Whether your brand is big or small, you’ll likely have a community behind it, made up of people who appreciate the company for its values, identity, and way of doing things. Though events organisers know that brand communities are an essential channel for modern marketing, many don’t leverage their communities enough to fully maximise their potential.
If you’re not sure if you’re getting the most out of your community, and you want to ensure you’re extracting the most value possible for an upcoming event, then you’re certainly not alone.
In this post, we’ll go through 6 strategies you can use to generate more engagement, attract more attendees, and nurture a community that’s a true asset to your brand.
Tap your Community for Event Programming
One of the best ways event professionals can leverage their community for the benefit of their events is by actively asking them to contribute to your event programming. After all, who’s better qualified to say what organisers can do to satisfy attendees than the attendees themselves?
There are countless ways you can tap into the pool of expertise that exists in your brand community. Some of our favourites include:
Calls for Recommendations: Simple yet effective, making a post calling for recommendations within certain parameters, for example guest speakers, can quickly start an inclusive and productive dialogue within your community that will allow you to draw on a huge range of differing opinions.
Polls: Find hot topics of debate in the events sector, for example, the preference for virtual vs in-person vs hybrid events, and invite the community to vote on the prompt using social media polls.
Listening In: The public conversations that happen every day in your community can be an invaluable source of guidance for the way you coordinate events. Though not as empirical as polls or engagement analytics, actively listening in on the discussions that happen within your target audience can reveal interesting patterns and great ideas.
Build-Up Series: Schedule a series of posts in the run-up to the event, building up excitement, giving attendees a chance to see who’s coming, and providing updates as they happen.
There’s probably discourse happening in your community already that could be a huge boon to your event programming. Start tapping into it and stimulating more conversations yourself, and you’ll soon be able to plan events that surprise and delight your community.
Stimulate Networking Before the Event
For many attendees, the biggest hook of your events is going to be fellow attendees, and having the opportunity to network with people who they share a common interest with.
With this in mind, stimulating pre-event networking can work wonders to generate more engagement amongst your audience, and help attendees get the most value possible from their experience at your event.
There are many ways you can approach this, and the methods you choose will depend on the particulars of the event you have planned.
For smaller events, you might want to get to know some of the attendees yourself, then make 1-to-1 introductions between people to get the ball rolling. For large and complex affairs, you can set up an event Discord server with separate chats for different topics that are going to be discussed at the event.
Going back to our previous point, sometimes simply asking a question on your social media channels or inviting people to participate in the poll can be enough for people to start networking on their own, and spark conversations that will help them hit the ground running when they start meeting people at the event.
When people are given these opportunities to start conversations on your community platforms, they’ll feel a lot more confident in finding the people they gel with during the event itself, and be much more likely to leave feeling like it was time well spent.
Use the Venue as a Marketing Asset
The venue where your event will be held is a major part of the overall experience, but many marketers let it fall by the wayside during their event promotion drive.
Though it may not be the central focus of the whole thing, highlighting the venue’s USPs or history in your messaging can help stimulate new conversations and build traction with your audience.
If your venue has previously been used by famous people or organisations like Hospitality Finder’s Green Room, a uniquely historical atmosphere like The Crypt of St Etheldreda's, or anything else that sets this apart from the settings your audience is used to, make sure you’re shouting about it from the moment your event is confirmed.
These details can upgrade your event offering with a powerful sheen of intrigue, and create new touchpoints to build awareness with your audience, and potentially attract some new attendees. Furthermore, these interesting features relating to your venue can make great conversation starters in the build-up to your event, improving your brand visibility and giving you a new source of analysis to help you tailor your programming to your attendees’ tastes.
Plan to Build FOMO During your Event
As your events are restricted to certain windows of time and require hands-on management, many organisers tend to forget about marketing and engagement once the event gets started. Unfortunately, this often means missed opportunities for enhancing engagement and laying the groundwork for marketing similar events in the future.
If there’s one thing you do in the way of marketing after the event has started, it should be stirring up FOMO amongst your community by posting frequent updates about the key points of the event, highlighting the features that you expect to be the most interesting points to your target market.
Video content of the event in action can be hugely effective at helping people imagine the experience of being there, and great at pushing would-be attendees over the line for your next event.
Pinning a “Megathread” on a suitable social platform where your community is invited to share their real-time thoughts and highlights of the event is also a great way to make your event feel like a living, breathing entity to those who wouldn’t make it, and will give outsiders a good idea of the kinds of stimulating conversations that they’re missing out on.
Actively showcasing the excitement and energy of your events-in-progress, and making sure this kind of content is visible to no-shows, will have a far-reaching positive impact on attendance of future events.
Showcase and Grow your Community
In the same vein as our previous point, making sure the community itself is a strong focal point of your marketing, both before the event and during it, will not only make your closest followers feel appreciated, but can also serve to bring more people into the fold and expand the reach of your community-based marketing.
Exclusive features like event freebies, prize draws, sneak previews of key event points, and more, will show people what they’re missing out on and motivate them to become followers. This, in turn, will help the community to grow and give your messaging a much greater reach for your future event promotions.
Weaving these kinds of exclusives into your social marketing calendar is the best way to develop some community-based FOMO in the run-up to the event, but even after the event starts you should be looking for ways to sweep up those attendees who decided to come to your event, but haven’t made the leap of joining your community.
Using a service like Bitly, organisers can easily create short URLs and QR codes to use on merchandise, table talkers, posters, and more, giving your attendees a quick and easy way to join the community and start enjoying the benefits reserved for your followers.
Keep the Conversation Going After the Event
Once one event ends, you’ll likely want to launch straight into working on the next one. However, while your event is still fresh in people’s memories, you’ll have a golden opportunity to stir up some stimulating conversations.
One of the best ways to do this is post all the photos and videos taken during the events, and tagging attendees you recognise wherever possible. This will start conversations between the people tagged and their wider network, while also showcasing the experience that those who didn’t come missed out on.
Another important step for the post-event phase is to ask your attendees for feedback. This is a standard action done by most event organisers, but going past the usual basic surveys and asking more open-ended questions to your wider community will keep the buzz going stronger for longer, and give you more detailed and applicable insights about where you could be doing better.
Post-event discussions can be hard to throw your effort behind if you’ve got an exciting new project just over the horizon, but by following through, you’ll ensure you’re extracting all the potential value from your community-based marketing drives.
Community-based marketing can often fall by the wayside in events organisation, but if you can make your community work for you, you’ll supercharge engagement with your events and exponentially grow your following. We hope these pointers will serve you well in your next event, and inspire you towards a more community-first approach to marketing for all future events in your calendar.