This blog post about event theme & concept is the last subpart of my How to Growth Hack an Event Guide. Make sure you read it! This post takes a conference I organized in March 2015 as an example.

If you read my previous blogposts, you should now have your concept defined & the logistics around it covered. Add a good design and those recipes to the sauce and you’re ready to start promoting it with the following ideas on how to growth hack an event! Now, let’s get to it.

Before we jump into this and since it is often misunderstood or misused, here is a definition of growth hacking by Sean Ellis who coined the term in 2010:

“A growth hacker is a person whose true north is growth.”

Network & Partners

First off, if you’re completely new to the network you’re aiming to reach. Start there! Partnering up with the right people is key to organizing a successful event. Before starting to promote, I recommend building your social capital by helping to promote related gigs. The people you help out when they need it most will be happy to support you when you’ll need to promote your event.

I also recommend having some official partners, whether they’re paying sponsors looking for visibility through your event, or community sponsors who support you and who you support. It costs nothing and it’s a win-win situation. Both will help you promote your event on their properties and it’ll serve you in the end.

Event Partners and sponsors

Event platforms & lists

If you don’t want to waste time with a physical ticket stand or face the uncertainty of selling all your tickets at the entrance of your event, you’ll need a platform to sell you tickets online. Also, you should create a Paypal/Stripe/Bank account to gather your payments with the following platforms.

If you have your own website, you could directly sell tickets on it (like I set up for MTL+ECOMMERCE) either with an Ecommerce plugin like WooCommerce for WordPress or integrate it with an event ticket platform. If you want the easy solution here it goes:

  • Eventbrite offers you a transactional landing page for your event and also allows you to sell tickets from your website;
  • Meetup allows you to create a community around a specific topic. Both integrate with Paypal and have internal traffic which means some people will discover your event through those websites or their newsletters!

Social media

In our case, we had a Facebook page and a Twitter account to promote the event on social media which we’ll dive into right now.

Your social media promotion strategy should be both integrated between your channels as well as planned. As recommended in my toolbox, I use Hootsuite to plan social media posts. With a well thought-out calendar, we were able to plan almost every social media post we needed until the event started. As obvious as it may sound, you’ll want to craft great compelling and attractive copy for your promotion. Also, make sure to use an image with each post as well as the right #hashtags to reach more people (especially on twitter). This allowed our event to land in the top Canadian tweets with a total of around 116’000 impressions. As a good practice, I’d recommend doing a post about each speaker, the venue where you’ll be hosting the event, you sponsors as well as news and press articles around them. You should also distil content and info about your event.

Facebook

Facebook has become a very complete tool in terms of event promotion with business pages, events pages (with a tickets link) and groups.

Your Facebook page is where you want to link to your event and have your planned posts published. It should be branded with the design and concept you created around your event. If you have some extra money to promote your event, you should look into doing some advertising on Facebook. From my experience, the Facebook ads type that works the best for event promotion are boosted posts linking to your payment and ticket page (I usually have an average CPC around 0,20-0,30 CAD$). If you’re going this road, you should also make sure your landing page is well-built and converts.

You will also want to create a Facebook event page (using your Facebook page account) which will feature the aforementioned design with a good description that explains the concept of the event as well as its schedule. You will also be able to put the link to your payment & ticketing platform. Once created, you will have to invite your close friends (ask them to click “going”) in order to have a “living” event: who would attend an empty event organized by an unknown people? You can then invite more people from your network (those who might be interested since you’ll have an invitation limit) and ask your team & friends to do the same. Your event page will also be a privileged way to reach your “prospects” (those who put “going” or “interested”) as they will receive a Facebook notification each time you post in the event.
–> Here is what my event page looked like for the event I’m taking as an example.

Now you have your event set up and notifications every 5 seconds about new people “interested”, it’s time to post your event link in relevant Facebook groups. You’ll find them asking yourself “what Facebook groups would you expect your target audience to be part of?” In my case they were entrepreneurship, IT, marketing and Ecommerce groups. For this part it’s important to underline that not all Facebook groups are born equal:

  • Public groups will be joinable in just a click and have no post restrictions.
  • Private groups will require an approval (don’t see why you wouldn’t get one!). Some private groups will also have a post approval setting in which only group administrators will be able to approve your posts.

In either case you want to have a different copy and message for every group as your target audience might be in several ones. You also obviously don’t want to look too spammy. A good way to do this is to present your event as passion of yours and an opportunity for your audience. As for event pages, group members will receive a Facebook notification when your post is either directly posted or approved by and administrator. Bonus: you can now plan posts in Facebook groups with Hootsuite!

I’m not done yet! There are some additional Facebook channels you could use. We talked about partners before and they’ll be very helpful when it comes to promotion on Facebook. When asking them to market your event, make sure to provide them with your event page link, a copy template and some design material in order to control the way they promote your event. You can also reach out to other relevant Facebook pages you hadn’t thought of by Facebook message and often they’ll help you promote it. That’s how our event was promoted by pretty much every HEC student association as well as several startups & Ecommerce organizations in Montreal, helping a lot with credibility for this new organization.

Event Guest Posts

Twitter

 

If you use Hootsuite like mentioned before, you can post the same content than on your Facebook page. A good practise on twitter is to repost the same content several times. As people (and bots) search per #hashtags or have built twitter lists around them, using the right one will have a significant impact on your likes and retweets.

A great advantage to using twitter in your promotion is the ability it gives you to tag people, partners or companies in your posts and make them engage with it. Don’t hesitate to ask people you know to retweet as it will allow you to reach their network and beyond.

LinkedIn

Since we are talking about professional events here, LinkedIn is a place of choice for your promotion. You will indeed reach people who are in a “pro context” and looking for some news about their connections and industry. While your personal account is a great place to start, you might want to create a LinkedIn page for your entity and even a group (which is a lot like a Facebook group). You could also do a LinkedIn post for which your connections will receive a notification.

Your personal account is also a good asset to use in your promotion. You can follow the same rules than those used for Facebook pages or events!

Emails

It is often proven that email is still the channel with the best overall ROI, why not use it?

If you already have a newsletter you should really use it to promote your event. If not, it’s not too late to create one using MailChimp (also recommended in my toolbox). You can use it for your promotion if you have untapped email lists or you could build your own list with people buying tickets through Paypal (you can export their emails and add them to your mailing list since you will now have a “business relationship”). If you don’t have your own newsletter, ask to be featured in your partner’s ones! Like social media posts, be sure to provide them with the right content. Some events directories (like Startup digest or Montreal 5à7 in Montréal) allow you to have your event features in their newsletters or websites.

Now here follows an email event growth hack idea I’ve had that might not be legal in your country. It is an idea I’ve had for a long time but Canada anti-spam law has prevented me from doing it since 2014.

Did you know you can export your Facebook events “going” & “maybe” guest list?

Export Facebook Event guest list

By clicking this “Export Guest List” button, you’ll get a .CSV file of your guests names & status. Depending on where you’ve done your promotion you could guess your Facebook attendees email address. For instance if you targeted specific universities, companies or organizations group, you could guess their email address structure with the tools I mentioned earlier and send them a personalized invitation. I know you’ll tell me you will get a lot of wrong emails since people don’t always put their real names etc… I think it is well worth the try. You could for instance try with first.last@school.com or even first.last@gmail.com for few people to guess the address structure of the organization you target with Rapportive.

In order to do this, you’ll have to play a bit in Excel to:

  1. Transform your .CSV file in a “classic” excel one by column using the “text to column” feature with “coma” as a parameter
  2. Then do it again for the “name” column with “space” as a parameter. This should give you a first name & last name in two separate columns
  3. Depending on the email structure you’ve found, you can now create a third “@domain.com” column and drag it down.
  4. In a 4th column and depending on the beginning of the email structure you’ve found you can now concatenate you first three columns to create potential email addresses. It’ll look something like that =CONCATENATE(B1,B2,B3)
  5. You can now clean your list for weird characters using you good judgment and knowledge of the people on your list.

You could even generate several potential emails for Facebook guests you don’t know using this logic.

The next step is to do a mail merge. You’ll have to choose which address you want to send those emails from. It should be from a real email address and better, from someone known by your target audience: an influencer. You could have different “from” emails for each potential university, organization or company you target. Something very powerful about mail merge is that you can personalize each email you send with columns of your excel document. Talk about ROI! Without going into too much detail into how to send the email, you could use Outlook + Word + Excel or Gmail + Google Spreadsheet + YetAnotherMailMerge (chrome extension).

Like in every email campaign, your subject & sender name will be really important for your open rate. You should also write great copy for the body of your email as well as a well-thought Call-to-action to your payment & ticket platform.

You’re now all set to think of, organize & promote your dream event, now just do it!

 

==> Read the last part of this series about D-day and what follows an event on this page!

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Ambroise Debret

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