Promoting your event
If you build it, they will come…or will they?
To state the rather obvious: Without guests, even the most impeccably planned event is doomed to fail. If you’re lucky, you’ll have a famous celebrity as the main attraction, which will help draw people to your event.
But what if you don’t have that luxury? How do make the most of your event promotion, especially on a tight budget? As it turns out, there are many strategies that’ll help get your event noticed. That’s why event promotion deserves a chapter of its very own.
10 things you can do right now
Let’s look at 10 things to remember when promoting your event.
1. Use your event hashtag every chance you get
If you followed our advice, you’ve already found the perfect #Hashtag for your event and incorporated it into your event page. (If not, here’s a refresher.) It’s time to start using the hashtag for promotion!
Whenever you mention your event, make a habit of including the event hashtag. This goes for your social media posts but also other marketing channels and any printed material. Reinforcing the hashtag helps anchor your event and lets it stay on top of people’s minds.
If you’ve made dedicated social media accounts for your event, make sure the account bios include your hashtag, too. The following social media channels have native support for hashtags: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+.
That’s not all. Mobilize your event participants (like speakers and performers); make sure they know the event hashtag and suggest that they use it when talking about the event. That’ll help you also reach their audience base.
A word of caution. While adding a hashtag to your Tweets has been shown to increase engagement, don’t overdo it. According to Simply Measured, posts with more than two hashtags end up getting 32% less engagement than those wit no hashtags at all. Nobody likes a #HashtagSpammer.
2. Get smart about SEO
Plenty of people use Google to find specific events happening around them. How cool would it be if your event showed up in those search results?
Whether you’re writing up an enticing description on your event page, publishing a blog post about the event, or putting out a press release, you can benefit from giving it a bit of SEO love.
No stress! SEO isn’t some magical black box. It doesn’t require a degree. It comes down to learning a few straightforward concepts. In a nutshell, it’s all about:
- Knowing what words people use to search for events
- Optimising your content for those keywords
Say your event has a DJ and a dance floor. If you know that people frequently search for “places to dance in London,” you might want to use that phrase when describing your event.
But how do you know what people search for?
Great question. You actually have a number of (free!) keyword research tools that can help you here. To start with, check out the appropriately titled Keyword Tool or Google’s own Keyword Planner (this one requires an AdWords account, but setting one up is pretty straightforward).
3. Make your tickets easy to buy
A big part of effective event promotion is meeting your ticket buyers where they are. That means making it easy for them to buy tickets from whichever environment they’re already in.
Third-party ticketing platforms
If you sell your tickets through a third-party ticketing platform like Billetto, you should consider keeping all of your events under the same profile. That gives people a super quick overview of all your upcoming events.
There’s an added benefit here. Someone who comes to check out one of your events might get interested in some of the other ones. Or perhaps they have a friend who’s interested. Either way, it’s a great way to give some exposure to all events you’re organising.
Your own website or blog
If you already have a website, the last thing you want is having people click away from it to buy tickets or register for your event. They should be able to do that directly on your site.
Many ticketing providers (including Billetto) offer you a ticket widget that you can embed on your site; that way, people can buy tickets and register with just a few clicks…and without ever leaving your online space.
Social media channels
If you’re pasting links to your event on social media, make sure there’s a “Get tickets” call to action in your post (and preferably on the page you’re linking to).
Quick tip: If you create a Facebook event using your Facebook page (rather than a personal profile), you’ll be able to paste a direct link to your event page within a separate “Ticket URL” field, like so:
That way, people will get a “Find tickets” link on the Facebook event, which should make buying tickets more straightforward:
The key takeaway here is: Don’t make people click more than necessary.
4. Crowdsource your marketing material
Your event attendees can be a goldmine of great marketing material.
If you’ve already organised similar events and have an existing customer base, ask past attendees to post pictures or videos of the event. (Don’t forget to ask them to use your event hashtag.) Nothing is more credible than memories of your event coming from real guests.
Is this your first event? Don’t fret! You can instead run a competition where potential guests get to submit pictures and videos on a topic connected to your event and tag them with your event hashtag. That’s a great way to create buzz around the event on social media. Winners can get free tickets, drink vouchers, or some other freebies.
Congratulations, you now have some great material you can use to promote the event.
5. Sell special tickets
Plain old vanilla tickets are all right. But if you really want to try and boost your sales, consider mixing things up a bit. Here are just some of the “special” tickets that can give you buyers a gentle nudge:
- Early bird tickets
This is a discounted ticket that rewards people for acting fast. Set a limited number of tickets for sale early on, priced below your standard tickets. People who buy your “Early bird” tickets get to save money. You get some early traction in selling out your event. It’s a win-win.
- Early bird tickets
- Group tickets
Why not entice your guests to bring their friends along? Make it cheaper to buy multiple tickets as a group. This way, people have a motivation to spread the word and invite someone they know, giving you some free publicity in the process.
- Group tickets
- Ticket bundles
If you’re serving food, drinks, or selling some sort of merchandise at your event – think about bundling these with a ticket purchase. “Buy a ticket and get your first drink at the bar for free” is an appealing value proposition. Selling ticket bundles also helps you get a general idea of how many people are interested in the food and merchandise you’re offering.
- Ticket bundles
- VIP tickets
These turn the concept of discounted tickets on its head. VIP tickets cost more than your general admission tickets, but those who buy them get special privileges like better seating or a quicker way inside the venue. Be creative.
Special tickets can do wonders for your event promotion, so don’t neglect them.
6. Embrace social media
You knew this was coming. No guide to event promotion would be complete without the mention of social media. Love it or hate it, that’s where most of us spend their time.
It’s not enough to know that these social media sites exist, though. You should learn how to use them to your advantage. The most important thing is to limit yourself to a few key channels rather than trying to be everywhere and spreading yourself too thin. Your audience probably has a preferred social channel, so that’s a good place to start.
In general, here’s how you can use the different social channels:
- Facebook: This will most likely be the place for your main profile. You can share detailed updates about the event, add a “Find tickets” link (as we described), and interact with your audience.
- Twitter: Great for quick, real-time updates both before and during the event. One of the best places to user your hashtag.
- LinkedIn: If your event is focused on a professional audience, this is where you’ll find them. There are communities of people interested in specific topic, so find one that fits with your event’s main theme.
- Instagram and Pinterest: These very visual channels are perfect for sharing some teaser images of the event—along with those photos from your past attendees we’ve talked about—and giving people exclusive behind-the-scenes shots of e.g. event preparations and key speakers or performers.
Social media channels are also perfect for running competitions with ticket giveaways or other cool promotions. We’ll touch upon this a bit later.
7. Go where your audience is
Trying to pull traffic to your social channels or website is great, but you should also meet your potential guests where they already hang out. Join the ongoing conversations on the web and mention your event where it makes sense.
One way to do that is to look up past events similar to yours on Facebook. Then you can post to that event announcing yours. Please remember to ask the organiser’s permission. Better still, see if they’re willing to post it as admins on your behalf. That way, past attendees of that event will get a notification about yours. How cool is that?
But don’t stop at Facebook. Every city has an active community of people interested in specific types of events. A simple Google search will often uncover forums and other hangouts for people asking about events just like yours. Guess what? You just so happen to have the answer!
To sweeten the deal, consider a special offer for each community or forum where you announce your event.
Note that ticketing sites—yes, Billetto included— come with an existing community of event-goers. Simply publishing your event page there has the added benefit of exposing it to potential guests.
8. Activate your attendees
Guess who some of your most passionate advocates are? Your event guests! They liked your event enough to sign up or buy tickets in the first place. It shouldn’t take much effort to convince them to spread the word.
Encourage them to promote the event to their friends and to actively use your hashtag whenever they talk about it. Maybe you feel generous enough to offer them some drink vouchers or other perks. If you show your guests that you appreciate them, you’ll often find that they’re more than willing to return the favour.
But don’t stop at your guests. Your performers and speakers have a vested interest in promoting the event. The more people come, the more eyeballs see their act or presentation, right? You can involve them in your promotion efforts and record teaser videos or photos announcing their performance.
Make it easy for speakers and performers to share your event with their existing following. Remember that ticket widget we mentioned in #3? Let them use it on their own site or blog to make tickets quick and easy to purchase. Their fans won’t have to click through to a different site. Smart.
9. Up your email marketing game
Yes. Social media is huge nowadays. But don’t underestimate the power of a great mailing list. As a matter of fact, email remains the most effective digital channel out there.
If you already have a list of attendees from a previous event, email is the perfect way to update them on your upcoming one. If not, start building one right away. Simply add a way for people to sign up to your email updates on your event page or site. They’ll be able to receive the latest announcements about the event and you’ll get a direct line of communication to your guests.
Think up an incentive to get people to sign up for your email announcements (e.g. the first 100 to sign up get a discounted ticket).
Here are just a few ideas on how you can use email as a tool for spreading the word:
- “Tell a friend” offer—e.g. if they get three people to sign up, you give them a special group rate
- Announce when special tickets—early bird, last-chance, and so on—go on sale
- Remind them about ongoing competitions and giveaways on other channels
- Send them exclusive previews of your speakers, performers, and activities
- Ask for feedback through quizzes or surveys
A gentle reminder: While email is by far the most powerful direct marketing tool in your arsenal, use it sparingly. People’s inboxes will thank you for it.
10. Run competitions and giveaways
Tap into people’s competitive nature and desire to win. Kick off regular competitions and giveaways across all your key marketing channels. Your tactics will depend on the channel. Here are some tips on using them effectively:
Your first temptation here might be to run a “Share this event with friends” or “Tag a friend” competition. Too bad: Facebook is pretty strict about competitions that require people to share things on their personal profiles:
“Promotions may be administered on Pages or within apps on Facebook. Personal Timelines and friend connections must not be used to administer promotions (ex: “share on your Timeline to enter” or “share on your friend’s Timeline to get additional entries”, and “tag your friends in this post to enter” are not permitted).”
Don’t let this discourage you. Here are a few things you can do:
- “Caption this photo” contest
- “Vote for your favourite [option]” contest
- Competitions that ask people to comment on a post (e.g. “tell us why you deserve to win” or “who would you like to attend this event with”)
Whenever your guests engage with your competitions, there’s a chance your event gets exposed to their friends and help you reach new audiences.
Twitter does allow you to encourage people to follow your page and RT the competition, so use that to your advantage. Think up competitions that encourage people to be creative and come up with curious answers to questions or tweet about their preferences.
Hashtags really come into play here. Consider prefacing your tweets with #WIN or #COMPETITION or building your whole competition around a special hashtag that mentions your event (e.g. #Tweet4[YourEvent]Tickets).
Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest
Take advantage of the visual nature of these and build your competitions around people posting creative photos. Encourage them to use your hashtag or event logo in their photos.
This is a great way to gather photo material for your own marketing. Just remember to make it clear in your terms and conditions that you might use their photos for this purpose.
We’ve already mentioned a “Tell a friend” competition, but you don’t have to stop there. Since your email subscribers are a limited subset of your guests, play up that exclusivity factor in your competitions.
Run subscriber-only contests that give out freebies or discounted tickets they can’t get elsewhere. (Pssst, such “hidden” contests might also work as a good incentive for getting people to sign up to your email list in the first place.)
Congratulations. You should now know how to plan, organise, and promote your event.