Just about everything has gone virtual these days. Work, school, social life, even movies and concerts. Sometimes it can feel like it all gets lost in one endless zoom. So the big challenge for organizers is… Showing people that virtual events are actually different and cooler and more interesting than anything else people can watch on their laptops, TVs, etc. Not easy. But doable… We checked out a few recent events, and took notes on some creative marketing techniques that got us excited to show up, virtually at least.
Some stuff to help get the word out…
Trailers and posters.
The cool motion graphics trailer.
The Virtual Adult Swim Festival recently released a trailer for their event — and it perfectly captures the channel’s commitment to off-beat comedy, good music, and left of the dial cartoons. The motion graphics are what really makes it stand out, including: an owl, a t-rex, Spaceghost, and even a hot dog in a recliner. Organizers that pre-recorded parts of their event might want to consider collaborating with a motion graphics professional to turn it into an original and fun trailer. And the best thing about animation is it that can literally be anything, whatever you need to sell your event. It’s obviously hard to beat a hot dog in a recliner, but it’s worth a try.
Print is forever.
At a time when everything is virtual, sometimes the best thing to do is share something that people can actually hold in their hands. The New York Film festival did that with this year’s poster, which was designed by John Waters (director of Hairspray and Cry-Bay), and showcased a much needed dose of humor at a time when people were not too thrilled about being stuck inside. Digital marketing will always be essential, but a print is forever. And if you can combine the two, you have the power to give something fun and tangible to attendees. Something that they wouldn’t usually get at a virtual event. Also, everyone likes cool posters.
Building an audience…
Anticipation and communication.
The Apple build up.
Apple recently posted a youtube live feed with just Steve Job’s old catch phrase… “One more thing.” No one builds anticipation like Apple. And that’s mostly because no one really knows exactly what they are doing. As an organizer, it’s obviously hard to build this level of mystery and intrigue. It takes a really cool product. And then you also have to deliver on event day. But, if you have something big going on at your event, maybe consider not telling everyone everything. Post about it a bit on social media, but keep it vague. Just give people enough to keep them interested. Which we’re pretty sure is Apple’s strategy for everything.
The direct to audience address.
Many events went virtual this year, but Elevate Six (formerly Elevate Live), is one of the only ones we’ve seen actually make a virtual announcement for their event. This kind of face to face style is really one of the best ways to reach people. It feels more personal. It’s why zoom works, it’s why twitch works, it’s why YouTube influencers are so successful. You just can’t beat a video message from someone about what’s going on in their world. We get enough emails and texts these days, a video message let’s people know you’re there for them.
Keeping your people stoked.
Constant content, and just go live.
Curate your best virtual moments.
INBOUND, a marketing event created by some very creative marketing people, keeps their event buzz going by curating past virtual event content on social media. In the instagram post above, they put together a selection of sessions that people would want to kick back and watch over the weekend. For organizers, past events are basically mounds of content that they can curate anytime, anywhere, wherever they need new marketing. Obviously, this strategy does require at least one completed event. But after that first one, organizers should have enough original content to keep their audience engaged and stoked until the next event. Which is really what marketing is all about.
Hand over your stories to the professionals.
Before their upcoming virtual event, Adult Swim was able to get the band Algiers (pictured above), and many other artists, to run their Instagram stories for an afternoon. The artists have been posting all kinds of funny and lo-fi vids and pics around their houses, answering questions on social media, wearing costumes, and just generally having a good time. This is the kind of marketing that people really appreciate. It’s honest, and fun, and for attendees — seeing the presenters and artists unwind off-stage makes the whole thing feel a little more real. And more authentic. Also, Instagram stories are way more fun than posts ????
Going live before the event even starts.
This hasn’t really been done yet (as far as we can tell), but one thing to try is just live streaming short videos before the event even starts. You can use these videos to talk about what’s coming up with your event, and then stream it on youtube, instagram, periscope, or twitch. Encourage your presenters to do the same, and then promote those live streams for your attendees. The goal is to communicate on social media all the interesting things you are working on for the event — but in a live setting. It doesn’t have to be polished or scripted. It just has to feel real, which is really all it takes to get people interested in the virtual world.
When in doubt, just think visually.
However you slice it, a big part of a virtual event is how it looks. And the best thing to do is to use that to your advantage in your marketing. Don’t just tell people about what’s going to happen at the event. Show people how cool it will actually be. Where it matters most — on their screens.