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How to use Facebook to make your events a success
May 1, 2017 | Inga Rundquist

There are few things more frustrating than pouring your heart and soul into planning an event and then having it flop. Attendance is low. The energy isn’t there. And worst of all – people walk away with a brand experience that was nothing close to what you envisioned.

Getting people to attend an event isn’t always easy. Let’s face it – we’re all busy and more often than not, the couch can look pretty inviting…

While the traditional methods of promoting events are still valid, social media has proven to be an incredibly powerful tool to fire up event attendance. The results are impressive considering the cost of advertising on social media, especially when compared to more traditional methods of advertising.

We’ve been working with our friends at Niabi Zoo for a few years now and social has proven to be an integral part of raising awareness of zoo events, which in turn helps bolster attendance and increase brand equity. While they’ve always had a good turnout for their events, they were looking for a way to fire up attendance. We were eager to help!

Let’s take a look at some of the tactics we employed…

What’s the message?

When we started helping the zoo with its marketing efforts, one of the first things we did was create strategic messages that could be used as a basis for all external communications. This set the foundation for an integrated marketing program that reiterated the brand’s key messages and ensured all tactics were working towards a common goal.

What did this look like? Any and every piece of communication that would be read by the target audience contained the zoo’s strategic messaging. From print ads to newsletters to media interviews and of course social media posts – everything was working from the same playbook.

This created consistency in messaging, which solidified the zoo’s brand position in the marketplace. When everyone starts working from the same playbook, beautiful things start to happen!

Go where your audience is

Next, we took a long hard look at the zoo’s target audience. Most of the events that occur at the zoo are designed for families with kids. Zoo Camps and the zoo’s annual Egg Hunt are two examples.

How do you reach this demographic? You go online! Parents are more web savvy now than ever before. Millennial moms comprise a group more nimble with the Internet and mobile devices than Gen X and previous generations.

Because of this, Facebook was our primary choice in raising awareness of the zoo’s events. According to the Pew Research Center, three-quarters of online parents use Facebook. Mothers are more likely to use Facebook than fathers, with 81 percent of moms and 66 percent of dads using the platform.

Have a plan

With this knowledge tucked away in our back pockets, we devised a plan that consisted of a mix of Facebook editorial content, events and ads about the zoo’s events. This multifaceted approach enabled us to create a consistent “drumbeat” online that our parent audience would see in the weeks leading up to the event.

For example, in addition to seeing multiple posts about the events in their newsfeed, parents would also see an ad about the event on the platform and be prompted to RSVP via a Facebook “event.”

Target your message

To maximize effectiveness, we used Facebook’s powerful targeting tools to ensure our messages only reached those individuals who would be most likely to act on them. There are countless ways to do this.

One way is to use Facebook’s targeting options within ads manager. You can target parents based on the age of their children.

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Or you can get more specific by targeting moms using DLX partner data. This is sourced from “U.S consumer data on where consumers shop, how they shop, what products and brands they purchase, the publications they read, and their demographic and psychographic attributes.”

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Augmenting these targeting options with custom audiences specific to your brand can make your efforts even more effective.

For example, you could upload email lists or membership lists to Facebook and create custom audiences for advertising based on those contacts. This is a great way to make sure people who attended an event in the past are aware of it again.

You can also tell Facebook to serve ads to those individuals who’ve visited your website’s calendar page over the past three months. Or to people who’ve engaged with your Facebook page by liking posts or commenting on them.

Results

With a multi-faceted social strategy in place, Niabi soon saw its event attendance increase.

For example, response for Niabi’s Zoo Tots program was so large they were forced to “slow down” marketing efforts to prevent too many people from signing up – what a good problem to have!

The response also extended to the zoo’s Jr. Zoo Keeper education/intern program, and for the first time in history Niabi now has a waiting list of participants who want to participate. Because of our strategic rollout of the campaign, the program also filled up much earlier than usual, giving employees the opportunity to focus on more pressing matters as opening day rolled around.

Attendance for the zoo’s annual Egg Hunt more than doubled two years in a row from ~300 to close to 700. In fact, attendance was getting so high, the zoo started to worry it might run out of eggs and candy.

Finally – when the zoo opened its doors for the 2017 season this spring, attendance was through the roof. First-day attendance rose about 5 percent over previous years.

There you have it – the proof is in the pudding! With a well thought-out strategy and lots of knowledge about your audience, social media can be a powerful way to fire up your marketing, raise awareness and ultimately increase foot traffic to your events.

Want to try this approach for your brand? Or want to learn more about what we did? Give us a shout!

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