Note: The following post is by Matt Goodwin, Account Manager at INXPO.
Introduction: Information Overdrive
In the virtual event world, it is difficult to capture your market because there are millions of sites begging for attention. According to the Netcraft Web Server Survey (2011), there are 312,693,296 reported site responses. From breaking news to addicting games, market segments are over saturated with a flood of information. What sets an organization’s virtual presence apart from the rest of the virtual world is the ability to effectively promote the event. Whether it is physical or virtual promotion, an organization can have a tough time swimming in a sea ofvirtually endless possibilities. This blog will possibly help arm your organization with information and resources to increase visibility and generate more attendees.
Who Are You?
Why is your organization special? Do I have time to attend your event(s) when I have three children to take care of, a full-time job, and my daily Internet surfing routines? Who are you and why do I care?
These are questions that an organization should consider when creating their virtual presence. However, it is understood that a virtual event is catered to a specific macro niche or even a micro niche. So generating your audience should not be difficult right? Wrong. I believe generation is a six-step process:
- Capture attention with a solid marketing plan.
- Get them to click into your site or registration page.
- Get them to register.
- Remind them that the event is coming soon.
- Entice them to attend.
- Hope and pray they show up.
Audience generation is developable, but random. Regardless of how much effort is put into the process, the ultimate decision to attend is the attendee’s, but the organization can put up a good fight for the cause.
The Perfect Plan
Brace for impact! It does not exist. If it did, would you be reading this blog to find out how to generate an audience? There are many opportunities to market a virtual event, but which ones are for your organization. The following options may help you carve a path:
- Social Networks
- Search Engines
- Mobile Marketing
- Physical Marketing (universities, health care facilities, etc. depending on the type of virtual event)
- Telemarketing (I wouldn’t recommend it!)
Personally, I love social media networking, but believe it or not, social media is not the end-all-be-all solution for capturing the audience’s attention (Robinson & Studio, 2009). Let’s think about it. How many social networks are there?
There are over 200 social networking sites available across the world; and those are just the noteworthy ones. Not to mention the countless college or university social platforms. The list is exhausting.
Audience Generation Tips
- Choose the launch pad wisely. Which sites generate the most buzz about your topic?
- Total integration. Use Twitter IDs, tags, Facebook groups and pages, LinkedIn users, shareable links and buttons, etc. The list is endless depending on the chosen network.
- Be Creative. Attendance is driven by content, relevance, and an immersive media experience. Experiment with new forms of media delivery to see what works and what does not. Do not be afraid to leave the comfort of your cookie-cutter plan. Your audience is evolving – so should you.
- Do not over saturate. Some people get annoyed and may block your valuable content. Depends on the audience, but ask one question. Would this campaign annoy me if I were a potential attendee?
- Offer incentives. Everyone loves free content; especially if the content is exclusive. For example – If you registered today, you’ll receive a free guide and 15-minute exclusive video from our CEO. The more “exclusive” the content, the hotter the topic becomes.
- Make it VIRAL. Something to think about. Make a decision on if you want the audience to market the event for you. They are sometimes the best resource for finding individuals in the same field or topic interest area. Create a shocking video or memo and release it for the world to consume.
- Guerilla tactics? A clothing-line upstart campaigned by riding around major U.S. cities in rented vehicles with large image projectors. They would project images or videos on the walls of buildings in high-density areas for short segments of time. Then move to other locations.**Before attempting something like this, check with local laws to ensure you are not causing an infraction.
- Simplify registration. DO NOT try to capture all of the attendee information at once. Let the attendee interact with the virtual platform. Trust me; it will create good memories instead of a monotonous requirement form that may discourage the attendee from registering (Shiao, 2009). Along with some short content, follow my rule of three and watch your numbers skyrocket:
- E-mail Address
- Follow up. After the plan is implemented and the attendees are registering, make sure you follow-up with them. Send exclusive offers, promotions, giveaways, sneak peeks, or content once a week to ensure your audience is satisfied and excited to attend.
- Hope and pray, but don’t get disappointed. You’ve done your job. You have 1,500 registered attendees. The show opens, you pray, and this happens. Only 201 people attend the entire event. But wait, the beauty of virtual events is On Demand access. Most virtual events are open for at least 90 days so even if the entire audience does not attend, they may come in over the next 90 days, but at least you have them registered. Do not get discouraged!
Regardless of the organization’s audience generating intentions, the attendee makes the ultimate decision to attend or not. Capturing is not about a formulaic approach to generating the audience. It is about adding value to an already over saturated virtual experience for the user. Set your organization apart by using new methods of attention grabbing, social plugging, and content-driven awareness. Following these steps may not give you 100% attendance, but it is definitely a great start.
About the Author
Matt Goodwin is an Account Manager at INXPO who advises clients on virtual event audience generation – and much more.
Netcraft. (2011). April 2011 Web Server Survey. Retrieved April 26, 2011, from http://news.netcraft.com/archives/category/web-server-survey/
Robinson, D. & Studio, B. (2009). Audience Generation PDF. Retrieved April 27, 2011, from http://www.audiencemachine.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/04/41509-2-cville-chamber.pdf
Shiao, D. (2010). How To Effectively Generate Virtual Event Registrations. Retrieved April 27, 2011, from http://allvirtual.wordpress.com/2010/09/04/how-to-effectively-generate-virtual-event-registrations/