Blogs. Technorati has indexed 133 milion of them since 2002. 77% of active internet users read blogs – that’s 356 million according to Comscore. Not to mention there are more than 90,000 blog articles posted each and every day. Blogs have been around since the early to mid 1990s.
There are blogs on just about everything. If you spend a few minutes searching blog directories, you can find just about anything you might be interested in reading. There are blogs about marketing, blogs about events, and even blogs about blogging.
Blogs have several benefits for experiential marketers. Blogs can serve as a destination for your communities. Blogs humanize your event by giving it a voice and a personality. Blogs give you an opportunity to participate in conversations ranging from communicating event logistics, to exploring the depth and breadth of content as part of your experience.
Several brands and show producers have been using blogs for some time as part of their event program, but few have done so effectively. Here are some ideas on how you can effectively integrate blogging into your experiential marketing program.
1. If you don’t have a blog, start one. Blogs are simple to set up. Free blogging software is commonplace and theme templates are widely available. If you like, you can create your own template, or integrate a blog into your existing website or social network. The most popular stand-alone software platforms are WordPress, Typepad, and Blogger. Social network platforms like Ning, KickApps and Crowdvine allow you to create social networks which include blogs as part of their infrastructure. The most difficult part of blogging is ensuring you plan enough time and support for creating content. Assign the right level of resources to ensure your blog is well-managed. Many seasoned bloggers create an editorial calendar to plan content ahead of time and adjust as the environment dictates.
2. Establish the right tone. The way you communicate says a lot about your brand and your experiential marketing program. Determine the brand intent and personality of your blog and event. Remember, its not about selling, but engaging with your community. Set the precedent and your community will follow.
3. Start early. Establish your blog as soon as you’ve decided to create an event experience. The earlier the better. This will allow the blog to carve out a niche in your subject-matter universe. It will also help the blog become a more powerful awareness, thought leadership and audience generation tool.
4. Keep going. Just as the blog should be started as early as possible before your event, it should grow in interest and relevance both during and after the event. This will build a community around the subject matter of your experience, as well as extend the life of your investment by reaching a larger and increasingly higher qualified audience. This is an easy way to contribute to improved ROI.
5. Keep content fresh, vibrant and alive. While event logistics and schedules are interesting and all, nothing will attract and retain an audience more effectively that relevant, interesting content they cannot get anywhere else. Balance logistics with value-added content. Your blog can bring your face-to-face experience alive for attendees and online observers alike. Use photos, videos, sound files as well as text to tell your story. Keep it fresh, mix it up and establish a personality for your blog. What can you provide to your community on a consistent basis that will keep them excited about the subject matter as well as your experience? Identify, prioritize and deliver this to drive long-term success.
6. The blog becomes THE destination. Sure, we want attendees to come to the event, and they will. However a blog will foster community before, during and after the experience to drive long-term relationships. By using the blog as a platform for ongoing face-to-face and digital tactics, you create deeper, richer experiences for your community. This contributes to audience retention, expansion, brand loyalty and advocacy over the long run.
7. Use guest bloggers to generate content and interest. Invite speakers, exhibitors, subject-matter experts, analysts, and even the press and media to participate in your blog. Recognize guest participation and “best” content through a community rating system. Not only will this improve the quantity and quality of content for your experience, but it will also attract more readers, drive participation and build community. Your focus here becomes balanced between facilitation and content development, freeing you up to focus more on the rest of the experience.
8. Bring Your Own Audience (BYOA). If you build it, the might come. Conduct social media searches on Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter, etc. to identify audiences who may be interested in your content, your blog and your event (in that order). Contact them and invite them to visit the blog. Research, read, comment or ask to be a guest blogger on related blogs. This will attract audiences who are interested in learning more to follow you. Link to relevant content as often as possible. You can also use blog directories, blogrolls (your own as well as listings on other blogs) to help drive audiences as well. The key here is to establish and maintain a presence in the blogosphere.
9. Encourage readership and participation. Throughout your communication plan, make sure you promote the blog, the authors, and the content. Reward the community for participation where possible and appropriate. To drive long-term community relevance, its a good idea to promote the blog as prominently as you promote the event itself. An event is a point in time, a blog lives on well beyond the experience.
10. Impose a time limit. Sometimes, you don’t want to establish or build a long-term community, and that’s OK. Consider setting up and promoting a blog that has a limited lifespan before, during and after the event. Promote it as such and encourage the community to interact as often as possible during this limited time opportunity.
11. Pull content from other blogs. Similar to linking to outside content in the BYOA section above, consider pulling content from other sources (with permission of course). Speakers, exhibitors, subject matter experts, analysts, and press and media may have blogs that they would love to share and promote on your site or as part of your experiential marketing program.
Blogs are a powerful tool. They give your experiential marketing program an anchor, and your audiences a long-term destination. With the right focus, content discipline, resource allocation and community integration, event blogs can help turn a single event into a vibrant community around your subject matter.
If you have other ideas on how to use blogs for events or experiential marketing programs, please share!