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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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