As Marie Lamba said, crap happens in this business, but when you and your local bookstore go to the trouble of creating an event, the worst thing that can happen is NOTHING! Often a rookie author, unfamiliar with the promotional side of events, is caught by surprise when the only people who come up to them at a signing are customers looking for directions to the bathroom. The new author realizes pretty quickly, if they want people to show up at their events, it’s up to them to make it happen.
Whether you’re planning a book signing, a workshop, or a speaking engagement, online promotion has the ability to position your gig in front of a significant portion of your target audience for little or no cost.
Start your promotional activities as soon as the basic details of your event have been set, even if it’s months in advance. You can always go back and make modifications along the way.
1. Set up an event registration page. If you’re charging for the event, set up a registration page at Eventbrite: http://www.eventbrite.com/create. They bill you a nominal fee to manage the transactions, but the interface is secure, first rate, and accepts all the common methods of online payment.
2. Create a promotional blog post. If you have a blog, create a brief, informative post pitching your event that clearly spells out all the pertinent details, like address, agenda, time, and cost. Include a link to the host venue’s web site if it’s available, and a link to the Eventbrite registration page you set up in advance. Include a picture of you and a picture of you doing your thing.
3. Set up a Yelp event page. Set the event up in Yelp: http://www.yelp.com. Include a link to the event details, a picture of you and a picture of you doing your thing.
4. Set up a Meetup.com page. Create a listing on the Meetup site: http://www.meetup.com/create/. Include a link to the event details, a picture of you and a picture of you doing your thing. Meetup.com charges a nominal annual fee for using the site, but it’s one of the most active online communities with people looking to connect based on common interests.
5. Create a Facebook Listing. Create a Facebook Event or Group page to provide a spot in the FB community for your event to be discovered and shared. Include a link to the Eventbrite registration page and the venue’s web listing of the event, a picture of you and a picture of you doing your thing.
Once you’ve got this Web Presence set up to convert casual visitors to interested participants, it’s time to find your target audience.
6. Create a Twitter engagement strategy. Craft a handful of informative teaser tweets promoting the event, including a bit.ly-shortened link to one of the following destinations, in this order of preference:
1. Your blog post about the event.
2. Your Eventbrite registration page.
3. The venue’s web listing of the event.
4. The Meetup.com listing for the event.
5. The Facebook event page.
Make sure at least one of your tweets is a straight up announcement about the workshop, noting its geographic location, the date, and the price. Then you know everybody who clicks through will be doing so with full knowledge of the main points, looking to learn more.
If you can use the venue’s Twitter handle as well as the Twitter handle of any other event partners in your tweets, with the link, even better.
Try to limit your tweet to 120 characters so there’s room for others to re-tweet it.
Then, in your TweetDeck or other Twitter management tool, set up searches for the key words that’ll tip you off to the conversations being had by your target audience.
Spend some time every day sorting through the search results to see if any of the people tweeting look like they might fall into one of the following three categories:
- Consumers: People who might attend your event
- Colleagues: Community gatekeepers who can introduce you to their networks
- Connectors: Bloggers, and other media whose job it is to tell their readers about people like you and events like yours
If you find they meet these criteria, follow them from your Twitter account, where you’ll continue to provide a steady stream of information about yourself and your event, including links to the event in a ratio of about 1 out of every 6 posts.
As you click through to qualify your leads found through Twitter, you’ll find various channels to engage; activities ranging from leaving blog comments to directly submitting your event for listing. In addition to finding potential attendees for your workshop, you’ll uncover several different types of business opportunities:
- Conference engagements
- Keynote speaking
- Expert panels
- Other Workshops
- Paid articles
- Guest blogs
- Expert Interviews
7. Create a Facebook engagement strategy. You can mirror your Twitter strategy through your Facebook community without the same restrictions on the number of characters.
8. Keep your eyes peeled for specialty websites and communities. Whether you’re writing vampire love stories or providing advice for small business, there are a ton of specialty sites out there on the Internet who have community built around common interests. When you find something like this, snoop around on their website to see if you can figure out the best way to engage them, and get it done.
Some will have a web-based form to fill out, while others will provide an email address where you can send a more traditional press release or other pitch. Be sure you follow their instructions to the letter, and look for ways to connect with their community on Twitter and Facebook.
If they have a blog, find a place to leave a thoughtful comment that shows them your chops. Don’t mention your event in the blog comment, as this is usually considered spammy behavior and can wind up being counterproductive.
Don’t forget to hit brick and mortar community hubs in your promotional effort like the arts and lifestyle reporter of the local newspaper.
Depending on your writing, community organizations like local libraries, senior’s centers, scout troops, youth sports, or police departments might also have physical or online bulletin boards where it would make sense to list your event.
What are your favorite places and methods to promote events online?
Don Lafferty is a writer, a blogger and a social marketing consultant. You can find him on Twitter @donlafferty.