Merriam-Webster defines community as a group of people who have the same interests. Events attract people with a common interest. Are events communities? And if so, wouldn’t you want your community to be the best possible?
As planners we tend to look at our events as a finite moment. A blip in time defined by the opening of our registration desk to the end of the closing session. We are happy when everyone shows up, receives the right meal, participates in the correct field trip. We are especially thrilled when name badges are spelled correctly. We’re ecstatic when there are no issues at the venue, transportation worked flawlessly and all vendors performed beautifully. Perhaps a simplified view of the process; however as planners we prepare, execute and move on to the next event as soon as the doors close on the last one. We have a job to do, produce flawless events on time and on budget.
Marketing and Product Managers spend an exorbitant amount of money on these events, very well understanding the power of bringing people together around a product, cause or brand. The power of community here is undeniable. It builds personal connections and drives positive business outcomes.
They too understand the immense power of social media tied to the success of events. What is less understood is how you bring planners, marketers and product managers together to create meaningful and long-lasting event experiences around a product, cause or brand using the power of the event, social media and event technology. How does one extend that finite moment of the event into an everlasting community, generating industry intelligence, revenue and business development opportunities past the closing session of the event?
At Eventinterface we have seen first hand how a carefully orchestrated community building campaign can increase the ROI of an event, extended the lifecycle of the event and build long term virtual communities around a cause, product or brand.
One company using Eventinterface attracts on average 120 attendees to their bi-annual conference. They invite 500. The speakers are top-notch scientists presenting discoveries using the conference’s host technology. In 2014 the team decided to make an effort and build a community, opening up the conference post-event to the 380 prospect attendees not able to join in person. The strategy evolved around posting meaningful and exclusive content, presentations and engaging peers to invite the at home attendees to buy into the online private conference community. A community champion spearheaded the effort and discussions.
The strategy paid off. The client was able to increase engagement from 23% to 83%. Event revenue nearly doubled. Creating the community and committing to being the best community clearly benefited the client and the event participants. The still active community continues to provide business intelligence on the use of the company’s technology, normally something the client would have to wait to gather at the next conference.
Today we are sharing a handful of the lessons learned from this project, and others, and best practices to get your own community building efforts started. It’s not easy and requires strategy; the payoff however is well worth the investment. Over time the investment is returned multiple times over in increased brand loyalty, access to industry or product intelligence, boosted event revenue and the community will be viewed as the best in your industry.
LESSONS LEARNED AND BEST PRACTICES
Know your audience
Building a community requires the use of multiple tools. Know your audience and the social tools they use, and then make these tools a component of your overall strategy. Insure that your event technology works with these tools.
Commit to the community – everyone is on board
Community doesn’t just happen. The desire to build community comes from company leadership and should tie to the aspiration to being the best community. Communities too must have measurable goals, and there must be a designated champion managing the community, leading it to success.
Create "must have" content
People participate in communities to learn, network and be part of an exclusive group with access to member only content. Build a content library featuring exclusive articles by respected peers. Open up the community for conversation with leaders in the community.
Commitment to being the best requires investment in time, talent and resources. Community building does not start at the event; it starts at the time you send your first registration email. Invest in creating a sound community building strategy. Define what “being the best” means to your organization and define a plan around building the community and engaging your stakeholders.
Community does not just happen, especially at the beginning, you must engage with your audience by providing quality content, discussions and opportunities to connect with each other in a protected and judgment-free zone. You must build new behaviors and teach your audience to dial into your community for answers, feedback and discussions.
Analyze and utilize a treasure trove of data
Now that you have created and continue to manage the community you must learn to analyze the data shared and comments received by its members. The business intelligence delivered is invaluable to your organization. You no longer have to wait to connect with people at your events, you can now view real-time data, analyze it and implement lessons learned immediately.
EVENTINTERFACE AND YOUR COMMUNITY
Eventinterface is an end-to-end event and meeting management platform. It manages registrations and speakers. What sets us apart is the strong engagement and community building tools that allow planners, marketing and product managers to create the best communities in their industry around their brand, cause or product.
With Eventinterface you can manage your event elegantly and cost-effectively, and increase the ROI of your event by increasing engagement and new revenue opportunities around community building. Planners can use self-guided tools or our experienced team can help you develop the best community.