Any event organizer knows how hard it is to find and engage new attendees. You have to understand who they are, where to reach them — and how to convince them to actually buy a ticket to your event. Bringing in new attendees takes a lot of work (not to mention time and money).
So what if you put more focus on retaining and engaging the attendee base you already have?
When you build a community around your event and keep that community engaged, you get a ready-made group of potential attendees once the time comes to start selling tickets. And you may even get loyal brand advocates who help you extend your reach.
Here’s how to keep in touch with these future attendees throughout the year:
Right away: surveys and social media
There’s no better time to start building buzz than when your attendees are still buzzing about your most recent event.
Send the surveys out within a day or two of the event ending, while excitement and memories are fresh. Ask attendees what they loved about your event — and what they didn’t — so you can improve their experience next time. By showing them that you value their opinion and feedback, you help build a lasting, reciprocal relationship.
On social media, recap the highlights of your event with a quick video or series of photos. This will remind your attendees of all they got out of your event — and give them something to share with their friends.
You can also post data about how many people attended, what the most popular performances were, or what got retweeted the most. You may even want to share interesting tidbits you learned from the post-event survey to show your audience that you’re listening. And show a little love to the attendees with a thank you letting them know the event wouldn’t be possible without them.
A few weeks later, you might post a recording of one of your speakers or a musical act. This once again reminds your community of the value of the event, and generates online chatter. It can also create a little bit of FOMO among those who didn’t attend — helping to expand your community even more.
Just remember to include a call to action in your posts — either to pre-register for next year’s event or to subscribe to email alerts for the latest news and updates.
A couple months later: blog posts and newsletters
Now that the buzz has died down from your last event, engagement gets a bit trickier. You’re in a downtime between events, and highlights from your last event feel less relevant.
So talk about something else.
By now, you know what your event community is interested in. You know what they do for a living and what they like most about your event.
Create blog posts about the topics they care about — whether it’s an up-and-coming DJ or a new app. These posts can drive traffic to your website and increase your event’s reputation as a leader in your space.
In addition touting your industry insights, you can create a diverse set of blog content, including:
- Interviews with performers, CEOs, chefs, or whomever your audience wants to hear from
- Round-ups of some of the top news in your particular space from around the web
- Guest posts and special offers from your sponsors
On top of social promotion, you can also send these posts out in weekly newsletters to your email list. After all, 91% of people check their email every day — making email one of your most powerful channels for staying in contact with attendees.
Halfway to the next event: Teaser announcements
Now it’s time to turn your attention squarely to the next event.
Start sending out teasers that announce performers or other details about the upcoming event as they are confirmed. If you can use photos or videos to tease talent, even better.
Send out a save the date and encourage your event community to share the details with their friends and to sign up for email updates.
Keep that steady trickle of announcements and teasers going over the next couple months.
Two or three months before: updates and promotions
Your tickets are on sale, and it’s time to start turning potential attendees into registered or paid attendees.
Refine your final pitches and use targeted channels like email to tell them why this year’s event is unique. Remind them of the value of last year’s event with video clips and photos. Start pushing promotional deals like early bird rates and VIP packages. Ramp up the frequency of your social media posts, and finally, double down on the channels that are driving sales.
As your event draws closer, you may even consider offering last-minute deals for past attendees to help you move those last tickets.
Done right, this type of year-round engagement will foster a community of loyal attendees who keep coming back for more.
For more ways to engage your audience all year long, check out the Essential Guide to Social Media for Events.