A question of timing

Synchro-Diving-300x230

Ever since the emphasis for event marketing switched to content generation, one of the biggest questions has been when to broadcast.

The same message sent out at 08:32, 11:45, 13:15 or 17:22 can have vastly different response rates so there is always that difficult decision as to which, if any or all, time to choose.  Does it matter when the original message is posted so long as any additional prompts hit home, or do we need to be careful that our tweets, emails and other electronic nudges aren’t so frequent that they turn potential audiences off?

At Who’s who in events we have been spending the last few months experimenting to work out when blog posts and email announcements get the best response.  Since we don’t do the latter more than once a week it is absolutely imperative that it arrives in the recipient’s inbox at exactly the right moment when they are likely to read it.

Another big challenge for events marketers is that because we essentially ignore our audiences for six months of the year or more, when we turn the promotional tap on it can feel like we are using a water cannon.  There is nowhere for the hapless audience to hide as we bombard them with advertising, tweets, emails, announcements on LinkedIn (or invitations to join our newly formed groups) and any other method we can think of.

Plus we often haven’t bothered to find out that much about our audience either.  Any research will consist of an exit survey conducted at last year’s event, so we really have no idea how things have changed, what new directions businesses are taking, if there have been legislative changes or simply what devices the potential audience is most likely to look for information on.

It would seem therefore that getting the right message in front of the right person at the right time is actually a game of chance – like bees pollinating flowers – if you spread enough around some of it will eventually stick.  But does it really have to be like that?

Taking a long-term approach to your event marketing will mean that you can identify the content which generates the greatest response as well as the time of day when it is likely to be read.  You will find advocates and champions, as well as connectors and influencers.  Rather like the divers in the picture, by constantly practising your marketing messaging, you will ensure that you hit the target in complete synchronisation.

Advertisements

Social Media – just a way of killing time

Killing-timeA couple of years ago the following question was posted on the Who’s Who in Events LinkedIn group.

Is Social Media just used to kill time and find out what old colleagues are up to or does anyone, other than social media consultants, get business out of it?

While social media, and technology in general are now fully embedded in the event marketing mix, it is worth remembering that there are still a significant number of people who view it with a degree of scepticism. Following numerous stories (given much larger audiences thanks to online and social media) of data leakages and inappropriate sharing, many are much more cautious about what they put into the public domain.

Social media is a great enabler of the creation of a continuous dialogue between like-minded people which can be capitalised on to create really great live events that the attendees truly value. When many people think of social media they are just considering Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter, but these are really just the juggernauts that are educating the masses in the capabilities of what social media can do.

Technology now exists that enables you to take the capabilities and structure of social media and use it to create your own network, drawing in your current attendees, other interested individuals and partner organisations. By providing them with an open and collaborative environment you can understand what it is that motivates and concerns them, and then you can deliver business services and events that match these needs.

The organisations that are currently doing this successfully are incredibly diverse: from Cancer Centers who want to know how their patients select care at their center and what they want to receive in return; to AFOLs (adult followers of Lego); and then on to large technology organisations who were creating an event for their users based on what they thought were the issues but when they stopped and listened they discovered that there were other more pressing topics that needed to be addressed.

Social media is no longer just a useful part of an event or business marketing campaign, it is the linchpin of an event or business marketing campaign. Organisers and organisations that stop shouting and interrupting (outbound marketing) and start listening and responding (inbound marketing) will be the winners in a world that has been transformed.

The answer, therefore, to our original sceptics question is:

If you are just an observer within Social Media then all you will ever be able to do is kill time and find out what old colleagues are up.  But if you use it effectively and professionally you will definitely get business out of it.

Social media requires you to be sociable

2015/01/img_1113-0.jpgSitting in any marketing meeting I can guarantee that one question will always be asked.

“How often do I need to Blog/Tweet/Post”

Most event marketing teams answer with “maybe a blog a month” or “a couple of tweets a week” or “the odd post every now and then on LinkedIn”. Maybe you think this is OK, possibly even a bit ambitious. Once upon a time my Granny used to send her Mum a postcard to tell her she had got back to her place of work safely after a visit home…

So, how often should you post on your social media networks? In my hunt for a definitive answer I came across this infographic from Irfan Ahmad at Digital Information World. While not specifically drawn for events, it does give a pretty clear idea that you can’t just drop the odd comment and then stay silent for the rest of the month, hoping that what you said was so compelling your audience has hung around waiting for your next proclamation.

All too often we forget that social media is made up of two very distinct elements: the media, or mechanisms through which we broadcast our messaging; and social, or the interactions we create and sustain with our community. Without the latter, the former is useless and the brand identity is akin to that of Miss Haversham – out of touch, lonely and frankly just a little bit mouldy.

In most instances, providing you aren’t hammering your connections/likes/followers with constant sales messages, it is very difficult to say ‘too much’. Unlike email or telephone marketing where the arrival of yet another sales message feels like a personal intrusion, much of what arrives via social is ambient at best. As a consumer it can feel like panning for gold, hunting out the nuggets of juicy information. What your social media marketing efforts need to do is to ensure that no matter how frequently, or when, your potential audience comes looking, you have relevant content available.

The most important thing to remember is that although you will get more coverage if you are creating a lot of content, you can also achieve a significant reach by sharing other people’s. Linking up with your friends’ friends increases your social circle much faster, and this holds true for business contacts/networks as well.

So, just how often should you be posting on social networks? My experience is primarily in the B2B marketplace and my aim is to get all of my clients:
– Blogging two or three times a week
– Pinning onto Pinterest at least 4x per week
– creating an update on their LinkedIn group/page at least twice a week
– sending out original tweets at least 3 times a day

Social media tools and scheduling can really help achieve these goals, but that’s a topic for another blog post…

Listen to the people who are talking sense

If you haven’t come across Michael Heipel yet, please let me introduce you…

Michael tweets, blogs and posts about all sorts of stuff, including marketing, events, social media and technology and I like what he has to say. (Sometimes he even likes what I have to say which is great!)

Today I found his blog post about social media and events.  It’s a topic very close to me since I spend most of my time trying to pursuade clients to focus in on their content and then work out what media they are going to use to tell their audience about it, rather than creating a social media presence and working out what they are going to put on it.

I would reproduce what Michael has said here, but I think you should go and read it for yourself.  It makes a lot of sense.

hellen @missioncontrol

Social media doesn’t work for your event? Here’s 5 reasons to think twice…

While at the big industry events like EIBTM or IMEX, social networks and the impact they have on event marketing are widely discussed, I sense that a lot of event organizers and associations are still not sure about how to deal with the topic or how much resources to invest.

Using social media to market events

Once upon a time it was all so simple…

Providing you owned, could access or buy, good data and had the budget to hit your target universe five times on average with your message you could more or less guarantee an audience for your event.  For exhibition marketers, preregistration was a very clear indicator of footfall on the day, with conversion rates of between 60 and 75 per cent.  In the conference market a twelve week cycle of marketing would, possibly with the input of some telemarketing, produce enough registrations to cover costs and deliver that all important margin.

And then life got a whole lot more complicated…

The advent of online and email marketing brought with it a more instantateous way to talk to audiences. Unfortunately though, like a child gorging on the pick-and-mix, many marketers have abused the latter, flooding their database’s inboxes with messages on a far too regular basis. Others have treated their web presence as an online brochure, asking visitors to sign up for updates and news when in reality there would be none because noone factored in the time or resource for either the marketing or the main event team to curate such things.

Into this already crowded, and rowdy, room marches social media…

It’s like a toddlers tea-party.  You want to make yourself heard above the cacophony: so you shout louder; you run hither and thither until it seems you are everywhere at once; you wear the gaudiest outfit because you think it will make you stand out; and you try everything, briefly. But when you leave you are hoarse, tired and, if the truth be told, you didn’t actually get very much done or make much of an impression because you were just one of a group of over-excited, slightly out of control children in inappropriate clothing.

For event marketers, the biggest problem is that the promotional cycle for an exhibition, conference, awards etc. is actually very short; very rarely does the campaign last for more than four months. This really doesn’t lend itself very well to social media because relationships in places such as LinkedIn and Facebook, and long lists of followers in Twitter aren’t built overnight, and if you want to establish a well-read blog then there is no point starting it ten weeks out from your show. And if you stop talking to your audience, they lose interest and go somewhere else.

Let’s look at two examples, both expos with conferences and seminar programmes attached and a technology bias, though not IT events as such, and with similar attendance figures at their live days:

Our first event takes place annually in February.  They have a LinkedIn group which was established in January 2008 – a month before that year’s event.  It’s growth profile looks like this:

While the group shows a steady growth in membership over the last four years, it is interesting to note that there are identifiable spikes in the number of new memberships in February of each year., i.e. when the event happens.  Just three weeks later both increase in membership and activity, as shown in the chart below have fallen dramatically.

In contrast, the second team have created a LinkedIn group which began life based around their event (which takes place in March) but has been nurtured and developed to deliver to the expo’s existing and potential audience all year around.  The group was established in December 2007, four months before the event was scheduled and their growth and activity profiles look like this:

As with all statistics you can look at these two sets of information in a number of different ways, but at face value the contrast is clear.  One team started earlier and kept the momentum going whereas another only focusses their effort in the final push towards the event.  The groups have been around for approximately the same amount of time, yet one has nearly six times the number of members as the other and is showing a positive growth pattern.  One team is clearly putting the time and effort into creating a community that isn’t abandoned as soon as the last speaker has left the building…

Utilities like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter etc. aren’t just another medium into which information can be lobbed out to the target audience in the same old way.  Think about it: you strive for coverage in relevant magazines and industry journals because you want your product to appear in an environment that has kudos and stature.  This is delivered by the editorial content created by the teams that manage those media.  If you want to do the same thing via LinkedIn etc. then you have to create an editorial and community environment that makes your potential audience want to interact with you.

To deliver real ROI and marketing with impact for your event you can’t just dip in and out of social media, ignoring your audience for 11 months of the year and then shouting at them for four weeks before you want them to attend.  You need to spend time getting to know them, finding out how to work with the community you have created via your exhibition, conference or roadshow.  Remember, they sought you out and it is up to you to make them stay.

missioncontrol @purerocketscience

p.s. If you want to find out more about creating social media strategies that work for events, our colleague Hellen Beveridge will be teaching a series of courses over the next few months.  Visit www.gallusevents.co.uk/our-events/ for more information.

So you think you own me?

The previous post You’ve got to deliver what the audience really  wants has provoked discussion in a number of forums and the responses have made for interesting reading, not least because of the seeming inability to move on from old arguments.

So let’s look at the topic from a different angle, by considering two industries closely related to producing live events; so closely related in fact that you would consider them siblings; i.e. publishing and broadcasting.

In both of these industries, the key players are referred to as Media Owners. Because they own the medium through which the content is broadcast. And for years this is exactly what they have done; decided when, where and what information and entertainment their audiences or readerships were going to consume.  They have made and broken many a star, politician or company profit, simply through the editorial decisions they have taken which have influenced the masses.

Conference and exhibition organisers, be they commercial operations, industry bodies or associations, continue to believe that they must operate in a similar way.  Developing programmes of content that they perceive the audience wants, choosing speakers and selecting participating exhibitors (via an economic filter it is true) and presenting a finished product to the visitors at a time, date and venue over which the latter has no control.

Then along came the Internet and social media and the shift in power from owner to audience was seismic.

Because the concept of expertise ownership by a few large corporations doesn’t fit any more.  You can’t tell me what I should be watching, what information I need, or who I should be networking with.  You can’t stop me finding organisations who can’t afford to exhibit at your event or who haven’t got a charismatic speaker, because if their Search and SM strategies are good I can do this on my own.  And, you can’t stop me telling people, a lot of people, about the experience your organisation offers me, within minutes if I so choose.

So let’s bin the argument about virtual not replacing face-to-face; because we all know it won’t.  Let’s stop finding fault with virtual technologies, because frankly some of them are pretty amazing.  And let’s stop pretending that we still own audiences and industries because of the events we produce because we don’t. Let’s embrace the new to enhance the old rather than dismissing it as a fad that has nothing to do with us.

What we need to be doing, with or without the help of virtual technologies, is to work out how we build and maintain relationships with our communities; how we facilitate communication and collaboration between individuals both through a single live day and an online presence; and how we use the unfettered enthusiasm of our audiences to create a profitable business model for the future.

hellen @missioncontrol

Do event companies need a new strategy?

feel the love hearts graphicAccording to Christophe Asselin, Head of UK at DMG :: events, what event companies (and by association their marketing teams) really need to do to attract visitors is to “feel the love”.

Christophe espoused this philosophy extensively at the Conference for Conference Professionals back in April.  What he was explaining, sprinkled heavily with his own particular brand of Gallic charm, was that if event organisers want to attract visitors, and keep them coming back then they have to be prepared to get up close and personal.

This approach won’t come as a surprise to anyone who has read Inbound Marketing by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah of Hubspot fame.  There are many organisations that, having set about making sure people could find them on Google, social media and blogs, also ensured that any incoming enquiries, orders or complaints could be handled swiftly and effectively by anyone in the business.  Other books such as Groundswell  and Socialnomics are littered with examples of companies getting it right, and in many cases wrong.

So why are so many event companies finding it hard to adopt this strategy themselves?

Economics has a lot to do with it and in particular the huge gamble that has to be taken at the start of the event planning process in terms of specifying and committing to a venue.  To minimise the risk the temptation is to run the team very lean in the beginning, keeping staff numbers and overhead as low as possible.  While this keeps the financial exposure down it invariably means that it also reduces the capacity to bring the event to the market.

It’s hard to be heard if you are a single lone voice and it takes time to gather enough others around you to start creating a really audible noise.

And, if we go back to Christophe’s original point, if the team is small and hard pressed, they don’t have the time, energy or inclination to listen and react to what potential visitors have to say, even though it could be the vital piece of information that could change an event from job done to runaway success.

Which could possibly explain why so many event companies want to embrace social media to deliver their louder voice but they can’t quite work out how, or if they have already dipped their toes into the water they are decidedly underwhelmed by the results.  It isn’t that social media isn’t or can’t work for events, but this is one medium where effort most definitely equals reward.  Rather than taking the usual“let’s add it to the bottom of the marketing department’s list of things to do” attitude, working out a cohesive social media strategy, of whatever size or complexity, in the launch proposal and budgetting adequately to deliver it on a long-term basis, will deliver much more satisfactory results.

For after all, it is only when you truly know your audience that you can really learn to love them.