I’ve probably promoted at least 100 events, conferences, concerts and festivals with social media by now, and over time, I’ve learned what works and what fails. Too many events lose heaps of money and fail, and it breaks my heart to see event producers make the same mistakes that lead over and over again to failure.
Most of these events make exactly the same mistake.
They treat their event like an annual product — instead of seeing it as a year round community.
When you shift from “marketing” to your “customer” to “community building” and from “branding” to “belonging” you will see an exponential increase in loyalty.
Perhaps the two most successful examples of this is Burning Man — the annual temporary community in the desert, and the TED Conference.
Both TED and Burning Man began as annual events and splintered off into smaller, regional events all over the world that happen year round.
Both TED and Burning Man are events that grew up with the advent of email, the web and later, social media, and have built a presence that is equally strong in the virtual world and the “real world.”
Both TED and Burning Man have become desirable identities that symbolize a certain kind of “belonging” into a community that has meaning and status for its members.
Wisdom 2.0 Summit, which I had the opportunity to work with recently as a marketing consultant, is also cultivating and nurturing a year round brand that has created an almost fanatically loyal following that has now expanded into a global brand.
Musicians who have also very successfully built “families” instead of “brands” include the Grateful Dead and spin off bands like String Cheese Incident, who have cultivated fanatically devoted, year round tribal communities of their fans. Most community symphonies, art museums and ballets also understand this and cultivate year round communities by selling season tickets and by offering special member-only events.
If you want a successful turn out for your retreat, workshop, conference, concert, festival or event you can NOT wait until the last two months to do your promotion, blast them with email and ads and expect everyone to drop everything in their life and rush out to come to your event.
You are building a community, a family, and you need to pay attention to and nurture your tribe all year long.
If you are a musician, speaker, producer, workshop leader, etc. you must build a virtual social media community and a real- world live event community 365 days/year and not just one month before your event.
- You are not “selling tickets” — you are building a community!
- You are not getting “fans to your fan page” — you are building a community!
- You are not “adding names to your email list” — you are building a community!
- You are not “advertising to total strangers” — you must build a community of people you know!
Put yourself in your customer’s shoes:
On any given day there are thousands of workshops, conferences and festivals competing for that holy grail customer–someone who has free time and $1500 lying around in spare change so they can just hop on a plane and indulge in a luxury yoga conference, writer’s conference, retreat, workshop or drive 500 miles to a festival.
Maybe .001% of the humans on this planet have unlimited free time, no job, no kids, no pets, no commitments and a fat trust fund to blow on your indulgent fantasy get away, elite conference or yoga retreat.
The rest of us — the 99.99 percent — have to plan all year for these events in advance. We save up, drive the kids to Grandma’s house, beg our employers to give us time off, find a petsitter or a dog sitter and someone to water our garden and we use our frequent flyer miles or shop around for the best possible airfare well in advance.
If we’re lucky, we can go to one or two of these events — and we’re selective.
Get real. Stop chasing after the same mythological fantasy customer who is rich, self actualized and has no commitments and unlimited free time.
How about building a community so real people with real lives will feel like the belong to a tribe — and absolutely must be at the tribe’s annual gathering, which they anticipate all year?
Build a community and your tribe will save up and plan all year to reconnect with their tribe at your event.
How to build a community:
Community = communicate + unity. You must build an authentic community by engaging your tribe in a meaningful conversation. This means listening and dialogue — not just one way marketing at them.
Marketing is the conversation between people and brands!
Relationships are all we have. With the world around us, with other people, with ourselves. People are coming to your event for one reason — to meet and connect to a community. To belong to a community. To make friends, network and build relationships.
The community = your event.
The fan page = your event.
The email list = your event.
Stop marketing and start community building.
You must work at this 365 days/year — all year long. As you build your community, slowly, organically and gradually over time, you will not have to work so hard every year to “sell tickets.”
So who is in your community?
- Fans and attendees
- Performers, DJs, presenters, bands, workshop leaders.
- The venue and the local community around the venue (including government agencies, city council, law enforcement, fire, neighbors, merchants, and others impacted by your event)
- Consultants, employees, volunteers
- Press and local media
- Sponsors and vendors.
Try transforming your social media into a virtual version of your event. Engage your tribe in online teleseminars, video tutorials, photo albums, music. Give them a taste, day by day, of what’s coming up.
Invite them to small day longs and social events before and after your big event — to keep the tribe activated and connected.
The more you think of your customers as a COMMUNITY and the less you think of them as REVENUE the more successful you will be.
Invest in building your community. This community will serve you for years to come.