The struggle is real. Promoting your event—the real way—is hard.
Let’s not pretend that social media actions or content strategies are easy and quick to execute. Also, let’s not deny that shares and likes aren’t your ultimate goal when promoting your event.
Let’s think for a second: You’ve published a Facebook ad announcing your upcoming event. The algorithm did its job by targeting the right people. Your ad accumulated a few dozen (or hundreds, if you are lucky or have a well-defined community) likes and shares.
Not bad, you’d say.
You’re right, but there’s one thing you didn’t take into consideration: People’s emotional reactions when they interacted with your event-related ad.
You can’t measure emotional reactions by shares and likes. You must dig deeper and analyze the comments your ad received (if any).
Moreover, you also have to evaluate if and how people shared your ad with their followers.
Did they express their enthusiasm about the event? Or, more directly, did they recommend your event to their audiences or friends?
You see, there are many types of marketing.
But if we think about a strategy umbrella that would incorporate every single effort you made to promote your event, everything would revolve around word-of-mouth marketing.
This is what you actually want: To get people talking about your next event.
No matter what strategy or trick you use, the main indicator you must pay attention to (even if you’re not completely aware of it) is maximizing your word-of-mouth marketing strategy.
The psychology of word-of-mouth marketing
Entrepreneur and famous marketer Andy Sernovitz dedicated an entire book to describing the hidden mechanism of word-of-mouth marketing.
According to Sernovitz, “People love to talk. People talk about products and services. People talk about hair color, cars, computers, sandwiches, TV shows, and floor cleaners. The stuff they use every day. People are talking about you and what you sell right now. It might be a casual mention. It might be a scathing attack. It might be a scathing attack posted to Amazon, where 20 million people will read it before deciding whether to buy your stuff. Or—it might be something really nice.”
Let’s adapt these ideas to your upcoming event.
People will talk about your brand, your previous event, the speakers you’ve invited, or the location you chose.
Everything about your event (from the date to the knowledge sessions) is a matter of discussion for others (aka potential attendees, leads, clients, or even haters).
As Sernovitz argues, “Word-of-mouth marketing is about earning that good conversation. It doesn’t matter whether you’re selling real estate, jelly, or jet engines.”
Let’s extend this definition by adding: promoting an event.
Sernovitz continues, “People will ask people about you before they decide to buy from you. We turn to people we trust first—friends, family, coworkers, and other people like us—when starting to look for something to buy.”
So what’s word-of-mouth marketing for your event?
It’s actually giving people a reason to talk about the event itself, making this good conversation easier.
You won’t find a more powerful way to accomplish your goals than by getting people talking about your event (and recommending your brand to their peers).
Why should you get people to talk about your event?
Instead of trying to accumulate likes and shares (without accompanying text), you should focus on accruing a big number of recommendations.
Reason #1. More recommendations will attract more attendees
Think about how Facebook Events works.
What’s your reaction when you’re unsure whether or not to attend an event, and then you see that at least one of your friends (or more) confirmed their presence?
Isn’t that a motivator to make up your mind and click on Interested or Attend?
When other people talk about an event and their intention to purchase tickets, this increases the chances of getting more attendees without any effort.
Your event “fans” will do the promotion work for you.
Reason #2. Your event will gain attention and momentum
Obviously, you shouldn’t think about word-of-mouth marketing as just a way to attract more attendees.
When people talk about your event, your chances to gain even more exposure will grow. For example, while gaining momentum and getting famous, you may have better access to influencers or media coverage.
Reason #3. Recommendations increase brand awareness
You can’t transform your event into an industry reference without being famous, but you can’t be famous if no one talks about your brand or your event.
Reason #4. You’ll get more leads and customers
Let’s say you’re about to buy a notebook. You’ve read all the customer reviews and watched tons of YouTube videos, and your research has helped you decide which notebook to buy.
Just before you order your notebook, you meet with a friend for a drink and casually mention that you’re about to buy an X-brand notebook.
Your friend looks at you like you’re crazy and says, “X-brand sucks! I bought a notebook from them and I wasn’t happy. I had lots of problems from day one, until I finally discovered Y-brand and purchased a notebook from them. Y-brand is so much better!”
I bet your friend’s words will make you change your mind.
As a result, you’ll ignore all that previous research you did on X-brand and buy a notebook from Y-brand. That’s the power of word-of-mouth marketing. And it works the same when it comes to events.
Reason #5. Recommendations can help build a community
Word-of-mouth marketing isn’t oriented on short-goals only, such as attracting more attendees or gaining attention.
Those people who talk about your brand and event will help forge a real community.
So don’t limit yourself in exposing the potential of word-of-mouth marketing. By seriously developing this strategy, you’ll be surprised by its long-term results.
How do you put all this to good use?
Here are a few word-of-mouth marketing actions to try out for your next event:
How to increase the word-of-mouth potential for your next event
To gain a better understanding of how you could apply word-of-mouth marketing and harness its potential, let’s take a look at what Andy Sernovitz has to recommend and how can you adapt it to your events:
Action #1. Find people who talk
Identify the talkers.
According to Sernovitz, the talkers are not your customers, and this is where most people go off-track. It’s wrong to ask your customer (or, in this case, your attendee) to tell a friend.
As Sernovitz argues, people who, for example, own Ferraris aren’t telling their friends to buy Ferraris. Those who talk about Ferraris are actually car junkies who think that it’s so cool to own a Ferrari.
The same thing happens with restaurants. If you go to the same restaurant each week (as a loyal customer), chances are you won’t really talk about it. If you go to a restaurant for the very first time, you’ll definitely share your experience the next day.
To make your word-of-mouth marketing strategy work, you must build it around the talkers. Who are they?
If you opened a hotel, you’d want to befriend taxi drivers, because they’re the ones who’ll recommend your hotel to newcomers on their way from the airport.
If you’re planning a brand event, you must find the “junkies” who love your products or are into your industry.
For example, if you were planning a fashion event, you’d want fashion bloggers and micro-bloggers (who won’t actually attend your event) to talk about it.
Do you get the idea?
Action #2. Give people something to talk about
You can’t maximize the potential of your word-of-mouth marketing strategy without designing specific topics.
As Sernovitz notes, word-of-mouth topics must be portable, repeatable, and emotional.
Real people don’t want to just repeat marketing messages verbatim. A word-of-mouth topic is not necessarily a feature or a spec—it’s just a great idea that gets people talking.
In other words, you shouldn’t build your word-of-mouth marketing strategy around your event’s knowledge sessions or speakers. You actually must generate extraordinary news that will get people to talk and repeat it accurately, without distorting the facts.
Action #3. Help spread the word
Things won’t happen by themselves. You must use tools to spread the word about your event. However, don’t forget that the tools actually don’t matter if you don’t first identify the people who’ll talk about your event and give them amazing topics to talk about.
As Sernovitz highlights, good word-of-mouth needs a little push. Bad word-of-mouth is easy, because when people are pissed off, they’ll be sure to make their emotions and messages known.
Considering this aspect, the tools aren’t representing the platform where people can talk about your event. It’s more of a little nudge; for example, simply asking people to spread the word about the event.
Action #4. Join the conversation
Brands that aren’t responsive or don’t participate in two-way communication are more likely to be seen as disrespectful and irresponsible. You must take part in the conversation. If there is a negative comment about your event, make sure to take responsibility and apologize, if necessary.
As a result, your attitude may help turn that negative into a positive and actually change the game. On the other hand, if someone says something nice about your event online, say thank you. Easy as that.
Action #5. Measure and listen
Tracking the results can be more fun than you think. The more you engage with the talkers, the bigger your numbers will be. As you can understand, this aspect is strongly tied to your online activity. On the other hand, don’t forget that your measurements shouldn’t revolve around social media numbers. It actually should reflect into the KPIs you must establish before even starting to plan the event.
Word-of-mouth marketing is a strategy that will actually help you connect with people and encourage them to do the work for you. There’s no other better way to increase the visibility of your event (and brand) than by spreading the word and getting people involved in positive conversations that will ignite memorable emotions and curiosity.