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.

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.

Is Facebook fan page advertising useless?

This week, a controversial Gallup poll declared that social media was all but useless, and that nobody was influenced by social media ads and it was all a bunch of hooey.

I was immediately suspicious that results from the Gallup survey were skewed by the print and TV media. Mainstream media are late to the social game and totally threatened by the amazing reach of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and You Tube — now reaching millions and even hundreds of millions–numbers that vastly exceed print media.

They’re also probably very threatened by Facebook advertising, which is much cheaper than print/broadcast, and reaches that oh so desirable Millennial demographic that doesn’t read or watch TV anymore.

Since I live in Facebook stats all day long, I know the truth — one post can reach more people than an article in the New York Times. Sure, Rupert Murdoch and Ted Turner are no doubt losing sleep over that.

Facebook ads, and Yelp, also, can be targeted with laser-like focus on extremely niche local demographics — something print media can’t do quite as well because print is either niche and national or broad and local . Print media and TV are rarely niche and local.

Internet radio still does a lousy job of targeting its ads to any meaningful niche. Local radio still thrives because it’s both targeted and local.

I’ve been doing PR (press relations) since the days when we used fax machines and FedEx — before the Internet existed. Back then, print media was king. Getting an article that reached 100,000 readers in a national print magazine was a big deal. I think some people are still attached to the “prestige” of Print but do not realize that they can actually reach bigger numbers with social media, with far more control over their message.

Print is still very valuable — but now more because it drives traffic to your website and gives you SEO rank in Google.

In the good old days, it was an even bigger deal to end up in a big newspaper like the New York Times and reach 1 million readers. If you got on TV you might (woo hoo) reach an aggregate of 2 million people through multiple TV news stories and a video news release after spending $250,000 on a press conference and a product launch.

Times have changed. Now you can reach just as many people in a few minutes with a single Facebook post or self syndicated blog post — or half a billion with a You Tube video.

PR IS DEAD — LONG LIVE SOCIAL MEDIA?

I’ve been saying “PR is dead,  long live Social PR” for a few years now. I was a little ahead of the curve. I was also sitting around listening to the phone not ring from PR clients, and watching stories not appear in publications that were disappearing, so I was ahead of the curve and got into social media.

Now it’s clear that shift has happened.

Social media is not optional anymore. If you’re not leveraging social media to amplify your message, it’s as if you don’t exist.

Social media is now the front line of most successful marketing programs. Social media is where you distribute your message first — and later it’s picked up by the news media.

(The exception is if you are a publicly-traded company. If so, then SEC regulations require that you announce news on the newswire first, and your key media are pre-briefed under a non disclosure agreement.)

Traditional PR is still very important, but it serves a different role now–in tandem with social media. After your story appears in the news media, they use their larger networks to “syndicate” your message to their networks. You then in turn amplify the message further by syndicating their content on your networks.

Articles and reviews in mainstream media also provide credibility and great content for your website and social media to leverage, and they will boost your search rank (SEO) in Google forever.

WITH SOCIAL MEDIA, YOU MAKE YOUR OWN NEWS

Social media is the “information hub” of your marketing wheel — and your personal social networks at the “hub” that links to other social networks and communities worldwide. The press and publications are some of those networks–but no longer the primary one.

In the old days, you sent press releases to actual members of the press for distribution. Newswires were only available to the press.

Nowadays, you are the press and you syndicate your news over social media, in addition to the press. A press release on the wire now reaches everyone on the planet at once.

Here’s an example of the reach a press release typically gets now on the Internet. As days go by, this number increases, infinitely, and many of these impressions remain on the web forever.  A press release mentioning a company traded on NYSE or NASDAQ would get much more impressions — this was what I got for a small business — 32,000 in two days. This doesn’t include the amplification from self syndicating this story on the client’s social networks. It would be difficult for a small business to get out the word that fast with traditional media.

Example of the traffic generate in two days from a well written, key word tagged press release.
Example of the traffic generate in two days from a well written, key word tagged press release for a small business.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOCIAL MEDIA CONNECTS COMMUNITIES GLOBALLY

Here’s another example of that from the Unify.org campaign that illustrates how the Unify Facebook fan page links to other Fan pages and organizations, creating huge amplification for each post. (A single Unify post is often shared more than 5,000 times, reaching literally millions of people worldwide with no advertising.) Even with Facebook’s new restrictions, by utilizing this kind of networking, you can spread your message very rapidly and globally.

Illustration of overlapping social media communities. This strategy helped build Unify.org into one of the largest communities on Facebook. I helped write the strategic plan for Unify and was part of the core group of social media experts behind Unify.
Illustration of overlapping social media communities. This strategy helped build Unify.org into one of the largest communities on Facebook. I helped write the strategic plan for Unify and was part of the core group of social media experts behind Unify.

This strategy helped build Unify.org into one of the largest communities on Facebook. I helped write the initial strategic social media plan for Unify and was part of the core group of social media experts that helped ramp the page up. This is now one of the most viral social media communities on the planet.

As you can see in the screen shot above, it’s very possible to reach 1 million people with a single post if it’s shared, tagged and amplified with well targeted paid Facebook “boosting.” 


 

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

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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.