What Online Communities Can Learn from Events

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Events are a time-tested tactic for getting people together and increasing engagement between organizations and their audience. They’ve continued to be successful even as technology has changed and people’s needs have shifted.

That should be a dead giveaway to the rest of us – event planners and hosts are doing something right. We can all learn from that, including those of us with online communities. Here are five ways you can use your event experience to give your community a leg up.

Divvy Up Tasks

Hats off to all the solo event planners out there – it’s hard.

Most events aren’t planned and executed by just one person. They’re put on by a team of event planners, marketing pros, the CEO, and perhaps some outside professionals who are brought in as extra hands. Having more people allows you to divide and conquer, making sure nothing falls through the cracks and your event runs smoothly.

Manage your online community in the same way. Create a team that not only includes one or more community managers, but also involves your CEO, support team, marketing division, and other departments. Your CEO can post announcements to give them extra authority, and your support team can answer questions. The more people you have, the more value you bring.

Prioritize Audience Research and Marketing

When have event pros ever left attendance to chance? You use data and feedback to find out what your attendees are most interested in, then create amazing events based on that information. Even then, you don’t stop. You continue helping events gain momentum through marketing promotions on social media, email, direct mail, and more.

The same applies to the community sphere. Just because you create a community or host an event in your community does not mean people will join and find value in it. Instead, research your audience. What do they want? What would be valuable to them? Build your community around that, then market it. Social media, email promotions, and ambassador programs are all good tactics for getting the word out.

Social Media Traction Does Not Equal Engagement

Speaking of social media, make sure you use it wisely. It’s a great promotional tool, but social media engagement does not necessarily mean a big turnout. Facebook and Meetup, for example, are both notorious for high likes, shares, and RSVPs, but usually bring in far fewer live attendees.

There’s a difference between social media attention and real engagement. Focus on substantial activities and contributions in your online community. Don’t just look for “likes” or even “recommends.” Encourage your members to write posts, author blogs, and volunteer. Those activities will be far more effective in bringing people closer to your organization.

Give People Incentives to Participate

Events are full of swag, giveaways, contests, and recognition. It makes people feel special and gives them an extra reason to attend. Take advantage of gamification to do the same in your online community. Badges, ribbons, and other awards can give people a fun reason to participate and keep coming back.

Host Sessions in the Exhibitor Hall

Events have been known to not only host sessions in the exhibitor hall but serve meals there as well. This creates a primary gathering place that’s full of action and drives traffic toward sponsors and vendors.

Successful communities often use similar tactics in their open forum. By starting with a central place for engagement and concentrating all activities located in the central forum, communities feel more active more quickly. Later, as engagement increases, organizations can create additional communities for more targeted discussions.

Events and Communities Work Together to Increase Engagement

The connection between communities and events is hard to ignore. Communities can use several of the event industry’s most successful tactics to increase their own engagement and, on the flip side, events can use communities to extend conference engagement.

Many event professionals are already doing this by creating private event communities to get attendees talking weeks or months before the event kicks off. They post teasers about the venue, food, sessions, and giveaways. Engagement continues as attendees connect during the event and after it ends as sessions are posted to the file library to generate additional discussions.

Communities can take up the energy, creativity, and ideas from live events to improve both event engagement and long-term engagement with the organization as a whole.

We want to thank our partner, Higher Logic, for contributing this article.

About Higher Logic
Higher Logic is an industry leader in cloud-based community platforms. Organizations worldwide use Higher Logic to bring people together by giving their community a home where they can interact, share ideas, answer questions and stay connected.

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