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.

Pinterest is the marketing bargain of the century — free.

This month, something incredible and unexpected happened. My traffic on the social media site, Pinterest, suddenly surged to 5,616 visits per DAY. (43,000 per month.)

At this rate, more than 2 million people could visit my Pinterest page this year.

Compare this to Twitter, where I obsessively tweet 20 times a day to get maybe a few retweets or this blog, which takes all year to reach 20,000 readers.

How did this happen?

What’s really strange is, I didn’t plan on becoming a Pinterest rock star. Pinterest is just a hobby, something I do for fun. But my Pinterest page has taken on a life of its own — pollinating pins throughout the Internet.

The Pinterest statistics (available because I created a Business account) tell me that most of my viewers are women, West Coast American, Canadian and Aussies, and that they, no surprise, are interested in exactly the same things that I adore — bohemian fashion, DIY found object crafts, rustic gardens, sacred interiors, the outdoors, flea market finds, vintage trailers, hammocks in the trees, outdoor music festivals, healthy food.

It’s a look and aesthetic that is distinctly me — and somehow citizens of Pinterest have decided I’m some sort of low rent Boho Martha and they like my style.

And clients tell me: “Meh….Pinterest is a waste of time for our brand.”

Not!

Just look at the statistics and growth on my page:

Screen Shot 2014-12-02 at 10.38.20 PM
If my website got traffic like this, I’d be in the top 1% of websites in the USA. Pins get shared — and as they travel, your traffic grows.

Pinterest does something that no other (free) marketing tool has ever done. It sends your “pin” like a little document, all over the planet — like a seed blowing in the wind. And everywhere it goes, this pin points back to your website. Where you are driving traffic to your webpage. Forever.

  • Pinterest users’ average purchase value is 126% more than Facebook users.
  • 47% of US online shoppers made a purchase based on recommendations from Pinterest, beating FaceBook & Twitter.
  • Pinterest is the 2nd largest driver of social media traffic after Facebook. 

Pinterest is the marketing and search engine traffic-driving (SEO) bargain of the century. And yet so few brands (except the really big consumer food brands) are taking it seriously yet.  Again, look at the traffic statistics for just one month:

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That’s 43,000 views this month. Why? And how do I make money from this? Pinterest’s stats reveal some clues: the brands that my followers like, the products they buy.

I have only 1700 followers on Pinterest, but those pinners can reach 2,000,000 people/year.

But wait this is what is truly amazing, and what most people do not “get” about Pinterest yet — those people don’t even need to be on Pinterest. My pins could land on Twitter, in a blog, Facebook, Instagram, another website, an email — who knows.  Pins, unlike Facebook, G+, Twitter or LinkedIn posts, are incredibly viral.

Pinterest is even more viral than other forms of social media posting because they are not tied to Pinterest — each and every one of those “seeds” it sends out, in the form of a pin, will link back to your website — forever — no matter how often it is repinned or where it lands.  While you can technically do this by sharing or embedding a Tweet or a YouTube video, it is just much more sharable and easier to do with Pinterest.

ARE YOU GETTING THIS YET? This is like, you can reach as many people with a Pinterest page than the entire circulation of the Los Angeles Times. More people than a Superbowl ad on TV.

For free.

And you still think Pinterest is “just for housewives in the Midwest posting recipes?”

Contact Giselle Bisson if you’re interested in learning how you can leverage Pinterest to help your start up start up, build your personal brand or drive more traffic to your website.

Remembering Windows 1.0 — 29 years ago today.

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In November of 1985, I was an editor in my first job at a tech magazine and my boss said: “Hey let’s walk over to this press conference. Maybe they’ll have free drinks. Something called ‘Windows’.”

It wasn’t even on my beat. I wrote mostly about gaming. But the press conference was just around the corner, at the Hyatt Hotel, no big deal.

It was a small ballroom, one guy at a podium, maybe 35 people there. No big flashy presentations or flashdancers or searchlights or anything. (None of the flashy presentation stuff was invented yet and Silicon Valley CEOs had not reached anything near rock star status.)

The young CEO, this guy named Bill Gates, with a mop of hair, and big goggle glasses, held up a box and kind of mumbled. He wouldn’t become unfathomably wealthy and famous until 1986 when Microsoft had their IPO. But today it was just another product introduction.

We clapped, ate shrimp and everyone left the room to go back to their office and file a story.

(You couldn’t file electronically back then — computers were stuck on your desk.) It would be months before my story would get typeset, laid out, flown on galleys to our printer in Chicago, and get distributed to our subscriber’s 100,000 newsstands around the world.

I wasn’t planning to be there that day. I didn’t know I was witnessing history. Windows 1.0 was not dazzling — but I kind of knew it would be important someday — the first graphical interface for business PCs. Before that it was all just green or amber characters on a black screen, or you had a Macintosh, which nobody at that time took seriously for business.

Windows was launched on November 20, 1985. On a floppy disk. You had to get another floppy disk mailed to you in order to fix the bugs.

When I remember how clunky, frustrating and hard to use PCs were in the early days. When I hold a smart phone in my hand now, with full color, high resolution video, that communicates anywhere on earth in seconds — it truly is a miracle.

What an honor for my friends and I to be the generation who helped build all of that.

You would not be reading this post right now without the creativity and guts of thousands of people who worked long and hard to build what became the Internet, email, networking, the PC, social media, blogging — no one person can take credit for it. It was a whole generation taking risks, arguing, debating, working long hours and sleeping under the desk.

The new generation in Silicon Valley is racing madly to create “apps” that basically just cannibalize something that is already useful. (Do we really need to “disrupt” everything?) I wonder if they have have any idea your technology skills needed to be in 1985 to do even something as simple as keep your computer from crashing long enough to write a letter.

We’ve come a long long way.

And now, I just hit that blue button that says “publish” and this will go out to thousands of people all over the world. Amazing.

PR is dead — long live social PR

pr is dead social prPR is dead.

Did you hear me? The career I’ve been in for 18 years — dead. Over. Toast. Done.

It’s evolved into something much more powerful and effective. Social PR.

I think that PR and social media are not separate anymore — and are in fact the same thing.

I’ve seen social media evolve over the past 30 years, from CompuServe to the WeLL to AOL to Craigslist to Ryze, then Friendster, MySpace, Tribe.net, blogging, and today, Twitter and Facebook.

Facebook is just another chat room. It’s all just a big virtual cocktail party.

But what has changed — dramatically — is how we influence other influencers today. And who those other influencers are.  They’re not just press anymore.

You cannot separate “PR” and “Social Media.” They must be on the same page. The strategy must be interwoven.

Your social media, PR, marketing, web and advertising teams need to talk to each other.

Your marketing strategy must be a social marketing strategy.

Your PR strategy must be a Social PR strategy. You must evolve from the 1990s idea that “announcing to the media” is any different than “talking to your customer”.

You’re communicating directly to the public.

Your brand isn’t just B2B, or B2C. It’s person to person. Human to human.

It’s not a one way broadcast anymore. It’s a multichannel conversation.

Today you talk to everyone at once.

Your customer is there. Your investors are there. The press are there. All in the same room.

You must take social media seriously as the front line of your brand, pay attention to it, and stop posting lame, idiotic, poorly written, typo-riddled, boring dreck.

Social media is the front line of your brand!

Social media is marketing + branding + advertising + PR + analyst relations + investor relations + customer service rolled into one.

Why is Facebook worth billions — and newsracks are empty?

Today, a single Facebook post can easily reach 1 million people. That’s more than the circulation of most daily newspapers.

A Facebook ad can reach more customers for $5 than any other form of marketing ever devised in the history of mankind.

But you’re blowing thousands of dollars on ad agencies, PR agencies and print ads?

And you’re outsourcing social media to the cheapest possible, lowest level employee you can find?

Get rid of that 1990s idea that a newspaper article is more influential than a Tweet, a post or even your own blog.

You used to have to own a TV network to have influence. Today, a kid in their bedroom could have more viewers on YouTube than Oprah.

A musician or DJ who happens to have 100,000 fans or friends could be much more influential than a columnist or a journalist. (Many magazines don’t even reach 100,000 subscribers.)

Have you taken the train to work lately?

Do you see anyone reading a print publication? I don’t.  This is what the train looks like on a typical morning in San Francisco.  And these guys in t-shirts are your target audience.

Do you see them reading the banners on the bus? Billboards? Newspapers? Do they look like businessmen in stock photos?

And they’re probably not reading your website on that little screen unless it’s mobile-enabled.

Morning commute in San Francisco on the MUNI train, 2014. Do you see anyone reading a newspaper? Most of these people are probably reading Twitter and Facebook.
Morning commute in San Francisco on the MUNI train, 2014. Do you see anyone reading a newspaper? Most of these highly influential business people are reading Twitter and Facebook on their smartphone or tablet.

You need to start taking Social Media seriously as the front line of your communications strategy.

It’s not an afterthought to be delegated to Interns, your receptionist, or “maybe I’ll get to it later”.

Social media is the front line of your brand.

Social media is where you get to tell your own story. Where you generate your own news. Where you build relationships with the media. And where you let your customers know about your press coverage.

But just social media isn’t enough. Because newspapers and magazines are still important. That’s because most readers discover the news on Social Media, and because reporters and publications have influential followings on social media.

Newspapers and magazines are still very influential –– they have high page rank and authority in Google, so getting mentioned in them does wonders for page rank and SEO. They drive traffic to your website — forever.

Social PR blends traditional mainstream print/TV/radio news media Press Relations with “content marketing”. (That’s a fancy word for: “photos with words on them.”

To do viral content marketing effectively, your messages must be created specifically to reach influencers who spread the word further. And you must include those influencers in your community.

This also means, simply, that your “friends” on your social network also happen to be reporters, freelance writers, columnists and editors and they “discover” the story ideas you share on their news feed. (This is kind of like sending out a press release only much faster.)

These days, instead of relying mainly on email pitching and press releases to announce news, I use Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to build relationships with press and influencers.

Try following and befriending every member of the media or influencer crucial for your product. You’ll be surprised how many follow you back.  And they’ll follow what you say — so make it great content, moderated by a professional who is talented in storytelling, community building, customer support, relationship building and conflict resolution. (Hint: they’re probably not even close to entry level.)

They spread the word for you to their networks, which include their Fan pages, Twitter and the blogs and publications they write for.

Some of these influencers are traditional print or TV press.

Others are simply well connected on Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram — but have influence equivalent to or greater than that of traditional media.

Try discovering who among your followers and friends champions your brand and spreads the word most frequently. Reward them. Thank them. Give them free tickets and favors.

Over time, you create authentic, engaged communities who will be advocates of your brand. Who tell your story. Who spread the word for you.

Do Social PR. Because, social media is the new PR.

It’s time to Zen your brand: The new Apple iWatch shrinks your social media content strategy.

How will your message communicate on a teeny tiny screen?
How will your message, logo, photo and brand communicate on an ever-shrinking, teeny tiny screen?

“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage to move in the opposite direction.”

E.F. Schumacher, “Small is Beautiful.”
A responsive website template can shrink and expand, yet the fonts remain legible.
A responsive website template can shrink and expand, yet the fonts remain legible. Don’t force the user to carry a magnifying glass to see your message!

When I was in art school, my teacher, Mr. Nick used to constantly say: “Simple says more.”  That stuck with me my whole life, and it’s my marketing mantra.

I’m constantly reminding my clients to simplify their message and branding and think small.

Now with the new Apple Watch and other smartwatches, social media marketers will need to shrink their messages ever simpler, bolder and smaller. We’re entering the world of the Dick Tracy two-way communicator and our messages will become both tinier — but they will also more aural, sensory and ubiquitous.

The time is now to prepare for wrist-top always-on marketing and Zen your brand so it’s wearable and portable.

1. Your website needs to adjust for multiple screen sizes. (Get rid of that old template and move over right away to a scalable, responsive template that can shrink and expand while keeping the fonts legible and readable.)

2. Scroll vs click. One long scroll is much easier to navigate on a small screen than a site that demands lots of clicks.

3. Can you touch me, can you read me? When the icons shrink down, your customer still needs to be able to touch them. Can they even see the words?

4. From poster to postage stamp. Your event poster needs to be readable on a smartphone–and you need both print and online versions. Get rid of all the small type and create bold, simple graphics.

5. Can your logo shrinky dink? Your logo must pop and stand out when it’s shrunk down to a tiny icon. Redesign and simplify right away.

6. Are you an icon? Your portrait photo should still be recognizable when it’s a 1 x 1 centimeter icon. (Think iconic — a consistent photo, consistent hair color and style and a consistent and memorable personal brand.)

7. Abolish serif fonts! Your content should have large, sans serif, bold type that’s easy to read when you shrink it to a cellphone screen.

8. Write in soundbites. Your Facebook posts should be Twitter sized — or even smaller.

9. Don’t annoy people with beeps and music. With notification messaging instantly available on a user’s wrist, they will see them far more often. Marketers need to be cautious about annoying the user with beeps and blips or especially websites with annoying music.

But what do we do when it all shrinks down to the postage stamp-sized screen of a smart watch in 2015? Now is the time to prepare for the ever shrinking, ever mobile world that your message will be seen in. No longer on a desk in a business setting — but possibly anytime, anywhere.