For many, email is a constant stream, an endless loop – we receive too much of it, both “important” emails addressed directly to us and marketing emails that are sent as a result of opting in (or not) to past content, webinars, white papers and marketing lists. Outbound, push-based email promotions face the following challenges:
- Imperfect delivery rates (mail server outages, spam filters, etc.)
- Decreasing open rates
- Perception of spam – if recipients don’t remember opting in to your list (even though they did), they’ll ignore your email – or, opt out from your list
- List fatigue due to overuse of marketing lists
- Decreasing click-thru rates (CTR) – once you’ve made it past delivery and open, recipients are clicking less on your embedded offers
Adding to this mix is the fact that many users now interact with brands (and by extension, promotional offers from brands) via their social networks, instead of email. A user is more inclined to respond to an @reply or direct message (on Twitter) compared to a conventional email blast from a marketer.
Given all this, it surprises me that email is still a primary vehicle for promoting physical and virtual events. Event marketers have much to gain by thinking outside the inbox.
Social media and social sharing
Your first step outside the inbox should be in the direction of social networks. Build a presence in social communities and you’ll find that you naturally generate interest and awareness to your event. Previously, I wrote about leveraging Twitter to promote your virtual event. As Ian McGonnigal (GPJ) astutely pointed out, those same tactics apply quite well to physical events as well.
In addition to Twitter, consider the following:
- Create a LinkedIn Event for your event – a LinkedIn Event page allows you to post relevant information about your event on LinkedIn (e.g. date, event content, etc.) – LinkedIn members can then indicate whether they’ll be attending, not attending or “interested”. This can be quite useful, as folks often attend events based on knowing whom else will be attending. By creating a LinkedIn Event, you’ll receive the benefit of having LinkedIn auto-recommend your event to other members, assuming their profile is a “match” with the profile of your event. Members may also utilize search and find your event. More info can be found on the LinkedIn blog page announcing the Event feature.
- Post videos to YouTube – it’s the #2 search engine after all (behind parent Google), so having event videos posted on the site will generate traffic from the millions of folks who visit YouTube.com each day. Record videos of your host, keynote speaker, group publisher, etc. talking about your upcoming event – if your keynote speaker has a prominent name, your videos will attract interest from users who search on that name. When you have a critical mass of videos, create a YouTube channel. About.com has a neat guide on how to do just that.
- Create a Facebook Fan page for your event – with a fan page, you’ll generate interest for your upcoming event – and, you’ll build an ongoing community that you’ll be able to continuously leverage! The All Facebook blog has a nice guide on how to build a Facebook fan page.
- Leverage blogs – author a blog posting on your corporate blog – or, if you don’t have one, ask a relevant industry blog site whether you can author a guest posting. Alternatively, leave a comment on postings from relevant industry blogs with a pointer (link) to your event. The key here is not to over-promote your event – your first goal is to provide useful and relevant content/commentary with your event being a secondary (and subtle) mention.
SEO and in-bound links
If you pay attention to search engine optimization (SEO), your event page(s) will receive “organic” traffic – that is, traffic that finds you, rather than you finding the traffic (i.e. the “pull” from users searching, rather than the “push” from your email promotions). Think about the search keywords that you’d want to associate with your event [e.g. when users are performing searches] and make sure the content on your event page is rich in those keywords.
To increase the page rank of your event page, increase the number of inbound links that point to your page. A few simple ideas:
- For all of your social media efforts (listed above), make sure they provide links to your event page – shazam, you’ve just created a number of inbound links
- For event staff (especially those with large followings on Twitter), ask them to temporarily point the “web site” URL in their Twitter profile to the event page
- Ask partners, associates, even clients to post a URL from their web site(s) to your event page
- Add a “Share on Facebook” capability on your event page – this may result in page rank benefit as search engines begin to index Facebook wall posts – until then, what this really does is generate awareness and outreach of your event to users’ Facebook friends. If a potential attendee visits your event page and shares the page with her 100 Facebook friends, then you’ve just received 100 free advertising impressions
Some affordable options to consider:
- Facebook advertising – purchase targeted ads on Facebook. For a physical event, you can target by geography (e.g. starting with users who are geographically close to your event site). For a virtual event, geography is less important, so you may want to target based on attributes in the users’ Facebook profiles. You can pay per view (of the ad) or per click (on the ad), so the terms are flexible. eHow has a good overview on Facebook advertising.
- Content syndication – purchase web syndication with online publishers in your industry – get your event listed in their directories, content sites, etc. They may charge you per click or per lead (completed registration). Not only can this generate registrants for your event, but it also improves your page rank by generating more inbound links to your event page.
Hopefully I’ve covered a few “outside the inbox” options for you to consider – certainly continue to promote your event via email – however, use some of these options to lighten the load a bit on your email marketing lists.