As a result of the coronavirus outbreak, many businesses have been forced to shift their event marketing strategies to embrace a virtual format. According to Eventbrite, a popular platform for online events, virtual business and professional meetings increased by more than 1,000 percent in April compared to the same time last year. Until a vaccine is developed and distributed, online gatherings are expected to remain a staple of business life.
While transition to virtual requires upfront work – and may involve some technology investment if you want to really stand out – the online format can offer a lot of advantages: reaching a larger audience, leveraging content across multiple events, polling attendees “in the moment” and expanding reach by connecting with audiences all over the world.
Due to the increasing popularity and necessity of virtual events, competition for attendees is fierce. Developing smart, strategic marketing tactics will help ensure your event stands out in the sea of webinars, livestreams and conferences. If you plan to host a virtual event, consider these tips to increase attendance and engage your audience.
Build a dedicated landing page on your website
For people to find information about your event, and to maximize SEO lift generated by your event and marketing efforts – you will want to develop a landing page on your website that contains essential details, including a registration form. The page can be linked from your newsletter and paid promotional efforts and should be designed based on your organization’s and event’s branding guidelines. In addition to including registration forms and event details like an agenda, speaker bios, pricing information, etc., consider further leveraging the page to allow people to subscribe to your newsletters or follow your social media channels. You might also provide links to relevant articles or other resources to help attendees prepare for your event.
Leverage email marketing
One of the most effective ways to reach an audience and increase awareness about an event is to create and execute an email campaign. Once you launch your dedicated landing page, develop a save the date email to spark interest and then follow up with reminder emails as the event gets closer. To help secure the maximum number of attendees, develop a targeted list and send weekly or bi-weekly emails with catchy, value-added content as well as event details like time and location, a description of the event and a prominent call to action. (Be sure to update your distribution lists before each send to ensure you don’t reinvite guests who have already registered.) If you have a regular newsletter, include a callout about the event there also. Embellish email blasts with high-quality imagery and consider offering special discount codes or free swag to spur audience engagement. If your event covers several topics, try segmenting your emails by groups with targeted subject lines to underline the value of the event for different contacts.
Get social and consider digital promotion
Announce your virtual event on your social media platforms with a mix of photos, graphics and video or animation if you have it available. Post frequently, especially on the days leading up to the event. Creating a clever hashtag is also a great way to generate buzz around your event and collect content from attendees to repost.
Paid advertising on social and digital platforms can significantly increase visibility and attendance, so don’t be afraid to put some money behind your event promotion. If you’re going to invest in holding the event, be sure to invest in having people attend!
Encourage speakers to promote the event
When speakers promote your virtual event they can substantially boost exposure and credibility for your program. Make it easy for them to publicize your event by providing relevant materials like an event link, graphics, relevant hashtags and suggested social media copy. Promoting the event elevates speakers as thought leaders and expands your outreach, so ask them to notify their contacts and followers about the event.
Optimize Facebook and LinkedIn
Though your target audiences will vary depending on your event’s content and value proposition, be open-minded about social media promotion.
LinkedIn is always an effective tool for reaching professionals and driving awareness about B2B events, so they will likely be at the top of your list for paid social opportunities. With LinkedIn Events, you can create and join professional events, invite your connections and network with attendees. The platform also provides several paid advertising options like Sponsored Content, Sponsored InMail and Dynamic Ads with sophisticated targeting to ensure you are reaching the right audience.
And as Facebook is eager to share, business decision-makers spend considerable time on the platform compared to other users. So Facebook can present a robust opportunity for B2B organizations to engage their target audience and convince people to attend their event. Start by creating a Facebook event page, which contains the who, what, when and where for your target audience; interested attendees can RSVP and receive reminders about the event through the platform. As people RSVP, the event will show up in the feeds of their friends, increasing exposure and widening the pool of potential attendees. Additionally, organizations can interact with potential attendees on the page through polls and surveys, and keep them informed of any schedule changes or additions.
Capture viewers’ attention with appealing visuals of keynote speakers or workshop leaders, and make sure the copy and imagery (don’t forget a logo!) reflects your organization’s brand. Companies should also consider boosting their Facebook event through paid advertising to target relevant audiences (including people who may “like” competitors!) within their market.