If you're organizing an event, online exposure is critical to getting people there. Social media has emerged as the single most crucial factor in online digital marketing campaigns, with Facebook and Instagram leading the way.
But while organic social media has been an important force over the years, the potential reach of organic content is often much lower than people think. In order to make sufficient impact, it's more important than ever to focus on the paid side of social media and to convince your association’s leaders to give it a try.
A major reason: Organic growth on social media is diminishing before our eyes. Facebook recorded 16 percent such growth in 2012 but just 2.27 percent in 2015. Making waves on Instagram with organic marketing alone is also getting much harder due to multiple algorithm and structural changes. As that platform is tweaked to give preference to its commercial income, events relying on organic results alone are often left out in the cold.
Different Types of Paid Content
Social media users can often distinguish between organic and paid social media posts and campaigns, but that doesn't mean all paid content is the same. Event organizers can benefit from various options across all the platforms, with each campaign benefiting from an expansive and considered approach. The most important thing to remember: Different social platforms appeal to very different demographics, so choose a platform and ad type capable of meeting your target demographic.
For example, while 37 percent of American adults use Instagram on a regular basis, the number almost doubles for the 18 to 29 age group and reaches 75 percent among the 18 to 24 age group. In this demographic, Instagram is practically as popular as Facebook, which enjoys 76 percent coverage among the 18 to 24 age group and a much higher reach among all adults at 69 percent.
It's not all about reach and age brackets, though—each platform offers different ad types, customization options, and pricing structures. Consider this: In addition to precise targeting options and built-in A/B testing tools, Facebook will allow you to re-market to people who have recently visited your website, and even allow you to capture leads without asking them to leave Facebook.
Image-based ads are the cornerstone of both Facebook and Instagram. On Facebook, you can include 125 characters of text plus a headline and link description in addition to the image. Facebook also includes Boosted posts, which lets you put spending behind an already highly engaged organic post but without additional customization. Instagram’s in-feed photo ads look just like regular posts bit with a small “Sponsored” tag in the top right corner.
Video ads can be incredibly effective for events because they allow you to showcase past iterations of your event or highlight future assets, speakers, and performers. Facebook video ads come in all shapes and sizes, from small snippets to 240-minute promotional videos. While video ads can be effective on Instagram too, the image-based nature of the platform does lend itself more to still images in many situations.
Both Facebook and Instagram include various options that mix and match still images with video content. On Facebook, Slideshow ads create videos from several images; Carousel ads combine up to 10 photos or videos with separate links; and Collection ads highlight various products directly in your Facebook feed beneath a cover image. Instagram also includes Carousel and Collection ads, with the carousel swiped through by the user and the collection allowing up to 90 characters of text, and multiple pieces of content which allow for authentic storytelling.
Creating Stories, Making Memories
When organizing an ad campaign for your event, it's important to create stories for your audience in order to make memories and inspire action. While image and video-based ads can be highly effective, both Facebook and Instagram also include a Stories feature for a more immersive experience. Rather than being specifically selected, Facebook Stories are an option under Automatic Placements. Instagram Stories function in a similar way, with photos or videos up to 120 seconds long displayed between people’s organic stories. The trick here is to create native authentic content that looks as if it’s a friend rather than over-produced or repurposed content that seems to be a straight ad.
Get Personal with Messenger
In the age of social media, advertising is not all about reach; it's also about creating conversations and building authentic relationships. Facebook Messenger continues to make waves as a promotional tool, especially for event organizers. With Messenger, you can interact with your audience in real time, utilize chatbots, and answer questions about the event. This allows you to reach out to people on a personal level without the negative connotation associated with some advertising forms. People are 3.5 times more likely to open such a message than a straight marketing email, with more conversations leading to greater community engagement and more ticket sales.
Whether it's based around business, music, food, or something else entirely, running a successful event requires a forward-thinking and multi-pronged approach. Organic social marketing can still be effective, but the paid end of social media helps create a stronger buzz for your event. So, integrate paid opportunities judiciously into your overall event-marketing plan.
David Gater is president of Brown + Blonde Social (www.brownandblonde.com), a social-media-first ad agency that specializes in the marketing of experiences.