Sometimes, nothing beats getting together with prospects F2F IRW—that is, face-to-face in the real world. It's so much easier to establish rapport and build excitement during live events. On the other hand, meetings and events are time-consuming and labor-intensive. Is it worth it to reach 40 people when a blog post or tweet can reach hundreds or thousands?
You can have it both ways.
Meetings are ephemeral, but they can live on—and work hard for you—online. You are, of course, already posting photos to your Facebook page and live tweeting during events. (Aren't you?) Now, follow the lead of these small business marketing super-stars to turn your meetings into marketing.
Any promotion is good promotion
It's easy to forget that the act of promoting your event ahead of time also bolsters your online presence. Post info about your upcoming meeting every place you can: Yelp, Craigslist, local event listing sites, newspaper calendars, the newsletters of professional organizations, your blog, Facebook page, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Treat these listings more like blog posts, recommends Scott McIntosh, senior account supervisor for Nashville public relations firm Lovell Communications.
"I try not to make it sound like a sales pitch. Yes, it brings awareness to your company, but you're really doing it to help people and give them information. I try to convey that in my messaging," McIntosh says.
When you do this, even if someone can't attend the actual event, he learns about you and what you do.
Your event listings may also contribute to your search engine optimization, according to McIntosh. While many of these sites tell search engines not to count external links, in order to avoid spam, you should get some Google juice from your listings, as well as clickthrough traffic back to your website.
Make the media
During the actual event, document it like crazy with photos and video.
McIntosh runs a monthly Meetup called Nashville Tech. While he often uses a professional photographer, casual digital shots snapped by a handy friend should do fine. Post-event, Meetup photos are posted to the Meetup page, Facebook, the company blog.
"These photos are so important, because the web is becoming visual," he says. "It's a very visual element -- and a good follow-up."
Event photos can be very effective ads for you as an expert, your company and your future events. When people see a rapt audience, groups happily chatting or a couple of networkers laughing, it shows them how much value the meeting had.
"We noticed we got a great response when we zoomed in on individuals, capturing the concentration when they take notes," he says.
McIntosh adds he's never had anyone object to their photos being posted. He makes an announcement at the beginning of his Meetup that he'll be doing so and asks anyone who wants to remain incognito to let him know. You should go a bit further if there's anyone prominent in attendance. It's a courtesy to your speakers, even though they most likely are presenting precisely because they want the exposure. And celebs in the audience may be more leery of lending their images to your promotions.
While posting video requires a bit more work, there are plenty of free or inexpensive tools and hosting sites that will let you make meeting videos available for streaming, downloading or embedding.
McIntosh has found that many attendees share the ideas, videos and pictures via their own social media channels. He says, "They send the information to their bosses who want to meet with us to discuss how we can help apply these ideas to their businesses."
Tagging, available on many media and social media services, helps you make sure that people actually see your follow-up. Few can resist that "you were tagged in a photo" message.
Reinforce the memories
Once your event is over, social media provides a way to keep your information top-of-mind to attendees. Posting and tagging photos and videos gives prospects a reason to come back—and to engage again with you and your brand.
ThinkThin, a maker of protein and snack bars, parlayed a celebrity guest appearance at a special event into an unscripted, spontaneous plug for its products. They did this by hosting a special event for children to encourage education about obesity prevention and invited Laila Ali, Muhammad Ali's daughter and a former professional boxer herself, to speak at the event. But afterward, the company didn't want to let the connection drop.
After the event, staffers posted photos on Facebook and tagged her fan page with Facebook's new page-tagging feature. They also wrote a 'Thank you from thinkThin' post on her Facebook wall and Twitter account before and after the event.
Evidently, this social media strategy kept thinkThin on Ali's mind. When she was interviewed by People.com's celebrity baby blog, she mentioned thinkThin as an important part of losing the baby weight. In fact, thinkThin was the only brand she mentioned during the interview.
Image credit: NWABR