This is the #1 reason why your event, workshop or concert fails — and how to fix it.

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.

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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.

Jumping into video editing with Animoto

Jumping into the river of bliss!
Getting my toes wet in video editing with Animoto and YouTube
Getting my toes wet in video editing with Animoto and YouTube — it was time consuming, but the results were worth it.  Photo above: Tony Bisson, http://www.bissonphotography.com

I took the plunge into video shooting and editing with Animoto and a Canon DSLR camera. Here’s my experience and how you can get professional caliber video for your business on a shoestring.

Video is de rigeur for social media these days. You need video to convert those customers you send to your website with Facebook. You also need it to tell a story that can’t be told in still photos.

For my longtime client RiverGuidess Adventures, a pioneer in the “transformational river rafting” retreat, we’d been struggling for years to convey the magic of these events and falling short.  These retreats combine dance, yoga, healthy food and rafting in a very upscale and comfortable fantasy estate that is more golf course than wilderness.

Video is the best way to convey the magic of this property, the lavish catered meals and the very special vibe of the heart-opening transformation that happens on these retreats. They appeal to the lucrative and mostly untapped older Baby Boomer market and families with kids — an age group often ignored by events of this nature that tend to market only to younger Millennials.

The trips fit into a new category called: "Summer camp for grownups," or "Transformational micro festivals." It's an ever-competitive market with so many competing dance, yoga and festival retreats vying for people who can afford a $500 weekend.
The trips fit into a new category called: “Summer camp for grownups,” or “Transformational micro festivals.” It’s an ever-competitive market with so many competing dance, yoga and festival retreats vying for people who can afford a $500 weekend.

The retreats are pricey – $580 for a long weekend. To convey this value, and help transform the image from “hippie” to upscale, we have been sending pro photographers to each trip.

But every time, something was missing. Each photographer had a different artistic and personal vision of the experience that was not always compatible with our marketing goal — to attract the affluent “transformational” consumer and shift our appeal to a slightly younger demographic.

After struggling to direct outsiders to give me the results I wanted — I finally caved in and learned how to shoot and edit video myself.

I used a Canon DSLR  camera ($299 on sale at BestBuy) and a high speed 64 GB card ($200) to shoot  the video. Then I blended it with photos shot by four different professional wedding and event photographers plus a few images I shot on Instagram with an iPad.

I edited the photos in iPhoto and then imported the video clips and photos into a video editing app called Animoto.

This process took me more than 48 continuous hours — and resulted in 4 minutes and 30 seconds of video. This is about the average for how long it takes to edit video — generally one day per minute of finished video — so keep this in mind if you’re getting your feet wet. It’s time consuming!

The Canon DSLR is known as the camera of choice for Indie film photographers in Hollywood, but I found it clunky and hard to use. It also did not shoot well in low light (unless you add an optional lens.)

The quality of the resulting footage was sometimes very good, though (if I can just learn to hold it still and remove the lens cap!) I still found a DLSR awkward and heavy to hold and will be looking into smaller, lighter cameras in the future.

Animoto is an app that lets you host your images in “the cloud” — this solves one of the critical difficulties with video editing, storing all those huge clips. It also makes it very easy to share the process with the client or a team as the project evolves, and it includes some fantastic ready-made templates. It’s really not more difficult than making a Powerpoint and in some ways easier.  The other beauty of Animoto is that it can time your clips to the beat of the music– generating very professional and engaging results.

We added the royalty free songs from Animoto’s library of 10,000 songs. I did a keyword search for “summer” to find the uplifting song that conveys our “summercamp for grownups” theme.

Taking the plunge on the rope swing. (The woman in this photo is over 50 years old. The client wants to create an experience for older Boomers who want more comfort. We call it “glamping.”)

Taking the plunge into video

Animoto for Business costs $39 per month. (www.animoto.com)

Here’s how the video looks when hosted by Animoto – sharper than You Tube:

Is your Facebook fan page a cocktail party, a barbecue, a conference or a drum circle?

Social media is a virtual party.  Is your fan page a backyard barbecue, a formal cocktail party, a corporate conference or a drum circle?
Social media is a virtual party.  Is your fan page a backyard barbecue, a formal cocktail party, a corporate conference or a drum circle?
Social media is a virtual party. Is your fan page a backyard barbecue, a formal cocktail party, a corporate conference, a yoga class or a drum circle?

The funny thing about social networking is…we often forget that it’s just a virtual party. It’s not about amassing tons of “fans” so you can have the biggest party — it’s about inviting the right people and serving tasty snacks and drinks.

It’s about playful banter, music and laughter.

You know what happens when you talk sex or politics at a party — dead silence.

A cocktail party is NOT the place to pull out a gigantic billboard and say HEY BUY MY PRODUCT! (Unless you are a paid sponsor with a table or booth.)  And imagine if you pulled up your shirt and showed off your appendix scar?

But people do this all the time on Facebook! They forget it’s a party.

A great Fan page is an authentically engaged community where you have a conversation — even better if your tribe cares about what you have to say and shares it with their communities. At a party this is called gossip and word of mouth. On Facebook it’s called sharing and viral marketing.

Remember — a great party is not about QUANTITY it’s about QUALITY. Be selective. Invite the right people. Dress to impress — or stand out in the crowd. Serve good spirits and keep the music upbeat and the conversation as bubbly as champagne.

We are not collecting fans or contacts for Ego — we are collecting real human beings and we should care about them as much as we hope they will care about us.

Think about the real world equivalent of your Fan page. How would you interact in these different real world parties or events?

50 friends or less = backyard barbecue, workshop,  a drum circle.
150 friends or less = a tribe, a retreat, a big party, wedding, etc.
1000 friends or more = a conference
2000 friends or more = industry trade show, music festival
10000 fans or more = sporting event or concert
100,000 fans or more = gigantic stadium event
1 million fans or more = broadcast on television

And here’s a great metaphor for Fan pages from #socialmediamixology:

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You’re not just building a fan page — you’re building a community.

You're not building a "fan page"  -- those are real people. Real human beings. Treat them like people, not like a target market.  This is the audience we built for Wisdom 2.0 Summit -- it is also the fan page community. Same thing.

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I just designed a new banner for my Facebook, Google + and WordPress blog today — it’s a collage of photos of some of the conferences, festivals and events I’ve promoted with social media marketing.

The audiences are now the real world manifestation of the online communities we create to promote an event. The social media and the event are the same thing!

When you bring an audience together today, you are creating a community of customers and you need to maintain communication with them year round. It’s a huge commitment.

In other words, your fan page represents exactly what your product or event is — a community of real people. It can tell you their demographics, age, sex, education, where they live and even what time they are online. You can dig deeper and learn just about everything about them, personally and professionally.

This is a lot deeper than email. Think about it. “olive007@yahoo.com”  is about all you know a about someone on your email list. But on social media we know intimate personal details about each customer and what they look like.

With this unprecedented access to our customers comes a commitment to treat them with respect, humility and to pay attention to them. It’s not a one way message anymore, it’s a conversation.