A Match Made in Heaven: In-Person Event, Meet Virtual Online World

By Dana Ostomel, Firespring Vice President of Nonprofit Industry Development

Marrying your offline world with your online presence can be a challenge, but when you do it effectively, it creates a powerful and compelling union that can boost your fundraising, widen your reach, grow awareness and even help you pull off events without a hitch.

In fact, leveraging digital marketing (along with important website tools) is one of the best ways to generate interest in your event, drive attendance and create awareness and connection during the event. If you’re going to spend the time, money and effort to host an event, doesn’t it make sense to maximize those things? With digital marketing, your website and the right software, you can.

Let’s talk about 7 ways to create a synergistic relationship between your online and offline worlds that’ll help you raise the roof (and more money) at your next event.

Get it on your website.

First things first: Create an online destination for your event where people can get more information, register (and pay online—please don’t make them mail you a check), donate if they can’t attend and share the event with their networks. You’ll want to create an event landing page with a call to action (CTA) to Register Now, but don’t stop there: You can also feature a blurb about the event on other popular pages of your site, like your homepage, fundraising pages and Contact Us page. Use your analytics to determine your most-visited pages and promote your next event where you can. It may mean designing a compelling graphic, or maybe you’ll opt for a highly visible link to the event landing page. Whatever you do, use your website to create awareness and drive traffic to the event page.

Bonus tip: Include a lazy tweet on the registration confirmation page or email.

After someone registers for your event, encourage them to share with their social networks that they’ll be attending. Make it easy by including a “lazy tweet”—a link with a pre-populated tweet including the desired text and hashtag. You can easily create links for lazy tweets using the free online tool, ClickToTweet.

Leverage your blog.

Depending on the type of event, you may have speakers who’ll cover topics you’ve blogged about previously—or it may present an opportunity for you to blog about relevant topics now. Use your blog to position yourself as a thought leader and include a CTA on appropriate posts to encourage visitors to register for your event. Don’t forget press releases: You can publish them on your blog to increase the visibility of your event, attract media to your site and get the word out about your event.

Offer website visitors options to support your event if they are unable to attend.

Your event may sell out or someone may be unavailable to attend the event but still want to support it. Give people options on your website to make it easy, even if they can’t be there in person. For example, you could include:

  • An online store with event T-shirts, mugs or other event swag.
  • A calendar of upcoming events for the rest of the year.
  • A Donate Now button on the event page for those who’d like to contribute financially without attending.
  • Social media share buttons to allow visitors to share your event with their social networks.

Your website is the perfect place to say, “We’d love to have you, but if it’s not possible, we’d love your support.”

Email your people.

This is a no-brainer; email marketing is a powerful tool to generate awareness and drive participation. Just remember that timing is very important when it comes to email. You want to give your subscribers enough time to make a decision about whether or not to attend, but you don’t want to invite them so far in advance they completely forget. You could send an email about a month in advance, then another a few weeks before, then a “last chance” message the week of.

For those who have registered to attend, send them a reminder the day before with all the pertinent information they need—even a simple reminder can boost attendance.

Get the word out on social media.

Social media is a great way to both reach your current audience and expand that reach by having them share the event with their own networks. When you promote your upcoming event on your social media channels, ask yourself, is this shareable? Would people want to re-post, retweet or otherwise share it with their friends? If the answer is no, make it more interesting, relevant, engaging or compelling. Also, be sure your posts and tweets drive traffic to your event page—always give them somewhere to go and something to do.

Let’s talk for a minute about hashtags, because they can play an important role in your digital marketing. Before each event, create a memorable and relevant hashtag—you can use that in all your social promotions and sharing, then encourage attendees to tweet and take photos during the event to share on social media (along with the hashtag, of course). Getting people to talk about your event on social media fosters brand awareness, plus provides a way for you to learn what your attendees thought of the event.

Pro tip: If you haven’t already, analyze your ideal audience demographics and what social media networks they frequent. Build your social media event marketing campaign on sites where both your current supporters and targeted audience live. Plus, ask your volunteers and supporters to promote your event on their social media channels. It won’t do you much good to run a great social media campaign if you’re trying to drum up some buzz on a network that’s not popular with your ideal demographic. You’ll just hear crickets.

Allow individuals to participate virtually.

Why not? Virtual participation could be a fun way to let people be a part of the action, even if they can’t attend your event in person. It’s great for endurance events, giving days, perhaps even auctions. For example, letting people fundraise for an endurance event online and run, walk or ride on the same day as your event but in a different location could significantly boost funds raised. You could offer a virtual registration type for your event and track your virtual participants online—they’ll feel part of the event, even if they can’t be there, and they’ll be able to fundraise regardless of their location.

Amplify after your event.

Don’t stop the chatter when the lights go out. Share the results of your event via email, social media, your website and fundraising page. Thank your major donors, top fundraisers and biggest brand evangelists. Even blog about your event, share a video or post pictures, talking up the highlights and any great stories. And while you’re doing this, put in a shameless plug for your next event. Now’s the time to get the buzz going—take advantage of the post-event excitement and encourage people to put the next date on their calendar. It’ll give you a head start on your next event marketing campaign.

While digital marketing and in-person events may not seem like a natural fit, they make a happy couple if you pair them together the right way. If you’d like to learn more about how to do that effectively, you’re in luck—I have a webinar for that! I’d love for you to join me on March 13 at 10:00 a.m. PT for Events in a Digital Age: How to Maximize Offline Events in an Online World. Register today. 

 

About Dana Ostomel

Dana Ostomel is vice president of nonprofit industry development at Firespring, a company that provides essential software and beautiful websites to nonprofits.

Prior to her role at Firespring, Dana was the founder and CEO of Deposit a Gift, a crowdfunding platform that allows nonprofits to easily create online fundraising campaigns for any organizational need.

Firespring joined forces with Deposit a Gift in August 2016 with Dana residing as the company’s lead crowdfunding expert. Before launching her own business, Dana spent over a decade as a marketing and branding adviser, developing integrated marketing solutions for nationally known brands such as Snapple, CENTURY 21, MasterCard and DIRECTV. Dana holds a Bachelor’s degree in Communications from UCLA.

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