For those of you who recently held a conference or training course, your members are about to forget everything you just taught them (if they haven’t already). It stings just a bit to hear that, doesn’t it? But unfortunately, science tells us it’s true. The good news, though, is that associations can (and should) combat The Forgetting Curve phenomenon, at least to some extent, simply by re-packaging and re-purposing this educational content. A little cross-departmental collaboration goes a long way, too.
The Forgetting Curve: Effects of time on learning retention
Educational content is by far the top value your organization provides to your members. But its value is only realized when it can actually be applied in real-life situations. Unfortunately, from the moment a course or conference ends, we find ourselves battling The Forgetting Curve—a term coined by German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus to describe the effects of time on learning retention.
Within the first few days after a conference or training course, the forgetting curve is very steep. What Ebbinghaus found through his research is that providing “spaced repetition” of learning material can soften this curve, helping us to retain more information for a longer period of time.
In other words, your educational content needs to have a life after the course or conference.
• 55% re-use conference content • 26% use it to reinforce learning after the conference
• 77% re-use training materials • 55% use them to reinforce key learning concepts after the course
While a majority of those surveyed are repurposing their educational content, fewer are using it to help promote learning retention—particularly in the case of conferences. This is not only a disservice to your participants, but it also diminishes the value of your program.
How can associations better leverage their educational content to help make learning stick?
1. Refresher courses and mini-events
Look at your most popular conference sessions and create short “refresher courses” on these topics. Add them to your training course roster or deliver them as a series of smaller, regional conferences. Not only does this increase your portfolio of programming as a member benefit, it can also create additional revenue opportunities for your organization.
2. Peer-to-peer learning sessions
ASAE recently published this article on the importance of peer-to-peer learning opportunities at conferences, recognizing the amount of collective expertise attendees bring to the table. What if you could take this one step further, and provide those peer-to-peer learning sessions after the conference or training course? Participants can have the opportunity to share their experiences and learnings as they apply the knowledge learned in the class or conference. Again, these could be developed as a series of smaller, regional in-person meetings, or as virtual events. Today, there are certainly plenty of tools and technology that can be used to foster face-to-face discussions such as WhatsApp, Facetime, Skype, Google Hangouts, and Houseparty.
3. Develop post-event homework assignments
Looking to help learners apply knowledge in a practical way while also adding to your member resource library? We grew up doing homework in school for this very purpose, so why not add it as a component to your course or conference! Create a series of homework assignments for learners to complete at specific time-based intervals. If there’s an opportunity to have these count for additional CE credits, even better.
4. Create a post-event communications plan
Short, focused and frequent reminders of key points from an educational session or class is one extremely easy way to keep the material top-of-mind. Take a specific topic, session or chapter and break it up into a series of emails, each focusing on a single point or takeaway. This is not only a simple yet effective way to reinforce learning, it helps to keep your organization top-of-mind, which helps to boost retention, too.
Most of us recognize that learning is not a one-time event. It’s an ongoing process. But many organizations still deliver educational content as a one-time event—whether at a conference or in a course. Creating opportunities to provide this same content several times throughout the year will certainly increase the retention and application of the material. But there’s an additional benefit for the organization as well. By increasing your touchpoints with members, you can also increase member engagement and the value of your programs. It may require a little extra work, but it’s definitely a win-win.
Earlier this year, we published our annual State of the Conference Industry Report which tracks the evolution of conference content and the role it plays at an annual conference. While there are several key takeaways and opportunities highlighted in the report, there is one that association leaders should take particular note of: to achieve association growth goals, conference and membership teams need to collaborate more.
The link between conference attendance and association membership
Since the report was first published in 2015, meeting planners have consistently indicated that their top goal for the annual conference is to increase attendance. However, the data also demonstrates that conference attendance trends and membership growth trends are closely linked.
For the meeting planner, an increase in association membership provides a larger pool of prospective conference attendees. Conversely, for the membership team, the annual conference provides a unique opportunity to demonstrate the association’s value to a prospective member before they make an annual commitment to the organization. The conference is often the primary way a member stays connected to and engaged with the organization, which helps to promote member retention.
As you’re getting ready for your next conference, consider ways to more tightly connect the value of the conference with the value of membership to increase conference attendance, grow membership and create more engaged members.
Here are a few ideas to help get you started:
Experiment with creative pricing strategies
One local chapter of the American Marketing Association (AMA) generated a significant spike in new memberships when their annual conference registration opened. The reason? They created a conference pricing structure that made it more lucrative to attend as a member, plus bundled the pricing with a limited-time discount on membership fees. Because the chapter has a strong member retention rate, the initial discounts created a long-term return on investment.
Create unique member benefits through post-conference programming
The meeting planner looks for ways to extend the conference experience long after the closing keynote session. The membership team looks for ways to increase the value of membership. By providing exclusive access to post-conference programming, associations can achieve both. One idea: host small, post-show virtual discussion groups for attendees to share ideas, apply learning on the job and connect with peers. Social platforms such as House Party, FaceTime, Workplace by Facebook and Google Hangouts are low-to-no cost tools that can help facilitate this.
Use the conference as a forum to connect with members
Unless your association has local chapters or sections, you probably don’t get much face time with your members. And these individuals who are already inundated with email, direct mail and other marketing messages could be missing key information about your organization. The annual conference is the perfect opportunity to connect with members and remind them of the benefits of their membership. Find ways to include member touchpoints as part of the conference agenda and use them as an opportunity to educate (or, re-educate) on member benefits.
New members: welcome them early and often
Many organizations provide special programming for new members or first-time attendees at the conference, such as a welcome reception. But walking into this reception can be a bit overwhelming and intimidating for a newbie. What if you could put them at ease and make them feel like an important member of the organization before the conference starts? Consider hosting a pre-show virtual meet-and-greet with fellow peers. Introduce them to some of the conference speakers and key staff. Create conference liaisons to help break the ice and facilitate introductions while at the conference. This small extra step will go a long way toward creating a positive on-site experience.
There is a strong connection between a successful conference and association membership growth. The notoriety of your conference is what helps to attract new members, and it’s how existing members engage with your organization. Conference and membership teams need to work together to leverage this relationship to provide increase member benefit and attract new audiences.
Once upon a time, associations were the singular source of industry information and knowledge. Today, associations find they are up against an extremely intelligent and almost omnipresent competitor: Google. The behemoth search engine’s complex algorithm delivers answers to questions almost instantaneously and, often, for free. These search results are getting smarter, too—more predictive and conversational, with the focus shifting from targeting keywords to answering questions. What’s more, is that younger learners have been conditioned from a very early age to rely on Google as a primary source of information. In order to remain relevant and drive program growth, associations need to think about how to make their protected content accessible to search engines without decreasing its inherent value to members.
Young Professionals are the Key to Training Program Growth
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of Millennials in the U.S. has eclipsed Baby Boomers. Meanwhile, Bloomberg estimates that Generation Z will surpass Millennials in size. This means the pipeline for prospective learners is substantial, if organizations can connect with them and deliver the value they’re looking for.
Unfortunately, according to our 2019 Training Trends Report, associations are not yet seeing a corresponding rise in the number of Millennial and Generation Z members or learners. According to the report, Baby Boomers, on average, make up about 50-70% of training course attendees. On the flipside of the equation, Millennials only make up about 20-30% of learners, and Generation Z is about 10% or less. The reason? A significant percentage (49%) of organizations have not yet developed a strategy to address the needs and preferences of younger professionals.
The good news is that early observations note that Generation Z is a more pragmatic generation who are actively seeking out professional development opportunities. This, coupled with their size, make them a prime target for training programs…if these young learners are aware of them, that is.
The Case for Making Training Program Content Searchable Via Google
As organizations think about how to develop educational programs that are relevant to younger learners, the emphasis is often placed on content accessibility and delivery. Much of the discussion in today’s professional development circles centers around themes such as micro-learning, mobile learning, and gamification, for instance. There is significantly less discussion around the discoverability of this content—what questions are young professionals asking, and where and how are they finding the answers?
In 2012, Pew surveyed middle and high school teachers to understand how their students conduct research for a class assignment. Ninety-four percent of participants said their students were very likely to use Google as one of their primary tools, far outweighing any other information source, including Wikipedia, social media, peers or even textbooks. Today, these students from the 2012 survey are Generation Z young professionals. They are conditioned to look to Google for the very information and knowledge that most associations provide.
Many associations “lock down” educational content to protect both the value of that content and the integrity of their training programs on behalf of the industries they serve, and understandably so. Content exclusivity is what drives member value. The negative consequence of this, however, is that it is often done in a way that prevents search engines like Google from crawling that content as well, making it more difficult to attract new learners. In order to grow training program attendance, associations will need to strike a balance between making educational content searchable by search engines, without giving it entirely away for free.
Use Content Marketing to Strike the Right Balance Between Value and Accessibility
As our 2019 Training Trends Report illustrates, 77% of respondents do re-use the content from their training programs. However, it’s primarily being used to reinforce key learning concepts to those that attended the course. Only 33% of respondents indicated they are using content to market and promote training courses. To get your programs in front of more prospective learners, it’s important to think about how to re-package and re-purpose smaller snippets of your course content as part of a larger content marketing strategy. This will not only help you get in front of search engines, but it will also give prospective members a useful sample of the types of questions your organization can answer and the development opportunities you provide before you convince them to register for a course.
Here is just one example of how to do this.
Finding Relevant Topics
Start by evaluating your most popular training courses and the specific topics covered. Use Google’s “Searches Related to” tool found at the bottom of search results pages to see what types of topics and questions users are searching for that may be related to your educational content. There are also several free and paid tools on the market that find the most popular questions asked across the web on specific topics, like SEMrush and BuzzSumo.
Turn snippets of your most popular course material or relevant Google search queries into blog articles published on your website. Better yet, ask your instructors or subject matter experts to contribute, if possible.
Promote your blog article via email, through social media channels like Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and through any industry partners.
Associations don’t need to open their training material to non-members if it doesn’t align with their organizational strategy. But there are ways that organizations can, and should, openly publish samples of their educational subject matter for prospective members to discover. Like it or not, Google is key to organizational growth.
Perhaps the most valuable asset an association provides to its members is the educational content shared at a conference. In an effort to make that content more accessible, many organizations post their conference materials online. However, often times the content posted is limited to conference attendees who are looking for papers, presentations and handouts from sessions they already attended. While your current conference attendees certainly appreciate this, this limited approach does little to reach new audiences. By incorporating some simple SEO (search engine optimization) tips into your online conference content strategy, associations can drastically increase the role, value and ROI of your conference.
Why SEO for Online Conference Materials Matters
As associations look to increase their relevancy in a world that is changing faster than ever, many are thinking about how to attract and engage younger members. Capitalizing on the younger generation’s tendency to turn to search engines for answers to their most common questions is one logical place to start.
In 2012, the Pew Research Center conducted an online survey of middle and high school teachers to understand which tools were most often used for research projects. 94% of respondents indicated that their students were very likely to use Google as their primary source of research. Today, these students are the very same Millennials and Gen Z-ers your organization is looking to attract. They are conditioned to turn to search engines like Google for the information and knowledge your association already provides. Learning how to optimize your online conference content so it shows up at the top of search results will help increase your content’s reach and influence, and ultimately your association’s thought leadership and industry influence.
How to Optimize Your Conference Materials for Search: 3 Simple Steps
SEO can often be a daunting task for associations who already have limited internal resources. After all, some large companies dedicate entire teams to the discipline. But, according to Casey Emanuel, Search Optimization Manager at Rocket Clicks, a specialized SEO agency and Premier Google Partner based in Milwaukee, WI, most associations would benefit drastically from adding just a few, simple tasks to their annual conference to-do list.
1. Add Metadata to Your PDFs
Most conference materials—from speaker presentations to handouts—are posted online as PDFs. Emanuel points out that, “just like web pages, you can, and should, optimize PDFs for searchability.” If done correctly, Google will crawl your PDFs for content, and can even display them as organic search results. These steps should only take a few minutes per PDF. To avoid doing all the work yourself, make it a required part of your final submission process.
Save the PDF to your website with a descriptive, SEO-friendly filename
In Acrobat Reader, go to File > Document Properties and fill in the Title and Subject fields with descriptive text and keywords
Optimize the file size by compressing any large images, if necessary
2. Build Quality Backlinks to Your Conference Materials
Backlinks, or references from third-party websites to your own, can serve as a signal of quality and authority to Google. However, Emanuel is quick to point out that, “These links need to be real and authentic, otherwise you could actually be penalized by search engines.”
One fairly easy way to build backlinks to your conference content is to encourage your speakers to reference and link to the material within their own online properties. Not only does this boost SEO for your organization, it also helps the speaker increase their own authority and visibility.
3. Build Internal Links to Your Conference Materials
Oftentimes, the only place you’ll find reference to online conference materials is within the Agenda or Schedule page of the conference website. Emanuel recommends creating follow-up articles or blog posts on popular session topics and incorporating links to the conference materials as part of the article. “These internal links work to build link authority just like backlinks do, helping your PDF files appear in search results for relevant keywords.” To help mitigate additional work, ask your speakers and session leaders to craft the article. They will love the additional exposure, and you’ll have one less post-conference task to complete.
Posting your conference materials online does more than just provide increased choice and accessibility for current attendees. If these materials are search engine optimized, they can deliver valuable answers to new audiences, increasing both the reach and ROI of your conference.
The following is a special post from Brooke Rossi, our summer Marketing Intern. Brooke is starting her senior year at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, majoring in Professional Communication and Emerging Media. Before returning to school, Brooke agreed to share her thoughts and impressions of associations as a soon-to-be graduate entering the professional world.
Before starting my summer Marketing Internship at Omnipress, I had very little knowledge of associations. My initial impression was that people typically joined them through their workplace with little enthusiasm and only for some level of prestige that comes with membership. I thought there were a limited variety of associations to join, focusing on broad disciplines, and didn’t realize how expansive (and specialized) the association universe is. Just four months ago, I wouldn’t have thought about associations and their impact on nearly every aspect of local and global societies. Without an understanding of the association world, I wasn’t even aware of the extent of educational and advancement opportunities available through education, credentialing and industry-related certifications. Real change happens because of associations, and I was completely blind to it!
WSAADTATYP? (What Should An Association Do to Appeal to Young Professionals?)
Now that I’ve had the chance to work in an organization that caters to associations, I have a greater appreciation and understanding of why they exist and why they’re so important. And I’m so glad I do! I am already looking into associations that touch my field of study. I wondered how many of my peers—students getting ready to enter the workforce—shared my same level of appreciation and understanding. I reached out to several friends to see what they knew, and whether associations were even on their radar. Most had given associations very little thought. Once I explained some of what I had learned, many of them indicated they would consider joining a professional association after graduation specifically for the continued education and networking opportunities. Associations: this means there is a huge opportunity to get in front of young professionals much, much earlier in the process, and to do a better job explaining what you do and you can offer us. You also need to help remove some of the inherent barriers that will prevent us from pulling the trigger. Here are just a few ideas for you to consider when looking for ways to engage more young professionals.
Set Up Early Outreach Programs
As I quickly learned from surveying my own peer group, many young professionals aren’t seeking out associations. To start enticing new professionals who do not yet know about you, visit them before they even graduate. Look for universities with corresponding degrees and create on-campus events and programming geared toward students entering the profession. Or, participate in existing events such as an on-site career fair. I know that any time I attend an event on campus related to my degree, it makes me more excited to get out and pursue a career, and knowing that I would already have a community to ease that transition would energize me more.
Create a Newbie-Friendly Environment
To recent graduates, joining a group of seasoned, industry veterans can be intimidating. Consider providing onboarding programs designed to increase our comfort level. This could mean an exclusive get-together for new members to make initial connections, or a mentorship program to connect a new member with a young professional ambassador—someone who has a few years of membership under their belt, but has been in our shoes recently enough and can show us the ropes.
Market to Our Thrifty Buying Habits
In order to appeal to young professionals entering the workforce, you will want to think about the average financial situation graduates face. With our search for work and a place to live, along with possible college debt, we often think there is nothing left in our wallets for a membership to your association. Throughout the years, I have noticed that my peers are easily deterred by price. We tend to be more frugal with our money, and are hesitant to make purchases that require a large upfront investment. Consider offering a special rate for new graduates, or give us a 90-day free trial for your organization. When we are ready to pull the trigger, provide ways to spread out the cost of membership over a longer period of time, such as monthly billing.
Help Us Grow and Be Adventurous
Opportunities for growth and adventure are valued by young professionals like me. Don’t be too subtle about your benefits of membership. In fact, flaunt them! But make sure they are tailored to where we are in our careers. Emphasize how your certifications and other recognition will help us “climb the ladder” or teach us how to become an effective leader. Or for more of a fun twist, tell us about the fun destinations you can help send us to. We are seeing our friends travel the world on social media, and we do not want to miss out. Giving us an outlet where we can both learn and explore is icing on the cake.
Invest in Your Content
Another thing you will want to think about when looking to gain young members is that we are accustomed to finding information quickly, with just one or two clicks. So having a strong online presence is crucial. But it also has to feature an exceptional user experience. First, you have to make sure I find you. When I do, feature content that immediately provides quality, relevant answers to my most pressing questions. Not sure where to start? Reach out and ask us! Use the channels we already frequent, such as YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram. We are more than happy to tell you what’s on our minds.
Young Professionals Need Your Association…We Just Don’t Know it Yet!
Associations provide the learning and development opportunities young professionals crave. But you can’t take for granted that we’ll figure this out immediately upon graduation. We first need to understand what associations are and why they exist before we even consider joining one. Then, we need to have a firm understanding of what your association can do for me, while making membership as easy as possible. Do whatever you can to remove the barriers to membership, whether real (financial) or perceived. If you make a genuine commitment to us, the good news is you’ll have gained life-long learners who would love to advocate on your behalf, further spreading your mission to professionals that don’t know they need you yet.
In our latest State of the Industry Report, we noticed a pretty remarkable year-over-year change in one specific data point: there has been a notable increase in the percentage of associations that are re-using their educational content for a variety of purposes, from promoting next year’s event to ongoing content marketing to increase visibility for the organization.
At the same time, we hear that associations, like many organizations, find that managing and sustaining a high-performing, measurable content marketing program is extremely challenging, particularly with limited staff resources who are already wearing multiple hats.
We get it. We really do. We faced the same challenges with our own content marketing program. Over the past two years, we have made ongoing, simple, progressive changes to our program, which has helped us improve the quality of our content, provide more tailored messaging, and ultimately deliver a 130% increase in year-over-year performance. All with just a two-person team!
We are going to be sharing our own, personal case study at both the Community Brands Xperience and at ASAE MM&C conferences in the coming weeks in our session presentation: Content that Connects: How a Small Staff Can See Big Results by Leveraging Existing Content. Our goal is to provide associations with practical ideas they can put into action immediately to develop a successful and sustainable content marketing program that increases program attendance and membership growth.
If you or your colleagues plan to attend either of these conferences, we hope you’ll join us. We would love to hear more about what you’re doing, and provide thoughts and suggestions based on our own experiences. See you soon!
Developing a plan to promote your event is a critical part of conference planning. Marketing can be expensive and time-consuming, and consumers are increasingly skeptical of traditional advertising. This is where content marketing comes into play.
Content marketing is the practice of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract and engage a target audience. This method goes hand-in-hand with your goal as an association: to educate industry professionals and association members.
Luckily, as an event planner, you have a secret weapon: you sit on a goldmine of valuable information. This allows you to:
Connect with professionals looking for industry-specific information
Remind members of the value your association provides year-round
Build awareness of your conference and other events
Extend the life of the materials you work hard to collect
These shiny knowledge-nuggets are not something you have to go mining for; they are already at your fingertips.
Why Content Marketing Works for Associations
Content marketing has become one of the most popular ways for organizations to promote themselves online. Associations have some unique advantages when it comes to content marketing:
You have existing material. The biggest barrier to content marketing is creating new material. Your existing library of content gives you a head start.
Your review process provides authority. You can be confident that your peer-reviewed materials are insightful. This can be especially handy if you are not a subject matter expert.
You have access to the latest thinking. Your conference is an industry leader in providing timely, relevant information, allowing you to continue your role as a thought leader throughout the year.
You get feedback from the industry. Your conference feedback can provide insight into which topics are most in-demand. Think of this as “focus group” input on the material in your collection.
Reusing your existing content allows you to give your content a second life and extend its use beyond your conference. Using actual event content gives potential attendees a glimpse of the kinds of material at your conference so they can see for themselves why yours is a “can’t miss” event.
Develop a Content Marketing Plan
The first step in launching a content marketing campaign is assessing your existing materials. Determine what kind of content you have available and where it will be located. Your association’s website may seem like a good idea at first, but as time goes on, content can get lost or buried as the site gets updated. It’s best to create a standalone digital conference library. This will give visitors an idea of the broad range of information they can rely on your conference for.
It’s also important to determine a schedule that you will be able to follow. Be realistic. Will you be able to consistently post two pieces of content each week? Or is one piece of content every two weeks more likely? The rate that you choose is less important than your ability to stay on schedule. Readers stay engaged with a blog or social media profile that is updated on a regular basis.
Now that you’ve identified the most relevant materials and decided on how much time you can devote to sharing content online, you’ll need to consider the best ways your association can reach its followers. How can you make your content clickable? One way to effectively grab your readers’ attention is by using images.
Create Images for Social Media
The web is becoming an increasingly visual medium. Adding visual elements to your posts is one of the most effective ways you can increase the impact of your messaging. In fact, posts that include images see 650% more engagement than posts with just text alone.
Here are three conference-specific scenarios where visuals would be an effective way to promote your event. For each scenario, there is an example of an online tool well-suited for creating attention-grabbing artwork with minimal effort.
Scenario #1 – Promote a session by a prominent speaker
The speakers at your conference are a major factor in drawing in attendees each year, so it should be no surprise that speakers make for effective promotional content.
Imagine you’ve just finished your speaker selection process and are ready to announce the keynote speaker. You could certainly type out a post listing their names and the topics they will be discussing (Borrrrrr-ingggg!). A much more engaging approach is to present the same information with a visual design to it.
Pikiz is an image creator that is perfect for creating simple images that include text. Upload your own background image or choose from the images they have available. Then, double-click on the text box to add a customized message. Another great feature is that each social network has its own preset. This makes it super simple to post great-looking images to your favorite site.
Scenario #2 – Present research findings as an infographic
A presentation from last year’s conference coincides with some hot new research that is making the rounds. You know this is a great opportunity to join the conversation and promote your event. Since the presentation is available in your digital content library, it’s ready for people to see. But how do you make sure your post stands out from the crowd of others? Use the findings from the presentation and display it as an infographic!
Creating an infographic is a simple three-step process with infogr.am. Choose a design template, enter your data into their spreadsheet viewer and click share. That’s it! The program will create a shareable link to the social media site of your choice. You can also upload your own images or choose different fonts if you want a more customized design.
Scenario #3 – Call for award nominations using your own branded graphic
Part of your annual pre-event strategy is to ask for award nominations. You could do what you’ve always done: copy and paste the same text on the same social media networks and get the same results. Or, you can take it to the next level by creating a completely custom design (no designer needed)!
Canva is like working with a design pro that has dozens of designs ready for you to choose from (but doesn’t charge by the hour). Once you log in to Canva, you’ll see dozens of customizable templates sorted by format. Whether you are looking to create an image for social media, your blog or a poster, Canva has a file ready for you to start designing with. It’s also flexible enough to work with your existing elements. Just add your association logo, a picture of the award and text asking for nominations. You then have the option to share online or download.
Catch Their Eye
A well-designed image is critical in catching the attention of busy professionals, so having a visual presence online these days is essential. Presenting your existing content visually is a great way to keep your event in front of the attendees you want to attract.
Thankfully, the web is full of fast and intuitive ways to create custom graphics. With little effort, you can create designs that convey your message in an interesting and engaging way, and most importantly, in a way your audience enjoys seeing.
The next step is sharing those images and other content on platforms that will help you build and connect with your audience.
Promote Your Event on Social Media
Social media platforms are great hosts for content marketing pieces, particularly visuals. The best part about social media is that it’s not only for sharing content—it’s also great for building communities of like-minded people, just like your association! Each platform has its own strengths, so it’s important to assess these and plan content accordingly when designing a content marketing strategy. Below are a few of the most popular social media platforms to get you started.
Another platform that’s useful for engaging members is Instagram, a photo and video-sharing social media app. Instagram is great for sharing eye-catching graphics and photos to promote your event and attract potential attendees. Users can accompany their photos with captions and hashtags, which help the posts be seen by non-followers.
Instagram is popular with your youngest members, making it the ideal platform for appealing to Millennials and Generation Z. By sharing posts on Instagram, you have a much higher chance of attracting and engaging a younger demographic to your conferences than on other platforms like Facebook. The most important aspect to Instagram is to make sure your posts are visually appealing and include appropriate hashtags to make sure they are seen.
Twitter can be a fantastic tool for event professionals. Its design works well for promoting a conference or creating year-round awareness of your association. Being active on Twitter lets you connect with industry thought-leaders and attendees on a platform that they prefer.
Using original and industry hashtags, retweeting interesting industry sources and sharing quotes and links to your association’s content can transform your Twitter feed into a hub of relevant, valuable industry information. This way, you can keep current members engaged while attracting future members from other parts of the industry.
Twitter is also a great place for personal engagement with industry experts, your conference speakers and your members. Mention speakers in tweets; follow and retweet thought leaders; and like, retweet and reply to your follower’s tweets to create a sense of community while spreading the word about your event.
To reach younger members, try using Snapchat to promote your next conference. Snapchat is a particularly useful social media platform during your event, but can also be used before the conference to build anticipation. Snapchats stories, which last for 24 hours, allow you to share behind-the-scenes photos and videos of event set-up. Your speakers can also “take over” your stories to share some insider information about their presentations or industry topics.
A branded Geofilter can be designed specifically for your event and applied the day of the conference, so your attendees can use it when sending snapchats to their friends or story throughout the day. Not only will the Geofilter feel exclusive due to its limited availability, helping engage your attendees, but it can help spread the word about your association.
Facebook is one of the most-used social media platforms across all age groups, which makes it the perfect place to provide event information and promote the sharing of your conference. Create a Facebook Page for your association where you can post conference information and other content.
You can also create a Facebook Event for your conference and invite current members, encouraging them to invite people who may be interested, as well. This is a free and easy way to spread the word and potentially reach new members through current advocates of your association.
Discover Your Audience’s Interests
Now you know that using conference content as a marketing tool is a great way for your audience to learn about your event and the value it provides.
But did you know that it can also be a great way for you to learn about your audience?
By analyzing the data from your content marketing posts, you can learn a number of important things about your audience. First, you can see what parts of the world your visitors come from; this can help you find speakers from those particular regions to boost attendance at your annual event. You can also identify which sites or platforms best connect you with your members, helping you tune your messages on the most critical platforms moving forward.
Most importantly, you’ll be able to identify which types of content your visitors prefer. This feedback can guide future conference planning as well as future content marketing efforts to best connect you with your audience.
Content marketing can also inform you about your own content. By recognizing what messaging is most effective with your audience, you will be better prepared for conference promotion techniques. Additionally, analytics can teach you which topics generate the most interest among your followers; consider including these topics in your next conference event.
Use the information you gain from your content marketing plan to inform future events, connect with key members and create a more successful content marketing strategy overall.
Make Your Content Work Year-Round
The whole point of content marketing is to show your followers you have value to offer with tangible pieces of content you’ve worked hard to collect. Choose the platforms that best connect with your audience and help your association achieve goals, whether that includes your website, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat or one of the many others available online. Most of the content you share can be used across multiple platforms, giving you lots of opportunities to reach new people and prove the value of your event all year long.
The chairs are folded. The hum of the fluorescent lights has come to a halt. Attendees, sponsors and speakers have gone back to their associations and offices. And just like that, your conference is over.
Nothing remains of the conference which took so long to prepare for…except all of the content you spent months collecting!
Are you missing an opportunity here?
What is your association doing with your valuable conference materials after an event? Many organizations fail to repurpose event content and thus, miss a major opportunity to keep the event at the forefront of attendees’ minds.
Don’t let your content fall to the side. Here are four creative ways you can share conference materials AFTER the event.
House material on a searchable website
In addition to handing out conference materials to each attendee at the event, it’s good practice to upload the materials online where all attendees can access it after the fact. Putting your content online allows attendees easy access to whatever materials you’d like to share, whether that’s this year’s materials or all event materials from the past.
Sharing conference materials online also increases the chances of someone discovering your association. Google searches can pull up your content, meaning more people will have the ability to find out about your organization. Even if your content is gated with a password, potential members and attendees looking for industry-specific information will come to know that your association is the place to look and may even join to gain access to it.
Use content to promote your conference on social media
Many of your attendees, speakers and potential members are active on social media, providing you with easy-to-use, free platforms to keep them engaged. The possibilities for sharing conference content on social media are nearly endless; you can summarize key points or interesting facts, provide eye-catching graphics and share links to content hosted online to remind attendees of your content and keep them interested.
If your association hosts a blog, it can be the perfect place to repurpose event content and keep the conversation going. Blogs can easily be used to post transcripts, video or audio of the conference, or even just takeaway points from the speakers. Blogging is great for marketing your event, as well. Those who didn’t attend can read about what happened to give them some insight on what they missed.
The content doesn’t just have to come from you, either. Invite industry experts to write a wrap-up of the event or to provide further information about a topic that they discussed.
Create a webinar based on popular themes from the event
A webinar or web series is a way to provide another layer of depth to a particular topic of interest from the event. Use feedback from event surveys to find out what topics your attendees were really interested in and create a webinar about how this topic applies to a current event in your industry or deep-dive into one specific aspect of the topic.
This is also a great way to expand your event’s reach. Your association can decide to offer the webinar or web series to a larger group than those who attended your event, meaning non-attendees can access it and hopefully become interested enough to attend next year.
Sharing conference materials extends your event
You spend months collecting and reviewing content to distribute at your annual event, but it doesn’t have to end once your conference does. Avoid missing an opportunity for engagement by repurposing your event content and sharing it with attendees and non-attendees alike.
We’ve heard from organizations that increasing enrollment in their continuing education courses can be challenging, time-consuming and expensive. Organizations sit on a goldmine of useful educational materials and resources, but might not know how to use them to their benefit.
Since getting new members to enroll in your courses is so important to your organization, you need a way to expand your reach and keep learners interested in your training courses year-round.
That’s why we’ve created a guide to help you use the educational materials you already have and share them on social media.
How to transform existing educational content into shareable information
Which visual tools you can use to create eye-catching promotional graphics
How Twitter can help you build a community of learners
How to promote your courses as events on Facebook
How LinkedIn can help you expand your reach to users outside of your existing network
Using free social media tools to share your content is a great way to start using your educational materials to their full potential. If you’d like to learn how social media can help your organization engage new and existing learners, download our free whitepaper!
Whether it’s before, during or after your event, social media is a great tool to use to promote your conference and engage attendees. And one of the most effective ways to grab your followers’ attention is with your existing conference materials. These research findings, conference schedules, presentations, speaker announcements, etc. provide the perfect preview of what your event offers.
But when it comes to sharing your content, not all social media sites are created equal.
Twitter, Snapchat and LinkedIn each excel at promoting your event in different ways. So, before you implement your conference content marketing plan, it’s important to know which sites are best suited for each type of content.
Take a look at the infographic below to see which social media networks are the best match for each type of conference-specific content. And be sure to read the whitepaper Promote Your Event With Conference Content Marketing for actionable ideas on how you can use social media to attract attendees to your next event!
Promote Your Event With Conference Content Marketing Infographic
Not all social media networks are alike! Twitter, Snapchat and LinkedIn each excel at promoting your event in different ways.
Twitter: Real-time updates and interaction. A network designed for immediate feedback, Twitter is the perfect choice for conversations around events and news.
Snapchat: Reach younger members. Connect with the next generation of professionals on the platform they prefer.
LinkedIn Advertising: Expand your network to others in your industry. Targeted advertising allows your messages to reach industry professionals that have not yet followed your page.
Choose the right type of conference content for each social media network
One of the more surprising findings from our 2017 State of the Conference Industry report was how many associations are not re-using their conference content to promote their upcoming events. These organizations are missing a huge opportunity, so we decided to do something about it.
We created a guide to give you some ideas on how to start formulating a social media strategy for your association’s content.
How to transform existing content into shareable information
Which visual tools you can use to create graphics that pique your followers’ interests
How Twitter can help you maintain year-round awareness of your event
How to use Snapchat to engage younger members
How to use LinkedIn to share content with users outside of your member network
Effectively using social media is a great first step in taking advantage of your association’s existing content. If you want tips on how to re-use content on social media to promote your event and create year-round member engagement, download your free copy of the whitepaper!
Regular readers of this blog know we believe content marketing is a great fit for associations. The reason is simple: We’ve seen how well it can work to engage members and generate interest in an association’s events. So it was surprising to see that only about half (55%) of the respondents in our 2017 State of the Conference Industry survey said they are re-using their content. That means many associations are missing out on a great way to connect with their membership.
If your association is still not using your educational content for marketing, now is the time to start!
As with any organizational undertaking, it’s best to start your planning with a clear goal in mind. Content marketing is no different. Here are three questions to keep in mind as you assemble a team to begin this project. These questions will help you focus your efforts and provide a framework to measure the success of your work:
Question #1: What outcome does my association want to achieve?
Developing your content plan with your end goal in mind is a great way to begin your planning. Content strategy outcomes typically involve generating interest, awareness or revenue. Some common objectives that are well suited for content marketing include:
Promoting you conference
Building awareness for your association
Keeping members or attendees engaged throughout the year
Generating non-dues revenue for your association
Question #2: Which materials are of most interest to my attendees/members?
Another important question to answer early in your planning process is to determine which topics interest your audience. Talk with some of your members to find out their preferences. Doing this before you begin will save you a tremendous amount of time and effort later. Every industry is different, so there is no single type of content that works best. Some popular types of content to consider include:
Promoting innovative research
Becoming a resource for industry best practices
Offering commentary on industry trends or other types of thought leadership
Bonus: Having a conversation with your members about their interests on a regular basis can help you offer in-demand conference sessions!
Question #3: How will we use our educational content for marketing?
With a goal in mind and an understanding of what interests your members, the next step is to think about putting your content to work. One common pitfall to content marketing is trying to do too many things. Answering this question will help your team stay focused. Again, let your goals drive the answer to this question.
For example, if your goal is to raise the awareness of your conference, you may choose to promote your online conference materials on social media to gain a wide audience. If your goal is to generate revenue for your association, however, a subscription-based site would make more sense.
A third option would let a visitor access your materials only after they provide their email address. You could then use this information to keep them up-to-date year round on important association news.
If your association is one of the 45% only using your educational materials at the conference, make this the year you do more with that content! The good news is you can start small and see how it works for your association. Every industry is different and what works for one group may not work for yours. Experimenting is key. So determine your goal, find out what material interests your members and put your content to work!