The Internet is a noisy place. There are approximately 4.33 billion active Internet users around the world. These users visit approximately 1.7 billion websites that exist on the Internet today. Also, 3 billion people around the world have at least one social media account. Experts project that digital advertising expenditures in the United States will increase by approximately 85 percent by 2023, from 108 to 201 billion dollars.
All of this to say that when you are promoting a virtual event, it can be difficult to break through the cacophony of content, conversations, advertising, and promotion appearing on potential attendees’ digital feeds. How do you reach your intended audience and stand out from the crowd?
As the virtual event market grows and demand increases, smart event planners should search for fresh new ideas to have in their digital marketing toolbox to remain competitive and profitable. Fortunately, the digital world is constantly evolving and changing, so there are plenty of new opportunities to discover.
When planning your digital marketing strategy for a virtual event, think in terms of the Earned, Paid and Owned Media Model (EPO). We’ll explain what each means below and offer some new ideas to consider.
Owned media are digital channels your organization creates and/or controls. This includes your website, ticketing landing pages, blog pages, podcasts, email campaigns, and social media channels. These channels are effective because you control the content and the implementation, as well as the budget. Here are some new ideas to consider:
- Create a new social media account to reach a fresh audience (i.e. Snapchat, YouTube, Medium).
- Generate and offer free usable content on your website or in an email campaign to broaden awareness of your event (i.e. infographics, e-books, or white papers). Make sure to collect emails for future marketing.
- Schedule pop-up virtual events or meetups on your event platform before event day that highlight a unique detail of your event.
- Record your virtual event so that those who can’t attend the live event can view it later on your website.
- Include an invite to your next virtual event.
- Create and use consistent and memorable hashtags on all digital marketing channels.
Earned media happens when external sources (i.e. attendees, media, social media followers) organically share your content, speak about your event, or otherwise talk about your brand either online or in person. In the age of influencer marketing and online review sites, these channels can be incredibly impactful. Consider these ideas:
- Encourage deliberate online sharing before and during your event (i.e. “Join me at XXX” social media badges or sharing buttons on all digital platforms and in emails) using your memorable hashtags.
- Inspire sharing with a contest or challenge (“Share our post and enter to win a free e-book”).
- Pitch an exclusive story with insider content to an industry thought leader who maintains a popular blog or podcast.
- Offer a media partner a sneak peek of a “moment” at your event that the media just HAS to cover such as an immersive VR experience.
- Empower your employees to become brand ambassadors. Ask them to network on their own social media channels and share your event marketing materials with colleagues and friends.
Paid media occurs when you pay for digital marketing or advertising. This includes search engine marketing, retargeting, affiliate marketing, social media ads, and sponsored content.
- Be strategic with your digital advertising. Use geotargeting, geofencing and other tools that target your audience in terms of industry, profession, where they are online, and their motivations and goals.
- Find a new audience with social media lookalike or tailored ad targeting tools.
- Pay a professional influencer to promote your event. While influencers who share your content on their own can be an earned media tactic, paid influencers tend to have more followers and online reach.
- Place an integrated display or video ad campaign in online industry newsletters, websites, e-zines and blogs.
- Leverage your exclusive content by offering snippets via sponsored content, collecting emails for future marketing.
The EPO digital marketing model uses a holistic and integrated approach but that doesn’t mean you should be an expert in every area. Choose your methods wisely. No matter which of these new ideas you choose, make sure to calculate your expected ROI and keep track of your results. There is no reason to spend time and resources on an idea that doesn’t deliver. The consequences are too costly.