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!

Why mobile marketing is no longer optional

This is a guest post from my fellow marketer, friend and all-around fabulous person Heidi Tobias. If you don’t follow her on Twitter, do it now: @htoby.

By Heidi Tobias

Hand Tapping iPhoneIf I could see you right now, about half of you would be reading this on a mobile device (be it smartphone or tablet). One year from now, if I ask this same question, the results would be the majority of you would be viewing this via mobile. In your own life, how many times did you access the Internet this week? How many of those times was it via a mobile device?

As marketer, I need to communicate what my audience wants the way they want it.  Have you checked that your marketing messages are showing up and are showing you in the best light in our mobile world?

What is your mobile grade in this situation?

Whether it’s an email, website, blog or social media post with a link for more information or a way to buy a product, clicking the link should load the information I want. Right? Nope. What launches is it a game of chance (not in my favor).

  • A web page loads that is not optimized for mobile so I can not see a bloody thing. I can spend some extra time zooming in to try and take an action but if my  spare 10 seconds of time is finished I have to move on. Mobile Marketing grade: B
  • The whole site/page is done is in Flash and will not run on my phone or tablet. When I see a blank white page, I am unsure if this is the issue or the whole site is down. Not sticking around to find out. See ya! Mobile Marketing grade: F
  • A site designed for mobile appears (yay!), but the information contained is so limited that it has nothing to do with the reason I clicked in the first place. Mobile Marketing grade: D
  • This company has invested in a mobile app and is asking me to download it, regardless what the link promised me. Installing takes time and space on my device that I may not care to give you. Mobile Marketing grade: C
  • This company has an app, and I have taken the time to previously install it on my mobile device. So when I click the link, the app should launch to the information that was related to the link? Nope. I get stuck in an endless cycle of being prompted to download the app that I already have. (This is you, LinkedIn!) Mobile Marketing: F

Reality: The majority of people interacting with you and your brand are doing it via mobile. There is no simple solution for mobile that works for everyone equally. Think about why people come to your online content and what they expect. Then pick the answer that fills the need. Remember: 89% of smartphone owners will take some kind of action after looking up local content. I do not know of any business that can afford to ignore 89% of their visitors, do you?

Is anybody checking in?

foursquare buttonsI recently celebrated my third anniversary with foursquare. Since 2009, I have checked in more than 3,700 times on 988 days. I have 64 badges, 21 mayorships, and 48 friends, and follow 54 businesses.

After seeing last week’s Pew Center for Internet and American Life report, Cell Phone Activities 2012,  I started to think “Why am I doing this?” Location-based apps/check ins were not among the report’s top 8 cell phone activities. Pew did a study back in May about mobile location-based services, and only 18% of smartphone owners use them. Crazy coincidence? 18 percent of my Facebook friends are on foursquare.

At first, it was about trying a new social media site. I loved the bragging rights for mayorships, and I was one of very few people using it in my area, so I had lots of mayorships. I loved getting the badges too, but I’m not earning too many these days.

So why am I still doing this?

A large part of it is the routine. I check in every – single – day. It starts with the elevator ride to my office – check in to work (I don’t have a foursquare location for my house because my husband would rather keep that private). As soon as I pull up to the parking lot of any of my destinations, I get out of the car, click my remote key thingy to lock it, and open up the foursquare app. When I was in London earlier this year, I bought an international data plan so I could check in (and use the Internet and other apps) – I scored lots of points and got a sweet London Calling badge. My friends who attended Boston’s Social Media Day with me over the summer hovered over a table of social media giveaways – we each walked away with a complete set of foursquare badge buttons.

I think the other part that keeps me going is the possibility of getting a discount. But those are few and far between too. The Gap’s occasionally had some foursquare coupons, and so has Newbury Comics (a funky CD store chain in New England). Lots of places have partnered with American Express to offer coupons or deals, but I don’t have an American Express card. I get more benefits from loyalty cards (especially Panera Bread, Sephora and DSW) than I have in 3 years of foursquare check-ins.

It seems like there hasn’t been enough interest to sustain an app like foursquare. Most businesses aren’t aware of it, and the ones who are haven’t been leveraging it to appeal to loyal customers. They’re relying on those loyalty programs that give them better access to customers, who have to provide the company itself with their valuable personal information in exchange for an account or card. Some of its functions can be completed with other apps that have the advantage of ubiquity and popularity – check ins with Facebook mobile, and reviews/tips with Yelp.

Is checking in worth it? Not for me, not lately. One day, I’m going to get to the office and decide to check my email on that elevator ride to work instead of checking in on foursquare. That day is coming soon.