabilities.

You should lay out your blog in a way that makes it easy for users to take action. You should focus posts around the actions you want to stimulate.

I really like this post about mind mapping your business and how your blog helps in achieving your marketing objectives.

In terms of design I invite you to have a look at this post on Smashing Magazine for a review of the top blogs (a bit dated but still relevant).

Here is how you can write posts that result in readers action...

6. Writing Effective Posts

Effective posts have the following characteristics:

- a catchy headline
- an initial paragraph stating the problem
- solutions to that problem organized in headings
- conclusions and/or call to action

I follow this structure for each post I write and I must say it works like charme. After all you are reading this!

A key decision you'll have to make when writing for your blog is to select the correct tone of voice. Here is a great tool to do that.

Now that you have a compelling topic, a carefully crafted content strategy, a flexible platform and convincing posts that convert, it is time to get the word out about your new blog.

7. Promotion

Your blog needs to be syndicated to every social media channel you are considering for your event.

Your Facebook Page, Twitter account, Google+ Page and Pinterest profile should all repurpose your blog content and possibly link back to it in profiles.

In addition to that you want to make sure each blog post has sharing facilities. I use WordPress Jetpack plugin.

Your newly created blog needs to be on every piece of communication you push. Your flyers, business cards, etc.

It is a good practice to make it become part of your event website by incorporating it in the website address (eventname.com/blog). By doing this you will maximise the SEO opportunity that blogging offers.

8. Measuring Performance

Professional bloggers know their analytics. They know what posts performed best and what type of content their readers like.

Measuring performance also means understanding what type of content worked against the objectives you set up. That could be selling more tickets but also links, tweets etc. Read more about objectives here.

A good analytics suite such as Google Analytics is a must. Here is more inspiration to measure your blog performance.

9. Some Examples

When I say The Next Web, you will probably think about the popular blog. In fact this was an event blog. The Next Web Conference event blog. This is an example of how the blog becomes more popular than the event itself.

Another great example is BlogWorld, part of Blog World Expo. I get a lot of interesting news through this blog and the latest event is always advertised on the sidebar.

Future, Innovation, Technology, Creativity has its blog as the home page. They have a separate section for events. In this post they asked a speaker to answer questions asked on Reddit.

Web 2.0 Expo is an example of announcing the end of an event via the blog.

10. In Conclusion

I hope this post has convinced you to start a blog for your event. The benefits of blogs are immense if you give it dedication.

I will be at IMEX in Frankfurt talking about blogging in a free to attend session, join me if you want to hear to brainstorm about other successful blogging strategies.

If you found this article useful, as always, share it - I am sure your peers will appreciate it.

Photo by Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com

about the author

Julius Solaris
Julius Solaris is the editor of EventManagerBlog.com, he is an international speaker, author and consultant.
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