Your company or organization may already be hosting great events, but are you developing a sound content marketing strategy to make those events more engaging? Are you actually turning events into content? Events pack a powerful content marketing punch, because people attending events will remember their experience at your event far longer than they’ll remember reading a blog post. If you start approaching events with the same strategic focus you give other forms of marketing, you can capitalize on this powerful source of content.
My company, Localist, creates online event calendars to serve a wide variety of organizations, and we’ve seen firsthand how our customers capitalize on events as a source of content. Being data enthusiasts, we wanted numbers to attach to what we’re seeing. We recently surveyed users of more than 40 of our customers’ calendars to ask them about how they interact with the calendar, and how they find out about the latest events. Their answers drove our point home: Focus on transforming events into content to build your brand and drive engagement before, during, and after your events.
You can download the full results here, but we’ve pulled out some key statistics in this post. Note that the survey was performed at higher education institutions, but the lessons apply to any organization.
1. Blend in-person and online components of your events
Events offer a great opportunity to connect your online content marketing strategy to offline, in-person interactions. Start by giving your events a prominent place online. Our survey respondents certainly value being able to access information about events online: As you can see in the chart below, 68 percent said the online event calendar was one of the most useful features of our website.
In addition, be sure to engage prospective event attendees online before they arrive at the offline event, and after they leave. In our survey, events were the most popular type of content on Facebook, and second most popular on Twitter. For example, you can create content such as:
- Press releases
- Social media posts
- Online activities or contests where the experience continues on-site
- Twitter hashtags that encourage attendees to live-tweet the event or post photos on Instagram
On the flip side, it’s also important to give your online outposts a prominent presence at your events. For example, during the event, you can:
- Display a live social media feed in a prominent location
- Include website and social media URLs on any swag or giveaways
- Announce the URL of your online event calendar, so people know where to look for information on your next event
Remember: Your online content begets offline content, and vice versa. So cross-promotion is a win-win for all aspects of your content marketing plan.
2. Keep conversations going before, during, and after events
Events are built on social interactions, so logically it follows that people would want to talk about events with other people who plan on attending. In fact, 53 percent of our survey takers said being able to leave comments on online event listings was important to them.
Organizations strive to create memorable events that will prompt attendees to keep the conversation going. Because offline interactions have more staying power in peoples’ memories than a brief online exchange, creating powerful event-related content gives your audience reasons to stay engaged with your business long after an event has ended.
To use this to your advantage, encourage attendees to leave reviews on your online event calendar, blog about their experience, and even post pictures of the event on their own social networks. And, if you are seeing a lot of organic conversations taking place around your events, you can harness that enthusiasm by featuring key attendee posts, photos, and/or reviews on your blog or event site.
3. Create engaging emails about events
Do you struggle to send out emails or newsletters that people actually open, rather than relegate to the dark depths of their email trash? Here’s some encouragement that your efforts aren’t being wasted: Among our survey respondents, 82 percent said they want email reminders for events they’re interested in attending.
In addition, 59 percent reported that they would like to learn about events via an email newsletter. By giving event details a prominent spot in your email content, you’ll benefit from better open rates and more engaged email recipients. You can then direct your readers to other event-related content, such as blog posts, hashtags, or your event calendar, for more details.
4. Treat event listings themselves as content
Don’t leave event listings out of your content marketing strategy. Posting event listings on an online event calendar provides a marketing “two-fer,” because the event listing can serve as content that can be just as valuable as the content delivered at the actual event.
Let’s look at a college events calendar as an example. While current students may enjoy attending on-campus events, prospective students may be interested to see that there is a rich variety and robust quantity of events listed. For instance, our survey found that 62 percent of current students said they visited the college’s website to research the local social scene before deciding to attend the school. By applying content marketing best practices to event listings, colleges can make themselves seem more interesting, engaging, and appealing to these prospective students.
Similarly, businesses can employ the same strategy: Communicating key highlights of your organization’s culture and goals through event listings can help you attract prospective leads and customers. Start treating event listings just as you would any other important piece of content:
- Optimize them for search by including all the juicy details
- Share them as announcements across multiple platforms
- Get creative with your content design to make each listing robust and interesting to look through
5. Create robust, image-rich event listings
You wouldn’t haphazardly publish a blog post without ensuring that it had interesting content, a title that will hook readers in, and great visuals, right? Event listings should receive the same content marketing care and consideration.
Let’s take photos, for example. You may already know the power images wield. They correlate with double the number of page views, help sites rank higher in search results, and get shared more often than content that doesn’t have a visual component. Well, event listings are the perfect place to showcase interesting images along with your captivating content.
Go ahead and get creative with event descriptions and details. Maybe even throw a video in there. According to our survey, 61 percent of respondents want to see informative and engaging details included in event-related content. And when the event is over, you can update your web and social media content with pictures of attendees and their activities, to extend the conversation and start to generate excitement for your next event.
6. Optimize event listings for SEO
Featuring fresh, dynamic, and updated content in your listings will certainly appeal to peoples’ inherent desire to stay on top of relevant events. But it can also help boost your business’ rankings for relevant industry searches, as well:
People often share links to event listings on their own sites or social media accounts, which will help you increase back-links on your site and demonstrate your site’s popularity to search engines. Keeping your online events calendar chock full of fresh content will help you easily grow the number of pages on your website. In addition, creating unique meta titles and meta descriptions for each event listing will help you rank higher for keywords your attendees and target audience are searching for.
7. Embrace user-generated content in event listings
One way to step up audience engagement with your content marketing is to encourage user-generated content, as people often feel more connected to your organization and your events when they are given the opportunity to submit their own content. In fact, 60 percent of our survey respondents felt it was important to add their own events and opinions on event calendars. Moreover, it fosters a sense of belonging that can translate into increased page views, engagement, and event attendance.
8. Deliver on-the-go event content with an app
With the rising ownership of smartphones, delivering content that’s targeted to and formatted for mobile use is more essential than ever. Our survey takers certainly recognize the importance of this strategy, as 78 percent of them said they were interested in accessing event details through a mobile calendar app.
When creating event listing content for the mobile audience, be sure to incorporate responsive design techniques that optimize the experience regardless of the device it’s viewed on. Or, by offering your events calendar content through a dedicated app (like this one, created by Flirt Interactive for Content Marketing World 2013), you can focus your content marketing strategy on the specifics of engaging mobile users.
With these eight ideas in your marketing arsenal, you should be well-equipped to transform your events into powerful content marketing. It won’t be long before your online events calendar turns into your best (non)secret content marketing weapon.
Has your business started turning events into great content? We’d love for you to comment and share your thoughts and ideas.
See more examples of content marketing in action at live events by registering to attend Content Marketing World 2013, September 9–11 in Cleveland, Ohio.