Social media continues transforming the ways in which businesses communicate with their customers. With messages coming in from Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+, businesses need to be plugged-in, active, and relevant on these networks just to stay on their customers’ radar.
As consumers increasingly use social media and search for personal transactions and life planning, this creates a fertile space for businesses to gently tap into and get on their calendars. Done strategically, with a personal touch, and a relatively small budget, small businesses can reach a much wider customer base, with more specific demographic focus than ever before. When applied to your business’ special events planning, this approach can create a buzz around your event, build momentum through viral sharing, and get more people talking about your business.
Here are some basic steps to get you started in planning your next event online:
Website: Create the event page on your website, including an easy way for viewers to sign up online. Eventbrite is a great service to manage ticket and attendee management.
Facebook Event: Several weeks out, create a Facebook event, outlining the details of your event, including a link to the registration page. This will get it on your Facebook Events page, allowing fans to ‘Accept’ the invite, add it to their calendars, and share it with friends. (Tip: Your Facebook event image must be at least 714 by 264 px and with less than 20 percent text.)
How a small budget can connect with the right people
Promoted Post: Once you’ve posted the Event, create a regular Facebook post with your event graphic, a basic description and link to register. (Tip: Size the image to 552 x 414 px and with less than 20 percent text in the image.)
The Promoted Post and Event are the foundation of your promotion, appearing in the news feeds of potential attendees and giving them an easy way to register. Once they’ve been posted, use Facebook’s promotion feature to target your desired audience. You’ll focus primarily on Location, Age, and Interests.
(Tip: Set up your campaign budget for a ‘Per Day’ amount. If your event targets an audience below 50,000 people, try starting with $5/day and see what type of response you get.)
- Regular Updates: To keep people engaged during the lead-up to the event supply your loyal fans and attendees with regular updates of the event planning along with behind the scenes pictures of your progress. (Tip: Create a Facebook Album for the event, adding pictures as you go.)
Hashtag: If your business uses Twitter (it should), establish a hashtag (#) for the event. The hashtag will be used during the event to help track attendees’ tweets, allowing for increased social sharing and virality. The hashtag must be easy to remember, catchy, and short. Include it in all marketing materials for the event. (Tip: Start tweeting with this hashtag several weeks ahead of the event.)
Twitter: As the big day gets closer, it’s time to switch gears from Facebook and focus on Twitter, as it will handle the real-time online conversation throughout the event. (Tip: Put someone in charge of your Twitter account during the event to make sure real-time activities are reported and attendee questions are quickly answered.) Maintain an active presence during the event, engage with your active followers, and ‘favorite’ or ‘retweet’ when appropriate. (Tip: Follow users who are attending and tweeting about your event.)
Pictures: Once the event is over, promptly review and upload your photos to the Facebook album, tagging friends from your personal account.
The buzz from the event’s tweets and images will help boost your online reach to friends-of-friends and beyond. Now is a great time to reach out to this captive audience with a thank you post (and tweet), along with a special offer for those who attended.
These are some basic steps you can take to help build momentum for your event. As you gain experience there are more advanced steps you can try, to reach a wider audience, boost event attendance, and gain more loyal fans (read: customers).
by Jeff Howland
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