According to Rich Millington, of community consultancy Feverbee, “There’s a world of things people running events can do to get more from their audiences, and communities are the place to do it.”
Why is that? Well, because in many ways an online community is like a virtual event that’s always available and on demand.
There’s written and multimedia content that can be split by channels and badges for different subjects. There are expert profiles for speakers, delegates, and members of the community. Private or open rooms can be created for different seminar discussions, conversations, and networking. The focus of the community, and what brings it all together, is that shared interest in the subject that’s the same as the shared interest in the event.
Live events account for 24% of annual spend in the average Chief Marketing Officer’s total B2B marketing budget. That is the single largest marketing investment most marketing departments make each year. So making that investment count is crucial.
But actually, whether you run events as part of your marketing or customer engagement programmes, or you’re an event/media company, there are significant benefits to using an online community.
#1 Year-round engagement = a ready-made audience
During your event you have an engaged, enthusiastic audience interacting with your brand. The key is to extend that engagement year-round and even expand it to people who couldn’t attend.
This means you have more interaction and marketing opportunities with your audience than you would have done from a one-time event. But it also means you can actively involve them in the planning of future events, facilitate member networking, and build anticipation for further face-to-face meet ups.
It can also reduce the risk of no-shows by engaging delegates way ahead of time. Given that the average no-show rate for paid events is 10%, while free events can have no-show rates in the 50% range, this is well worth doing.
Essentially you’re creating an owned audience for your brand and reducing the marketing effort needed to re-build the same audience for your next event.
#2 Showcase speaker and brand expertise
Your speakers are probably the biggest draw for your event. An online community allows you to promote their expertise ahead of time with both profiles and thought leadership content.
For brand-owned events the community offers a similar function for showing off internal expertise. Both to attract event attendance, but also build a trusted relationship with prospects and customers.
#3 More sponsorship or brand placement opportunities
With an online space for your event, you have more to offer sponsors (or if it’s your own event, more opportunities for brand engagement).
You can create advertising space in the community, sponsored content, webinars or whitepapers, suddenly your options are far broader than events stands and sponsored seminars.
#4 Get more from - and enhance - your event content
The content at your event is so good that you can charge people to consume it. By making the most of online community multimedia capabilities, premium content and training course functionality, you can repurpose that content in a number of different ways.
That’s as well as being able to enhance event content with supplementary material, from blog posts to speaker videos.
#5 Help your attendees retain what they’ve learnt
This is linked to number 4, in that the content you create around the event can be of genuine value in helping your attendees retain the knowledge and understanding they gain at the event.
The Forgetting Curve, developed by Hermann Ebbinghaus in 1885, shows that without any extra effort, more than 50% of what we learn is forgotten within an hour, two-thirds by the end of the day and 80% by the end of the month.
One of the best ways to combat this phenomenon is spaced repetition of the learning - i.e. revisiting it on a regular basis. So providing supplementary and follow-up content from your event can be of huge value to delegates (and people love it when you give them something they value).
#6 Facilitate networking pre-, post- and during the event
Events are about people. Hearing from experts, and networking and learning from peers. With the right community tools you can facilitate that networking at every stage of the event process, until it becomes self-sustaining.
For example, inviting delegates to join the community, or even specific discussion groups, when they sign up for the event can help ensure they form relationships with other attendees from the get go. This increases the likelihood they’ll definitely show up and provides you with a heads up of what people will want to talk about at the event.
And from the other side, post event you have the opportunity to encourage continuation of discussions that happen in real life by creating and inviting people to new groups based around those ideas.
#7 Gather ideas and feedback to drive higher attendance and engagement
The best way to guarantee people turn up to your event is by putting on speakers and content that you know is going to appeal to your audience. If you have an all-year round community, you immediately have a fantastic sounding board and ideas generator for future event plans.
This is something that we’ve seen our customers OECD do for their annual forum, using their Forum Network (see this post for their latest call out).
Communities are also a great way to follow up with attendees after the event, gather feedback and immediate thoughts on what could be improved for the next one.
Convinced, but not sure where to start? We’re always happy to have a chat. Comment below or contact us.