What to do when Facebook goes down (again)

Facebook does not owe you anything, it does not exist to serve you, or your event marketing.

On top of issues around privacy, shady back-office dealings, coverups and more, Facebook (and Instagram, owned by Facebook) in the last week has gone down/ceased working for millions of people around the world.  A stark reminder that the most popular social network around the world is not a public service, nor a right that we can demand.  Essentially, Mark Zuckerberg could take the site offline tomorrow.

Where would that leave you, and your event?

As an Event Director, this must be a consideration for your future marketing plans.  If you ran an event before Facebook event pages were the norm, what did you do?  How did you get the word out to people across the world about your event?

If you have never run an event without the social network to assist you in getting the word out, how would you do it without Facebook?

The rise of email (again)

Image result for gmail inbox

I wrote about email marketing last year: West Coast Swing Event Marketing: Why Email? and the advice hasn’t changed.  You must start building your email list, and if you already have an email list, you must start actively engaging with your subscribers.

Things to consider

COMPLIANCE:
In the USA – make sure you understand CAN-SPAM laws related to commercial messages sent via email, here is a quick overview: https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesagencycouncil/2018/06/06/is-your-email-marketing-compliant-with-the-can-spam-act/. Basically, in the US, you must not mislead, and you must clearly give people a way to OPT-OUT.

In Canada – CASL is the law you must be aware of, it is more restrictive than the laws in the USA.  Here is some reading on when you can and cannot email a commercial message: https://mailchimp.com/help/about-the-canada-anti-spam-law-casl/ . In Canada, you must have a clear documented trail of someone OPTING – IN to receive your messages.

CHOOSE A SENDING PLATFORM: 

There are many low-cost solutions available to you to manage your email list, create good looking emails, and crucially, keep compliant with opt-in/opt-out capabilities that your own gmail/yahoo/hotmail address does not allow.

If you are going to email commercial messages about your event, you must never, ever, ever, ever, ever use your own email address and a bcc list.

Have a look at these professional platforms:

Mailchimp
Constant Contact
Mad Mimi 

MOBILE READY (RESPONSIVE):

Depending on the average age of your audience, it is likely that 50% – 70% of the people who receive your emails will access them on a smart device.  Make sure that the template you use is set up to display properly on a small screen, otherwise, people simply will not read it, and they will stop opening it.

Related image

SENDING SCHEDULE:

When switching to email communication, it is important to find a balance of how often to send messages.  A simple rule of thumb is to do it less than you would post on Facebook, and to include more information with each send.

Your Website

West Coast Event websites can often be a little neglected… let’s be honest.  If a particular website just popped into your head, you know exactly what I mean.

However, no matter if your website is kinda-outta-date, or new and snazzy, it isn’t the design that matters, really.  It is the useable, findable, and up-to-date information that matters. 

You don’t have to spend a fortune on a new website, but you do have to invest some time (and maybe some money) in making sure that your site works properly, that the information is up to date, and that people can find the information they need easily on your site.

On top of that, can people find your website?  If you type your event name into Google, does your website show at the top of the results?  If not, you need to invest some effort into Search Engine Optimization (SEO for short).

Non-digital methods

In a (hypothetical) world without Facebook, you still need a social network!  Connect with local organizers everywhere you possibly can.  Support them in their endeavours, and ask for their support in yours.  Share messages with them about your event and ask them to share it with their local dancers.  Give them flyers for your event, and of course, always reciprocate!  In a world without the reliance on a Facebook event page, you need a way to reach further than your own community…. if you run an event, and haven’t been out on the event circuit recently, meeting new people and catching up with old friends, it might be time to dust off those dance shoes and get back out there.

Other ideas include:
– Sponsoring something at a nearby event, to get exposure to those dancers
– Offering event passes as prizes to other EDs
– Advertising opportunities (like the US Open Program)
– Cross promotion with other complimentary dance styles, like Hustle, Zouk, Ballroom, etc.

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Facebook algorithm changes and your West Coast Swing Event (March 2018)

In January, Facebook announced dramatic changes to the Newsfeed in order to favour content from friends and family, rather than posts from third-party publishers – those are your business pages.  In the days following Facebook’s announcement that its users would see 20 percent fewer posts from publishers’ pages in their news feeds thanks to a change in the Facebook algorithm, I speculated about what effect this would really have on the work I do at WestieMarketing.

I’ve waited two months to observe the effects of this change, and unfortunately, there is definitely a decline in both reach and interaction when it comes to Pages.  The silver lining, if you can call it that, is that reach and engagement on event-specific pages have only seen a small decline, so far.

Not sure what I am referring to?  On the left is the Liberty Swing Dance Championships Page and on the right, the Liberty Swing 2018 Event Page.

So, a ‘Page’ is losing its ability to reach its fans, with this new change, as I will demonstrate below, while event-specific pages have retained most of their traction with audiences.

Anonymous West Coast Swing Page – Example 

Post reach December 2017 into January 2018 

Reach is indicated by the numbers and orange boxes in the 3rd column, to the right of that is the number of interactions and comments.

Post reach February into March 2018 

As you can see, there has been quite a dramatic change in both the reach and the interactions on these posts.

While this is just one example, the results match up with what I am seeing across all of the Pages that I manage for both WestieMarketing, and my other business, Socially Good.

But there is better news, or at least, less bad news.

Reach and engagement of event pages has taken much less of a hit.  Here are a couple examples from West Coast Swing Event Pages I manage.

 

 

You can see just the smallest of dips across likes, comments, shares and posts.  Of course, engagement always increases closer to the event, and these events are not happening immediately.

What is the takeaway? 

Relying on Facebook to get the word out should not be your only method of reaching your audience.  Yes, it is still a great channel, do not stop doing it, however, be realistic about your expectations and expand into other methods to make sure you have your bases covered.

  • Check your own Facebook Insights
    Knowing how your own Page and Event Page is performing will help you make better decisions.
  • Consider adding some budget to pay for Facebook promotion
    Contact me if you want help to do this.  Facebook advertising can be incredibly effective, or a giant waste of money if you are not clever about what you are doing.   Having a goal that translates to your business goal, and targeting the right audience is key.   Pro-tip, ‘friends of people who like this page’ isn’t usually the right audience.
  • Make sure you are emailing
    If you don’t have an email list, get one started immediately by adding email sign up to your website.   Make sure you add your past event attendees to your email list.  (Important note: You MUST send them a reconfirmation email with the link to sign up in order to comply with the law if you did not collect their permission to add them to your email list at the time that you collected their email, read more.) Want to know why I think email is so important? Check out this blog post from a few months ago. 
  • Look at other channels of communication
    Who is your event audience?  Instagram may be a good channel for raising awareness about your event with a younger demographic, although it is not likely to create ticket sales, it does create engagement with attendees, which is very valuable for repeat sales in the future.Don’t forget your website!  Read more on why your event website is important.

There is a lot more to West Coast Swing Event Marketing than just putting posts on Facebook. The landscape digital is changing, and events need to change with it.  This article does not address how different content can influence reach and engagement, it only looks at how the Facebook changes are affecting reach and engagement.  Content is a whole other blog post just waiting to be written….

Is it time to get a new website for your West Coast Swing event?

Is it time to get a new website for your West Coast Swing event?  Shall I be honest, the answer is probably yes!

Why?  Because the vast majority of established West Coast Swing events never had to worry about attracting people to their event.  They were the only event for hundreds (or thousands) of miles, with no other events happening in that same month.   If people wanted to dance and compete for WSDC points they were already coming, having a good or bad website really made no difference!

Now dancers have more choice

The reality today is a little different, four to six WSDC events in a month (and many more non-points events), sometimes multiple events on the same weekend, other WSDC sanctioned events in your state within a few months of each other.  Things are…. complicated.

Take a look at New Years 2017-2018.  Four events in the USA, and one in the UK.  Florida, Massachusets, Michigan, California……. dancer proximity doesn’t always equal attendance, either.  With low-cost air travel, dancers from Boston who want to spend holidays in the sun can easily choose to head to Florida, instead.

Dancers can travel cheaply

Cheap air travel has allowed dancers to within the US to cheaply travel to events anywhere in the country, its one of the reasons so many events are based at airport hotels.  Proximity to your event is no longer a guarantee that your local community will support you.   Chicago to Boston for $60 with Southwest Airlines!  Denver to LA for $100…. you get the picture!

Dancers are not all active on Facebook

Your website also matters because not all of your dancers will be active on Facebook.  They may be too young to care about Facebook, as demonstrated below.  This is important to note especially if you have, or a building, a Juniors Division.  Conversely, Facebook use is growing dramatically in the 55+ age category, which is great for marketing, however, you should be aware that usage does not equal literacy, and that some users may still miss your news and updates because of their notification settings.  Don’t assume that becuse you put it on Facebook once, four months before the event, that anyone saw it or remembers!

Your website

Your website matters because it is the home of your event.  It is the place where you can showcase the history of your event, videos and photos that convey the look and feel of your event, and of course, its where you will share all the relevant information about your upcoming event.

The “vibe” of your event

Given the wider choice that dancers now have, the most important thing your website can do is convey the “vibe” of your event.  What does that mean?  Most events follow a pretty standard format but try to differentiate themselves in terms of the atmosphere.  Swinging Dance Party puts the emphasis on fun, rather than competitions.  Sweet Side of Swing emphasizes levelled learning experiences over competition, with a focus on learning from female instructors.  MadJam offers SIZE – one of the largest events in North America, meaning massive amounts of new people to connect and dance with.  Conveying these differences is about more than just words.

Here are some examples of websites that clearly display the “vibe” of the event.  Write down 2-3 words that come to mind just looking at these homepage images from various events.  Your first impressions are important, how these websites make you feel should convey how the EDs want potential attendees to think of their event.

Spotlight New Years

Paris Westie Fest

Swingsation

Canadian Swing Championships

Here are my thoughts:

Spotlight – Modern and classy
Paris Westie Fest – Quirky and cute
Swingsation – Music, party atmosphere
Canadian Swing Championships – Friendly and social

How did these pages make you feel?  More importantly – do this exercise with your own website, and ask three to five other people to do this exercise, too.    Compare the results with what you are offering, and decide if you need to make some changes.

Worst case scenario…..no one can tell anything about your event experience from your homepage.

Ease of getting information

As a result of growing opportunities for dancers, you must make it easy for people to choose you!  Your website must:

  • Be easy to navigate
  • Be easy to register on – BIG BUTTON PLEASE
  • Be up-to-date!
  • Contain, at a minimum, the essential information – prices, staff, schedule, early bird deadlines, etc
  • Be mobile optimized / mobile friendly

Your website is your sales tool

So, you can define your “vibe” and know how to display and communicate that vibe online.  Your website contains the minimum information needed for someone to consider your event.  Now you need to take it to the next level in order to sway people into choosing your event.

Here are some examples of things you can add to give some personality to your website and to help dancers choose you over another option:

  • Anything unique and special about your event
  • A personal message from the ED(s)
  • Promo video that captures the action at past events
  • A link to your Facebook event page
  • A way for people to sign up for your email updates
  • Quotes/testimonials from past attendees
  • Photos from past events
  • Results! (bonus points if you get those up immediately after awards)
  • A way to contact you

Naming and shaming!

Nope!  Chances are if you have read this far and your palms are a little sweaty, then you already know that your website could use some work, it’s not up to me to “shame” you, or anyone else.

WestieMarketing offers website services to EDs, contact me at clare@WestieMarketing.com if you would like to know more.

 

Why you need to consider a West Coast Swing Event Promo Video

Mark Zuckerberg (founder of Facebook) believes that within five years most of what people consume online will be video, subsuming words and photographs, which is why a West Coast Swing event promo video can only become more and more important.

But why care about what Mark Zuckerburg thinks?

It can be easy for Event Directors to look past Facebook as the most important tool in your marketing box, after all, flyers, word of mouth, and repeat customers have worked well so far.  Why add more work, and more cost?

Firstly, Facebook matters because, 68% of ALL Americans use Facebook (and actually, that equals 79% of every American who is online).  Over three-quarters of the US population… let that sink in.  So, Facebook is very important to your marketing strategy, which in turn, makes video very important to your marketing strategy.

Recent data from the website Buzzsumo shows that since Facebook announced the summer of 2015 that they were going to give more prominence to video content over links shared, the number of video shares has skyrocketed.

This means that people are more likely to share a video than they are a page or a website link, and it also means that Facebook is more likely to show a video to your page fans, rather than a link post or a photo post.

Think about your own behaviour on Facebook.  What captures your attention most when you are quickly scrolling through your home feed? More than likely it is a video that starts to autoplay as you scroll by, and if that video has people dancing WCS, you are probably likely to give it a second glance, right?  And if it was shared by one of your Westie friends?  Even more so!  

Here are some examples of great promo videos for West Coast Swing events.

Produced by WestieMarketing

Produced by WestieMarketing

Produced by Penu Adventures

Produced by Penu Adventures

Produced by the Swing City Chicago team

Produced by Kirsten Shaw for Upstate Dance Challenge

Produced by DanceJam Productions

What else can a West Coast Swing Event Promo Video Do?

A great event promo video can do so much for your event.

*Showcase the unique aspects of your event (pool party, costumes, live music……etc) 

*Highlight the incredible staff you have hired 

*Show past attendees enjoying themselves

*Give insight into the atmosphere of the event that future attendees can expect

*Give people a look at your beautifully designed ballroom

*People spot people they know in the video, leading to social proof that it is a great event.


Appendix of stats referenced above

West Coast Swing Event Marketing: Why Email?

In the last two and a half years that I have been an active member of the event going community, I can honestly say that e-mail is the most under-used tool for many events,  West Coast Swing event marketing can be so much better.

Why e-mail?

There are so many reason why email wins when it comes to West Coast Swing event marketing:

Email marketing is the undisputed champion of return on investment (ROI) with a 3800% ROI, or $38 return for every $1 invested.

You are 6 times more likely to get a click-through from an email campaign than you are from sending a tweet. – Campaign Monitor

Email is 40 times more effective at acquiring new customers than Facebook or Twitter. – McKinsey

When it comes to purchases made as a result of receiving a marketing message, email has the highest conversion rate (66%), when compared to social, direct mail or other channels. – DMA

A message is 5 times more likely to be seen in email than via Facebook. – Radicati

Email is such a powerful tool for two powerful reasons: 

      1. It’s based on permission.  When people give you their email address, they are giving you entry to their inner world.
      2. It is based on action.  An email has to be opened, or deleted.  Social media can be completely passive, but an email requires a negative or positive response from the receiver.  This need for response keeps people engaged with you.  That presence in their lives is powerful.

Think about your own behaviour, how often do you check your emails each day?  92% of online adults use email, with 61% using it on an average day, according to  Pew Research.  90% of email gets delivered to the intended recipient’s inbox, whereas only an average of 10% of your Facebook fans see your posts in their News Feed. – Forrester Research.

With social media, the platform and the user control the deliverability of your messages. With email, it is a one-to-one relationship.

Post event surveys – A must for your West Coast Swing Event

Sometimes you just don’t want to know, right?

Like them or loathe them, post event surveys are an essential part of your West Coast Swing event.   I get it, it can be horrible to put yourself out there, you worked so hard to provide the best event possible, and reading any kind of negative comments can be so disheartening. Continue reading “Post event surveys – A must for your West Coast Swing Event”