By Tiarra Earls Haas
We live in an increasingly digital landscape – from the social media streams, to online news with browser notifications, to stalker-like digital marketing promotions that seem to follow you all over the Internet –there’s virtually no getting away from our digital society. Unless you live in a cave or take on the lifestyle of a Himalayan monk, digital media is now firmly embedded in our culture.
As such, it makes sense that associations utilize digital media in their promotional strategies. This includes both paid and unpaid promotions, especially in a landscape where you now must compete with other marketers just to get your content in front of your target audience. This is especially so when considering event promotions, but you must know your target audience very well to be effective with promoting events digitally. In this post, I’m going to share several digital promotion strategies that I’ve seen work very well for associations looking to promote events and achieve their attendee target.
Email Marketing – This is the method that I’ve used most heavily when promoting events, and it has worked very well for organizations within niche industries. This method works best with a strong contact list (at least 500+) and a very wide audience age demographic. It can be used as the sole strategy, but works most effectively when supplemented with other promotions like social media.
Paid Social Media – Social media channels like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn allow you to pay to get your messaging in front of your target audience. You can target your audience based on a demographic, location, interest area or job industry. If you’re holding a regional event, consider boosting the event and target your audience within a specific radius of the event (i.e. 20 miles, 30 miles, etc.) I’ve seen this strategy work well with events catering to a younger demographic (ages 25-40). Paid social media strategies can be used in conjunction with non-paid/organic postings as well.
Organic Social Media – Don’t have the budget for paid social media? No worries, just promote the event on your social media pages as you normally would, but consider partnering with your membership base to help get the word out. I’ve used this method for both events and education campaigns. The easiest thing to do is to craft pre-drafted messaging, taking into consideration the word count depending on the social media channel, and provide the pre-drafted posts for others to share on their respective pages. Including images is an additional great option, as postings with images tend to obtain greater engagement. Using this strategy makes it easy for members to copy/paste the postings on their account pages, and gives the event additional exposure!
Paid Search Ads – If you’re feeling really bold, you can craft a paid Google search ad targeted to your audience depending on a specified set of keywords. There are other search engines that offer paid ads, like Bing and Yahoo, but Google has the largest audience share by far. I always suggest crafting a campaign to run for at least 30 days (to gather data for future optimization), and at least 3 ads, but you can craft just one ad and keep it to “text only” to make it really simple. If you’re feeling too intimated to use Google Ads, you can try using the simpler Google Ads Express version. This method works for a wider audience demographic, of all ages.
Using any combination of these strategies should help get your event much wider exposure over the traditional media methods, but make sure you know your audience! If your audience base is older, or doesn’t traditionally use social media, stick to search ads and emails. If your audience is younger and digitally active, consider a wide mix of the strategies above. Using digital media is an iterative process – so experiment, learn and improve your methods for each event.