I spent a fun half-hour chatting it up with Ed, who’s a good friend and fellow media enthusiast. He told me how he spends most of his time these days working with inner-city gang leaders to mediate disputes. It makes social media marketing seem rather unimportant.
As a frequent speaker at events of all sizes, I’ve had a chance to observe some of the best practices conference organizers used to promote their events through social media. In most cases, these efforts cost little or nothing more than your time.
Here are some suggestions for leveraging social channels for event promotion. I’m sure I haven’t covered all the possibilities, so please contribute your ideas as comments. We’ll look first at tactics the can work for any event, then I’ll propose a few ideas for large conferences covering multiple days and many speakers.
Events of all sizes
Set up a unique landing page for each event. You need a single Web address that people can refer to in their social channels. Use this page to describe and “sell” the event, not to gather registrations. Send visitors to a different landing page to register. If there are several events in the series, create a unique landing page for each.
EventBrite is a great service, but I recommend against using it as your event landing page. Use a page under your own domain and use EventBrite (or similar services) for registrations.
Publish an announcement on Yahoo’s Upcoming or Eventful. They help you publicize to a local community. Also consider professional associations, which may give you a calendar entry for free.
Regardless of the size of the event, set up a Facebook page or create a dedicated event sub-page under your Facebook page. It costs nothing and gives you access to the extended social networks of registrants and potential registrants. When people “like” your page, that action is shared with everyone in their network. The average Facebook member has 130 Facebook friends. That amplifies your message pretty quickly.
Create a Twitter hashtag and promote it to your colleagues and registrants. Ideally, the hashtag should be unique to the event (#AcmeForum11), but it’s OK to use your organization’s hashtag if your main goal is to build your brand.(#AcmeForums). Use the hashtag in all your communications and always link to the event landing page.
Schedule Twitter promotions to go out at different times of the day, including on weekends. Free clients like Tweetdeck, Seesmic and HootSuite make this easy. If you’re trying to attract an international audience, don’t forget to schedule some promos to go out during the local work day in those areas. If you can customize to the local language, that’s even better.
Ask registrants for a Twitter address and then follow them on Twitter. Retweet their messages from time to time. They’ll notice you and are more likely to follow you and retweet your event-related messages.
Use a unique tracking code with each promotion and make sure to use a different code for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and e-mail. You want to know which sources are sending traffic to your landing page so you can better focus your resources.
Link to the event page from your e-mail signature line. Make sure others on your team do this, too.
Create short-code URLs using a service like Bit.ly. Many services let you customize the short code to something that’s easy to remember, like your event name or hashtag (for example, bit.ly/AcmeForum). Do that.
Your speakers and fellow organizers are your best sources of social media promotion. Make it easy: Create suggested messages for them to use in each medium (For example, “Come see the latest in Acme widgets. Special discount if you use this URL http://bit.ly/AcmeForum“). It’s better that they use your message than create their own. Create a couple of short messages for Twitter and a longer one for a blog or Facebook. Limit Twitter messages to 120 characters to allow for retweeting.
Provide a suggested tag for attendees to use when posting photos or videos from the event. This enables you to assemble photo galleries by stitching together tagged content from a variety of sources.
Create an event badge (right) that speakers can embed in their blog sidebars or on their websites. Link to your landing page using a custom URL. Don’t send speakers an image, but post the image on your site and send them an embed code. This enables you to tell who’s sending you traffic. It’s a good idea to offer speakers a special discount code they can share with their friends and followers.
Something that’s rarely done but worth trying is to customize discount codes and offer a rebate to attendees who successfully recruit other registrants. All you have to do is give each badge-holder a unique registration code to promote, and then track who sends you customers. Then refund promoters a percentage or fixed amount.
Create SlideShare and YouTube channels for your event. Post all appropriate pre- and post-conference materials there. SlideShare is a particularly good place to post speaker presentations as a way of raising awareness about follow-on events. Be sure to point to your event site from the SlideShare and YouTube profile pages. Embed media from your SlideShare and YouTube channels on your event website.
Content from past events is your best promotion for future events. Record as many presentations as possible and post them as podcasts or video podcasts. Be sure to provide an RSS feed so that potential attendees can subscribe to new content as it’s posted. If you can’t record the sessions, set up brief interviews with selected speakers and post them as podcasts.
Set up a branded Twitter account specifically for the event. This enables registrants to follow you to learn about developments in the program and it also creates a channel for post-event follow-up.
Use the Twitter account to promote announcements such as new speakers, sessions, sponsors and parties. Ask staff and speakers to retweet these messages in order to gain followers. Don’t forget to include the Twitter hashtag!
Create an event blog. Ask speakers to contribute posts of 300-500 words. Space out entries so that there’s a constant stream of new content. Focus speakers on writing about the topic of their presentations, not promoting their businesses. Promote each new entry on Twitter and your Facebook page. Post a description and link in relevant groups on LinkedIn.
Create an e-mail newsletter with frequency of at least every other week. Make it easy for website visitors to sign up for the newsletter, even if they don’t register for the event. Promote a newsletter sign-up page on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Be sure to post the content of each newsletter on a page on the conference website so that people can link to it.
Create a series of pre-event audio and/or video podcast interviews with speakers. You can use VOIP services like Skype and inexpensive recording software like Pamela to capture this audio. Post the podcasts on the conference blog and on a dedicated multimedia page on the conference website.
Create a “buzz page” that monitors mentions of your hash tag and automatically posts them to a comment stream. Here’s an example.
Send a summary e-mail to all attendees with referrals to conference materials on SlideShare and YouTube. Send people to a page on your event website that hosts that embedded content. The landing page should include calls to action to register for future events. A “repeat attendee” discount is a good idea.
Set up a survey form to capture evaluations from attendees. Google Documents supports simple forms at no charge. Publish the best comments as validation of the quality of your content. Here’s a simple form I use to gather feedback on my presentations. It took 10 minutes to set up.
Continue to use the Twitter account to update attendees and provide fodder for future promotion.
What did I miss? Tell me what works for you and for conferences you’ve attended.
There is actually little difference between podcasting and talk radio, but there’s a big difference between any kind of audio recording format and ordinary conversation. Most podcasts take the form of a Q&A interview with an expert guest. If you’re the host, here are some tips to keep in mind:
Prepare, prepare, prepare. The goal of the interview should be to make both parties sound good. The more time the host puts into understanding the topic and the expertise of the person being interviewed, the smoother things will go. It’s even better when the host can share interview questions in advance with the subject. That way, there’s no awkward fumbling while the guest comes up with an answer to an unexpected question.
Use the right technology. This is huge. Many people record podcasts using conference services such as Free Conference Call. While these are great for calls — and you certainly can’t beat the price — the quality of the recording sounds like, well, a conference call.
The best way to record an interview is in person using a digital audio recorder. If you can’t record in person, I recommend recording the call using a computer with a VOIP service like Skype. Any of the talk services from Google, Yahoo, AOL and others will work just as well.
If both parties are using VOIP and decent quality headsets with microphones, the conversation will sound almost as good as if the two of you were in the same room. Even if only one party is on Skype, the sound quality is still superior to that of a phone call. A key variable is to use a headset and microphone instead of the standard telephone handset. Companies like Logitech make headsets that deliver very good quality for as little as $30.
If you’re using a VOIP service, inexpensive software like Pamela, MX Skype Recorder and PowerGramo can record both sides of the conversation on separate tracks with outstanding quality. Gizmo is an open source option, but I don’t like the recording features as much as the commercial alternatives.
Make yourself scarce. Your goal as a moderator is to make your subject sound good. Limit your presence in the program to an introduction, questions and occasional comments on the subject’s answers. Unless the interview is really about you, don’t spend a lot of time telling personal anecdotes or restating what the subject said. Guide the conversation but don’t try to dominate it.
Make it a conversation. We’ve listened to too many podcasts in which the host was clearly reading a list of questions. In one of our favorites, the host habitually follows up each guest’s answer by saying, “Excellent.” It’s as if he’s relieved that the answer was completed successfully!
An interview is a conversation, not an exercise. Listen to what your subject says and be ready to follow up on an interesting comment. If the new direction causes a break in the conversation, stop and do it over. You can always fix interruptions in the editing stage.
Avoid yes/no questions. You want your subject to tell stories and expound upon opinions. Avoid questions that force the person to deliver simple answers. A good tactic: start questions with phrases like “Tell us about,” “What do you think about?” and “Give us examples of…” In other words, force your subject to go into detail.
Limit length. While I don’t like to give absolute guidelines for the optimal length of any podcast, 15 to 20 minutes is considered about the norm. If your guest is searingly interesting, let the tape roll, but in general, keep an eye on the clock. Avoid letting answers go beyond about 90 seconds.
Do it over. The beauty of digital recording is that bits are free. If you don’t like the answer your guest gives you, don’t hesitate to record it again. And again, if necessary. Guests will appreciate the extra attention you give to helping them sound their best.
Remember the ID3 tags. Doug Kaye of IT Conversations gave us this advice three years ago, and it’s some of the best we ever received. Most search engines can’t index audio, so your great work is invisible to them unless you fill out the ID3 tags. This is simply a text description of your program, but it’s very important because it’s the only means that search engines have to understand what you’re talking about.
If you want to shortcut this learning curve, contact us about our PodcastNOW! service. We deliver high-quality podcasts without all the trial and error. We also provide training services that can get you up to speed quickly. Dana can even turn you into an Audacity expert in no time using a screen share.
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I’m frequently asked if social media has value in a business-to-business context. The answer is emphatically yes, although these applications rarely get the publicity of their flashier consumer counterparts. Over the next couple of issues, I’ll look at where social media tools can deliver the most B@B value and how some companies are putting them to work right now.
The term “social media” is almost a misnomer in this context. Businesspeople usually aren’t looking to socialize when making buying or career decisions (LinkedIn is a notable exception) but rather want actionable advice as quickly as possible. That’s why the tools that work best are those that let people easily discover what they’re looking for and extract value quickly. Blogs, podcasts, video and discussion forums can all be effective.
In fact, some of the most ambitious corporate blogging campaigns have been primarily aimed at B2B. uses. Microsoft and Sun, which between them have about 10,000 corporate bloggers, use this tool to reach developers, business customers and prospective employees. The blogs are easily searchable and they allow readers to pose questions to the best sources of information.
Podcasts are one of the least appreciated tools for business-to-business communications. EMarketer says regular podcast listeners are twice as likely to have advanced degrees and to earn over $100,000 annually as non-listeners. Nearly every information technology company now regularly uses podcasts as educational tools. Their busy corporate customers appreciate the fact that podcasts let them consume information while driving, exercising or waiting for the train. It’s a great way to use otherwise unproductive downtime.
Discussion forums are the oldest form of social media around. They’re a great way to cut support costs by giving customers a way to solve their own problems. The new breed of social networking tools has given new life to this meat-and-potatoes application. Members can now link their activity to personal profiles and earn points for their contributions; the more questions they answer, the higher their status in the community.
In many cases, this status is enough reward in itself. In their best-selling book Groundswell, Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li tell of one Dell customer who saved the company more than $1 million in support costs by answering customer questions. He received no compensation for his work. Some people on LinkedIn regularly answer more than 200 member questions a week. For them, the reward is the status that they gain from showcasing their expertise. This can lead to promotions and consulting contracts.
There are even b-to-b applications of some of the flashier new social media technologies. Next week we’ll look at some of those.
David Strom and I have been on a roll lately with guests on our MediaBlather podcast series. Two weeks ago we spent time with Forrester’s Josh Bernoff, who co-authored Groundswell, the best social media marketing book I read in 2008. Josh is all about humanizing interactions between customers and businesses these days, and he shared some great stories. I have a feeling there’s a book idea floating around there.
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At this time of year, many publishers and bloggers do one of two things: look ahead at the future or back at the year just ending. Since Joe Pulizzi, Fast Company and iMedia Connection did a great job at social media predictions, I thought I’d rummage through my digital archives and offer my completely unscientific list of what made this year special for me.
Best Social Media Tool - That’s easy. It’s Twitter, the super-simple, deceptively powerful micro-blogging service that has people sharing their lives in 140-character increments. If you still don’t get Twitter, I feel your pain, but anyone who wants to practice marketing in the new media world needs to get with the program. If you need help, I’ll get on the phone with your people and tell them why it’s so important.
Best Social Media Disaster Story — Johnson & Johnson’s well-intentioned Motrin video turned into a PR nightmare thanks to — you guessed it — Twitter. To its credit, J&J earnestly listened, but the marketers’ failure to anticipate negativity and their eagerness to respond too hastily made this a bigger problem than it had to be.
Best New Face – Chris Brogan blew out of the pack to become one of the world’s top bloggers thanks to his prodigious output and shrewd self-promotion. He’ll soon hit 30,000 followers on Twitter and the 14,600 subscribers to his blog are a thing of wonder. I don’t know when the guy finds time to sleep. I’m fortunate to work with him on the New Marketing Summit conference and have a chance to learn from his success.
Best Book – Groundswell by Josh Bernoff and Charlene Li broke new ground by attempting to apply research and metrics to social media marketing. The book also told some great stories. Conflict of interest prevents me from choosing my own Secretsof Social Media Marketing, but that shouldn’t stop you from buying it!
Best New Software Application — In the ranks of software that tries to bring order to the barely contained chaos that is Twitter, TweetDeck does the best job I’ve seen.
Best Fall to Earth – Forrester reported that corporate enthusiasm for blogging was beginning to wane. That’s not surprising; most big companies do a lousy job of it. Expect retooling and new growth in the new year.
Best Viral Marketing Success – Cindy Gordon told just seven people about Universal Orlando’s plans to launch a Harry Potter theme park. Word of mouth spread the story to 350 million others in a matter of a couple of days. David Meerman Scott has the story.
Best New Product – The Apple iPhone 3G became the first true mobile Internet device and sold 3 million units in its first month. Expect plenty of new competition in 2009, which is only going to be good for consumers.Nokia has yet to play its cards.
Best Just For Fun – The most popular item in my newsletter is the squib about some crazy new Web resource we’ve found. Here are two of my favorites of 2008:
People always celebrate success, but they don’t give enough credit to really creative failure. Thank goodness, then, for The Fail Blog, a photographic tribute to failures big and small. Don’t look at this site in the office. Your colleagues will wonder why you’re laughing so hard. And don’t, under any circumstances, view it while you’re drinking milk, if you know what I mean…
This 49-minute podcast from iMediaConnection’s Brand Summit interested me not so much for the marketing case study (although it’s a very good example of viral marketing) as for the honest description of the barriers these two Kraft brand managers confronted in selling their word-of-mouth marketing campaign. You won’t often hear corporate marketers speak so frankly about internal politics.
Adam and Tyler had to repeatedly sell the concept of giving up control over the message to skeptical colleagues, corporate lawyers and top management. Even after the campaign had successfully concluded, they still faced opposition. In some cases, they dealt with it by simply ignoring it or telling people what they wanted to hear. There’s also a good account around minute 40 of how they entered the blogosphere to engage with online critics when the guidance from management and legal was to remain silent. Here’s a link to a written interview, but you’ll get a fuller story from the podcast.
Josh Bernoff has a nice wrap-up of the blog/Twitter/Facebook storm that erupted this past weekend over J&J’s ill-considered “Motrin Moms” ad. The company could have avoided the whole mess by testing the ad with a group of moms, who are some of the most active online networkers. Such a simple way to avoid embarrassment and the cost would have been minimal. Now J&J’s smarting from the whole experience. McNeiil’s VP of marketing has the mea culpa here.
The credit company is experimenting with a Facebook community that offers small business owners a way to connect with each other and to get business management advice from Visa. More than 21,000 members have joined and the repeat-visit rate is twice the industry norm.
Here’s a novel promotion for the forthcoming movie “The Day the Earth Stood Still.” 20th Century Fox is creating a global participation campaign that enables people to vote on what they would save if the earth truly stood still. From the press release:
Earth’s Vital List, which launches today, poses the question, If the earth was under attack what would you save? Consumers are asked to build a “Vital List” of 12 items (people, places or things) they would save on “the day the earth stands still.” Vital lists can be shared with friends encouraging feedback and votes on which items are truly vital. The world’s most vital items will be tabulated on a global microsite. The site also provides visitors with a view on how items are being ranked around the globe.
A countdown to the film’s US release (12/12/08) will coincide with a special reveal of the world’s 1,212 most prized possessions on MySpace.com/earthvitallist.com.
I recently criticized corporate bloggers for spewing happy talk while the financial world melted down. So it was nice to see this profile of Marcy Shinder, VP of brand marketing and stategy for American Express OPEN. Amex responded quickly to the Wall Street crisis with a series of articles and multimedia messages aimed at small-to-medium businesses and outlining what the crisis means to them as well as steps they can take to survive the downturn.
Metrics expert Mark Ghuneim suggests that we still have a long way to go in evolving our thinking about viral video metrics beyond view counts. Marketers are beginning to think more holistically about how to measure success. Quoting:
According to a recent FEED Company study, some 70% of ad-agency and media-buying executives plan to increase budgets for viral video marketing in 2009. In addition, 72% of ad-agency executives and media buyers say their clients are “interested” or “very interested” in using viral video as an integral part of their marketing campaigns….
“Favoriting,” commenting, linking to, embedding, social network amplification and other action all constitute a level of user attention that must somehow be accounted for and given appropriate value.
In addition, a marketing executive would also want to know how users were discovering their video, as well as how quickly the view counts were growing. The velocity of consumption and adoption is an important indicator as well as factors beyond the standard impression and stream data. For example, are bloggers talking about the video? Are users micro-blogging about the video?
With an average member earning about $110,000 a year and more than $100 million in investment capital in the bank, you’d think LinkedIn would be sitting pretty. Yet the company is laying off about 36 people. Smart move. Don’t let VC love make you fat and happy.
Om Malik has little nice to say about Jerry Yang’s stewardship of Yahoo. Yang now basically admits he should have sold to Microsoft when he had the chance and the collapse of a partnership with Google is particularly painful. With the economy now in the tank, what’s next?
BusinessWeek is all breathless about the energy that social networks brought to election day, and there are some good stories/examples here. However, listen to NPR’s story on turnout levels for a more sobering view. Turnout was good for the US, but we still lag far behind other democracies.
I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Paul Dunay for his weekly “Buzz Marketing for Technology” podcast. This was a treat for me because I can honestly say that I have listened to every one of Dunay’s brief, provocative interviews for the last year. He asks great questions. The only other podcast I never miss is Eric Schwartzman’s On the Record…Online.” So tune in and hear us discuss questions like, “If you could only have one social media tool, what would it be?” And subscribe to Dunay and Schwartzman if you want to keep abreast of what the thought leaders in social media are talking about.
The Word of Mouth Marketing Association has come up with a compact and useful set of guidelines for marketing to social media influencers. It’s available for review and comment through Oct. 20, after which it will be published.
Here is a passionate argument for a new form of engagement marketing in which the marketer’s task is to find where the customers are already going and to meet them there. Unlike a lot of social media enthusiasts, Tobaccowala sees a need for conventional as well as conversational marketing. The trick is to achieve a blend that invites interaction that enables customers to market to each other.
More than 20% of US companies have investigated “the exposure of confidential, sensitive or private information via a blog or message board posting in the past 12 months,” according to Forrester Research. Data is leaking out of companies at increasing rates as Web 2.0 tools spread and media becomes more portable.
Doug Kaye, the innovator who came up with the IT Conversations podcast site, continues to pursue his goal of capturing important events in audio. What’s “important?” Well, in true Web 2.0 spirit, Doug leaves that in the eye of the beholder. SpokenWord.org is a new effort to catalog all kinds of spoken content.
In this fast-paced and hilarious audio keynote from the O’Reilly Open Source Conference, Nat Torkington contrasts the major components of the open source stack to teenage children at various stages of development. It’s 15 minutes well spent.
Over at our MediaBlather more-or-less weekly podcast, David Strom and I have been interviewing a lot of successful social media practitioners lately. Here’s a roundup of some recent programs.
PR Strategies for Startups
This week Paul and David discuss some of the strategies that serial entrepreneur Jason Calacanis mentions in his subscriber-only mailing list (note: our recording is mistaken about where to find it) about PR strategies that have resonated with him. As he says in his post:
“You don’t need a PR firm, you don’t need an in-house PR person and you don’t need to spend ANY money to get amazing PR. You don’t need to be connected, and you don’t need to be a ‘name brand.’”
He talks about how you can be the brand, and be totally involved in what your company is doing. And always pick up the dinner check. They also talk about others who have succeeded in garnering positive press for little dough. Two jeers this week for Konica Minolta printers from David and Gannett’s reaction to the Gannett blog from Paul.
This week Paul and David talk to David Nour from Atlanta. He is a champion of using social networks for business purposes, both in terms of using the tools to extend his own networks and also to enhance the connections within corporate types.
David met David at the annual National Speakers Association conference last month and learned a lot of great tips in how to get the most out of LinkedIn and Facebook. He spends about an hour daily updating his profiles and connecting with his networks, and in the process has been able to consult to some of the world’s largest corporations. He says you need to understand what you are trying to accomplish at the outset, and also that these are early versions of the services and have limited functionality (LinkedIn’s Groups is a prime example of that). To be a great social networker, you need both producers and consumers to be active on each network.
Who says you can’t reinvent yourself after 20 years in the business? Not Chuck Hester. A veteran of technology public relations going back to the days of print, Hester has become a disciple of the business networking service LinkedIn. He uses LinkedIn to organize meetings and group dinners during his frequent travels and to maintain a list of hundreds of business contacts. When he wants to meet someone, he often starts with LinkedIn Answers or a query to his network. The strategy has drawn media attention and made Hester a master connector in tech media. And that’s paying off for his employer, e-mail service firm iContact. Chuck Hester shares some secrets of effective LinkedIn use in this interview.