Using social media to catalyze event promotion

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When Doug Kaye first approached O'Reilly Media in 2004 about recording presentations from its Web 2.0 conference and posting them free in his IT Conversations podcast library, organizers thought he was nuts. O'Reilly charged attendees more than $1,000 to attend the conference. Why should they give away that valuable content? In the spirit of Web 2.O, however, organizers let Kaye take up a seat at the back and point his microphone toward the stage. He posted some 30 recordings. A year later, registrations for the next conference surged. O'Reilly has been distributing conference video and audio recordings ever since. Events are the sweet spot of social media. When used in concert, they can catalyze an audience into becoming extensions of the event marketing team and create a library of content for use in marketing future events. Here are five ways you can apply social media to give your event more oomph. (And to learn more, watch this slidecast.)
  • Use a listing service. There plenty of websites that will list your event for free, including, Eventful, Eventbright, Zvents and Upcoming. Business partners and speakers can also give you bonus visibility through their blogs, Facebook and Twitter accounts. Don't forget regional publishers like small newspapers and business journals. Many will also publish your announcement for free.
  • Set up Facebook and LinkedIn pages. Both social networks support event pages. They include the basic logistics, but what's really powerful about listing your conference or seminar on social networks is that you can invite friends and fans and they can invite each other. People go to events to meet other people, so when you can show who's already signed up for your event, you increase the chance that their friends will attend as well.
  • Create a Twitter hashtag. Publicize this unique identifier to your entire prospect list and use it in all your own tweets and marketing communications. This enables attendees and prospects to “subscribe” to tweets about your event by monitoring the hashtag. Twitter is also a great way to generate excitement once the show begins. People can use event hashtags to share the action on the stage with virtual attendees. Those people become prospects for your next events. Monitor hashtags to see who's talking about you. Those people should get some extra consideration for future event promotion.
  • Create speaker promotion tools. People should be proud to speak at your event, so make it easy for them to tell their friends and subscribers. Create badges of different sizes and shapes that speakers can embed on their blogs and business pages. Put them on a dedicated page where speakers can cut and paste a bit of HTML code to make the promotion live. Be sure to also give them a discount code their visitors can use.
  • Use media channels to share content. Ustream and LiveStream are two services that enable you to “broadcast” video content at a low cost with just an Internet connection and a webcam. Save your best videos and post them to a conference playlist on your YouTube channel. You can also rip audio files from the videos to create podcasts. Ask photo enthusiasts to affix an event tag to their snapshots. That makes it easy for you to collect their work into virtual photo albums. Finally, create an event channel on SlideShare and upload speaker presentations. Your content can get thousands of bonus views this way.
Paul Gillin is an Internet marketing consultant and the author of three books about social media. He also writes the “New Channels” column in BtoB.
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