Azure Collier

my take on social media marketing and its impact on how we work, live and consume

Why I’m not participating in restaurant week: Your Facebook posts don’t link to your menu

On paper, restaurant week is a great idea. If you haven’t heard of restaurant week, it’s a week out of the year where the restaurants of a community offer special prices and menus to drive people to local dining establishments.

Pretty cool, right? Eat local! Spend local! I’m for it.

Until the restaurants and organizers of restaurant week try to execute the event online. What happens is the organizers cobble together a horrible looking website using every font available in their publishing platform, hastily throw up a Facebook page and attempt – but fail – to provide prospective diners with the necessary information.

I’m not talking about the dates and the list of restaurants themselves. What I’m talking about is what every diner who searches for a restaurant online is looking for: the special restaurant week-only menu.

Aside from reviews on Facebook and Yelp, the menu is a key factor in the decision making process for which establishment gets our money. What are you serving? Do I like it? Will my friends/kids/family/co-workers who have gluten-free/picky eating/vegetarian issues be able to enjoy anything on your menu?

For some reason, restaurant week event organizers don’t get this, and they link to everything else besides the menu in their Facebook posts. They link to the Facebook pages of participating restaurants, the restaurants’ homepages, and their aforementioned terrible event website. All the links on the event’s website are also typically to the participating restaurants’ homepages. Although they did a good job reminding fans and posting delicious food photos, after post after post on one local restaurant week’s Facebook page linked to everything but the menus.

Linking to the homepage of a restaurant does not bring me to the restaurant week menu because restaurants typically build a special page for it. The restaurant owners and workers and their marketing folks know where to find it – they spend every day on their website. But the prospective customers who may use restaurant week to try you out have no idea where that special menu is or how to get to it. They don’t use your site every day, and they are not going to spend more than 2 clicks trying to find your menu.

So you’re going to get a scenario like the one I experienced with my friends this week. We picked a day, and then chatted on Facebook messenger to find a restaurant we could all agree on. The local restaurant week’s webpage listed the homepage of 18 participating restaurants. After a few tries of searching and failing to find the restaurant week menus, we decided to try the restaurant week of another nearby town. We found the same situation with the next town’s website, and they had 42 restaurants listed. Who has the time or energy to look all over the interwebs to find the restaurant week menus of 42 restaurants?

Restaurant week fail. We gave up.

I’m not the only one who feels this way. Here’s one Facebook fan’s response to the Restaurant Week Menu Quest:

Restaurant Week Facebook Post

Do not make customers work to complete a call to action. They will give up.
So my point is this: If you want people to do something, link to the thing you want them to do. This is not just for restaurant week. This is for any marketing anyone does anywhere, no matter if you’re doing it for an event or your business. Do not make people work to follow through on the call to action. It’s that simple. You want people to come to your business. Make it easy for them to come to your business. You spend a lot of time and money on your websites and social media marketing. You want prospective customers to view all the pages of all the fabulous things you have to offer. I get it. Just get them there first. If they want to come back, and want to learn more by perusing your Facebook posts and website, they will.

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Why aren’t people attending your events? 3 event marketing don’ts

If you’ve ever planned events, you know how frustrating it can be if they don’t turn out the way you thought. Fortunately for me, I’ve planned smaller meetup-type social events that aren’t the fundraising kind. Even if only a few people show up and have a few drinks and a few laughs, you and your guests can consider it a successful evening.

You would think that social media marketing would give event planners a huge leg up to get tickets sold and butts in seats. It’s summertime right now – a busy time for events – and my friends and I are checking out festivals and meetups on a regular basis.

But I’ve seen so many huge, basic event marketing mistakes that make me wonder if anyone is forking over their dollars to pay an admission fee. Here are 3 event marketing don’ts. Names and identifying features are blacked out to protect the guilty. Hey, I’m annoyed, but I’m not a jerk.

Don’t forget vital information – like the time. And LISTEN to your Facebook fans.

I recently paid $112 for 2 tickets to a brand-new music festival. Happy to do so – my husband and I love one of the bands that’s playing, the festival is 5 miles from our house, and neither of us had plans for the day.

The problem? We’ve heard about the festival for a month, and – even after buying the tickets – could not find the time that it starts and ends. Anywhere. Not on the festival’s official web page, not on their Facebook page, and not on the Ticketmaster site. Despite that, we bought tickets anyway (again – we do not have plans that day and we are really excited to see one of our favorite bands), but none of our friends purchased tickets because they wanted to know the start and end time before committing.

So I decided to ask the festival organizers to give us basic information that should be part of any event’s public-facing digital and social presence. And this happened:

Facebook Festival No Time Listed

I asked organizers about the time, and – instead of answering me – they liked my comment. What?! Did they even read my comment? I just paid $112 for tickets. Tell me when I need to show up. Why is it so hard to find this out? By the way, their answer was wrong. They officially released the schedule on their website since that post, and the entertainment begins an hour later.

If you are having an event, please make sure the time and date are EVERYWHERE. And make sure the information is CONSISTENT. I’ve never had this experience anywhere else, and it is ridiculous. Attending an event should not involve attendees begging organizers to tell them where to show up.

Don’t put the burden on your attendees. And be professional.

I love 5K races. There’s a few local 5Ks that I’ve participated in since moving to New England. I know – 5Ks are mostly an all-volunteer effort, and sometimes that means you’re not going to get top-notch, professional marketing. But you should make an effort because it could make a difference.

This email is from a 5K I’ve participated in for the last 5 years. The first year, organizers sent an email and did not use blind carbon copy. Everyone on their list was in the To: line. So unprofessional. This year’s email takes the cake:

5K Email

They sent a reminder through the registration service – my Gmail flagged it as possible Spam. And the organizer tells his potential attendees in a poorly-written email to register ASAP so he doesn’t have to deal with last-minute registrations like he did last year.

Excuse me?

Last-minute registrations are NOT my problem as an attendee for a 5K race. There are a lot of people who do wait until the last minute because of weather. Your communications to attendees should be professional (check your spelling and grammar!), provide the facts, and thank people for even considering your event. That’s it.

Be mobile-friendly

Here’s a reality: A large portion of your audience is finding your event information via mobile. And that’s because a smartphone is an important part of our daily life –  79% of adults age 18-44 have their smartphone with them 22 hours a day. We’re using mobile when we’re meeting up with and talking to our events and making plans. We’re using mobile while we’re watching TV at night. We’re on our smartphones when we’re waiting in line. We are using our smartphones as a way to plan how to spend our money and our free time.

Please make it easy for us to find information about your event, and don’t make us look at things like this:

Event Calendar

Can you read this calendar? I can’t. Unless I squint and scroll, and use an un-pinching motion to zoom in. And I’m probably going to click the wrong link because sometimes links are too close together. No matter how much I zoom, I can’t aim that well with my giant finger.

Your website and your event information need to be easy for me to find, read, and scroll on a mobile phone. If it’s not, I’m going to give up and check my email. Or check out my Facebook and Instagram apps. Make sure your font is not tiny. Don’t overload your page with lots of paragraphs and photos. I don’t want to spend 5 minutes scrolling. Give me the basics on one page. Not sure if your event info is mobile friendly? Try it out on your phone, or ask a friend or colleague to check it out. Can they find what they need right away?

What should you do?

I’ve covered the don’ts today, but what should you be doing? Check out my posts on marketing best practices. Or add your suggestions in the comments. If you’ve found examples of event marketing gone wrong or event marketing done right, I’d love to hear about it!

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15 tips for using social media marketing for nonprofit events

Yes, I know it says Tweeter (I didn't create it). But having the social info on table tents was progress!

Yes, I know it says Tweeter (I didn’t create it). But having the social info on table tents was progress!

I’ve volunteered for my local United Way the last two years, but I’m not building houses, helping with community gardens or raising money. I’m using my social media marketing skills to help the agency with social media for their events.

My role is to engage their audience of volunteers and supporters before, during and after events, including traditional save-the-date/registration, thanking volunteers when the work is done, and creating and sharing multimedia. Most of the work takes place during the event day – including live posting and working with a group of volunteer photographers who provide images and video content.

After helping with several events – including annual Martin Luther King Jr. service days and the Day of Caring – I’ve learned a lot of tips on how to use social media for nonprofit event marketing, and I’d like to share a few of them with you:

Working with the nonprofit staff, volunteers and supporters

1. Create a content calendar – Meet with event organizers at least two months prior to your event to plan out your social media communications. Include save-the-date messages, registration reminders, linking to monthly newsletters, and highlighting sponsors and participating organizations. Balance your event content with your everyday content so you’re not just talking about the event all the time.

2. Meet with everyone who has access to the organization’s social media profiles – It’s important to review basic social media marketing best practices to prevent oversharing, to know who is posting what content, and to review social media etiquette (such as not liking your own posts).

3. Look before you post – If you are a Facebook admin, you will get alerts when a fan interacts with your page or content. You don’t get alerts if another admin has posted to the page. Even if you have planned your content with the other admins, someone will forget. Check the time and the date of the previous post to avoid oversharing.

4. Integrate your marketing – Remind event organizers to include links to the nonprofit’s social media sites on every communication that goes out about the event, and make sure you have a sentence or two that lets volunteers know that they can find event updates there during the event day.

5. Follow your supporters – It’s important to thank your supporters – those who gave money to your cause, as well as those who sent teams to participate in your event. Get a list of supporters before the event day. Make sure your nonprofit’s page likes their pages, and your Twitter account follows their accounts. When you thank them on Facebook or Twitter, tag them. They’ll be notified that someone’s talking about them, and any interaction they have with that content will be seen by their fans, and so on.

6. Encourage volunteers to participate – If your volunteers don’t know that you’ll be providing live updates throughout the day, they won’t know to check your Facebook page or tweet about the event. Let them know in your event communications. Tell them at the event kickoff. We have lots of younger volunteers at these events, so – at one point during event kickoffs – one of the organizers holds up their smartphone and tells volunteers it’s OK to use it. We usually create an event hashtag for Twitter, and we’ve been getting better about sharing it and the social media info during the kickoff –we had table tents with the Facebook URL, Twitter handle and Twitter hashtag on display at the Martin Luther King Jr. service day this month. Volunteers had plenty of time to pull out their smartphones and follow us as they were having breakfast.

Working with volunteer photographers

All of the events I’ve worked on have involved projects that require physical labor. A few of them have involved multiple locations, so the following are tips for working with volunteer photographers under those conditions:

7. Use Dropbox to gather multimedia –You’ve got multiple people who are shooting at multiple locations and are producing dozens of large image files. Dropbox is the easiest and best way for you to receive those images. Create a folder for the event and share it with your volunteers ahead of time. New Dropbox users have trouble navigating the site, so setting this up ahead of time and providing instructions for uploading photos will make it easy on your volunteers and yourself.

8. Minimize your uploads – During an event day, I’ll edit as many images as I can and post them all at once in a Facebook photo album around lunchtime to show fans the progress that’s being made. I’ll wait for more photos to come in, and then add the rest of the images that night or the next day in one bulk upload. By adding a ton of photos at once, that action appears once in the newsfeed and will keep me from oversharing.

9. Provide some photography guidelines

  • No butts – Volunteers who are working at the Day of Caring or the Martin Luther King Jr. service day are typically doing a lot of bending over – working in gardens, painting rooms, or hammering nails. So you’re going to get a lot of photos of butts unless you point this out to your photographers. I don’t know about you, but I really don’t want a photo of myself bending over to appear on Facebook. Ask your photographers to slow down, take their time and find a more flattering angle.
  • Smiling and candid shots are great – These events are about working hard, but they’re also about teamwork and having fun. Encourage your photographers to get group shots at project sites. These are great images for nonprofits to add to their website, blog or promotional pieces about their programs.
  • Ask for the top 10 – Save yourself and your photographers some time by asking them to send you the top 10 photos from each project site. It’s not realistic to use every image that was shot that day – no one wants to look through a Facebook album of 300 images to try to find themselves.

Working at project sites

On event day, your role is dependent on technology, so make sure you have everything you need:

10. Wifi – Does the event site have wifi? If so, get the account name and password ahead of time. If not, consider purchasing a mifi/wifi card to create your own wireless hotspot.

11. Social apps – Are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, HootSuite, or TweetDeck installed on your phone? Do it before the event day so you’re not trying to remember logins and passwords on the fly.

12. Electricity – Are there outlets on site, and are there enough? You might think about bringing an extension cord to support your laptop power source and any chargers you need.

13. Batteries – Are all batteries charged for digital cameras and video cameras?

14. Cell phone contacts – Add your event staff and volunteer photographers ahead of time so you’re not digging through notes or paper lists to find their contact info.

15. GPS – If you’re traveling to several project sites, consider using an app like Waze to get turn-by-turn directions.

This is a long list, but it’s essential if you want to get the most out of social media for your nonprofit’s service days and events. If you can think of any other tips, please share them in the comments!

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