Make Your Event Go Further With Social Media: Before, During, and After
So, your company is hosting or participating in a design-build event. You’ve selected the perfect time for such an endeavor; homeowners are out and about, looking for contractors just like you at their local fairs and home shows, or scoping out new design-build professionals to help fulfill their needs. They see an ad on Facebook or receive an email, or even get really vintage, noticing a flyer stapled to a wooden post.
The event comes and goes. Maybe they go to it, maybe they don’t. After it’s over, it’s generally forgotten from their busy schedules, and they return to the rest of their lives.
Are there ways to alter this cyclical pattern? Ways to take advantage of exciting landscape events to generate long-term growth for your business? How?
Social media is how.
Whether your key demographic is young, first-time homeowners or upper-class third-time homeowners, social media is one of the best ways to promote your event beforehand, populate it during, and capitalize on it after.
Each part of the process is crucial for seeing the event to fruition and taking it to the next level. But different social media platforms and tools work best for different pieces of the puzzle. We’ve laid out the schedule from beginning to end, highlighting which social media resources to incorporate throughout, as well as which work best for the design-build industry. Check it out:
It’s a little while before the event. Maybe a few months, maybe a few weeks, depending on the magnitude of your plans. It’s not enough to print up flyers and hand them out on the street (although a little traditional marketing never hurts). This is the time to appeal psychologically, emotionally, and strategically to a variety of demographics. Here are a couple ways to get this process started:
Create a Facebook event
A Facebook event is super helpful for a variety of reasons (Source). You can make them public, so everyone, even those you didn’t personally invite, can see and attend. They’re easy to share, so once yours is made, you can use your business profile and your personal profile to share it across platforms. Even if your business is participating in an event instead of hosting it, don’t shy away from creating your own Facebook event to attract homeowners from your area. For example, if you’re setting up at a home show, use a Facebook event to showcase your exhibit, posting videos and photos of set-up. Plus, a Facebook event provides a forum of sorts, where potential attendees can ask questions, post ideas, and invite they’re friends to have a look!
Develop a highlight reel from last year
If this is a reoccurring event, like a home show or a county fair, a highlight reel is gold mine. It gives you an opportunity to illustrate how fun and informative your last event was (Source). Show set-up and break-down, show happy homeowners meeting and interacting with your event crew, and even show aspects of the rest of the event, like other booths and food. Plus, previous attendees love to see their faces on screen and reminisce. Even if this is first time you are doing this event, compile some photos and videos from other events you’ve attended or similar events. Once you’ve created your highlight reel, tag and send it to other vendors or speakers, etc. so that they can help advertise, as well. You’ll be able to reach a new pool of homeowners that follow other vendors and speakers.
Make a #hashtag
Hop on the bandwagon, it’s time to make a hashtag. It should be something that clearly represents your business and the event in a concise manner. Limit it to 15 or so characters (or else people won’t take the time to type it out).
Once you know what your hashtag will be, use it generously. Use it with Instagram posts, Twitter posts, Pinterest, Houzz, even Facebook (on occasion). This will generate buzz surrounding one piece of digital information tied directly to the design-build aspect of the event, and more specifically, your business.
You know better than anyone who your bread ‘n’ butter customer base is. With a little research, you can segment the online tendencies of your key demographic into categories. Now, take that helpful data, and plug it into a Facebook ad campaign. You can target key audiences and demographics from the general down to the finer minutiae (Source). For example, if you often install high-end patios for upper-class homeowners ages 55+, you can use that information to narrow down incredibly specific audiences within those parameters. You can also develop retargeting campaigns with Facebook ads, allowing you to specifically target audiences who have visited your website or worked with you before. It’s worth a few extra dollars to watch your reach climb and populate your event.
The design-build industry is literally built upon the visual aesthetic. Contractors and landscape designers can no longer ignore a social media platform that delivers images right to the eyes of homeowners. Instagram has developed a seamless way for you to advertise your event without interrupting your audience’s daily social media checks. Assuming your business has its own Instagram account (this is us not-so-subtlely hinting that you absolutely should have one), you can create a wide variety of ad types that can appeal directly to your niche demographic, while also reaching out to new pools who’ve never heard of you (Source). You can do a:
- Photo ad: your classic one-frame photo, probably of an event poster or a cool shot of your team from last year’s event.
- Video ad: maybe take advantage of that highlight reel you made earlier, and string some clips together for a one minute sneak peak of the festivities.
- Carousel ad: this is when you can swipe through multiple photos, with a different caption for each photo! Select the photos from previous events that best showcase how great this year’s will be, and maybe sprinkle in some set-up photos or shots of your completed projects to get homeowners excited for what’s to come.
- Stories ad: on top of these other strategies, you can complement your profile by incorporating an Instagram Stories ad. A few seconds of exciting bliss, maybe including a walk around the fair or home show, can be exactly what your event needs to give it that extra push.
Advertise on Houzz
Houzz is a great way to connect with homeowners who are looking for exactly what your business is offering. Houzz Pro+ ads can land information about your event in front of brand new eyes that will result in event foot traffic and subsequent leads. By placing an ad in Advice and Stories sections specific to the services you offer, Houzz presents your event and your business as an answer to their questions. For example, a homeowner looking for a new patio might post in the Advice section, which will trigger Houzz to advertise for your event on that page. That way, your event not only reaches new eyes, but the eyes that matter most for your business.
Pro-Tip: Check out this Halstead TV Episode to find out whether your company should pay to play on Houzz!
Post sneak peaks
This was touched on a little in the last section, but it’s a great idea to be expanded upon. Of course, getting your business in front of new eyes is crucial to growth. But the other half of that is ensuring you hold onto the business and support you already have. Posting exciting sneak peaks of the process is a great way to do both. Customers, old and new, will be intrigued seeing your crew at work, whether they’re setting up your exhibit at a home show or going on a coffee run for the surrounding booths. Hinting at what’s to come balances the highlights from last year with bold, new features for this year.
Utilizing Instagram, Facebook, and even Twitter, contests are a great way to interact with potential attendees and show the fun-loving side of your business. Plus, it’s a mode of incentive to get homeowners to come out to your event. For example, you could announce via social media that the person who shows up wearing the most red clothing (or whichever color represents your business) from 1-2 pm wins a free hat with your business logo on it or 10% off an exterior lighting job. Not only does it motivate people to come check out your space, but it shows that your team still likes to have fun with the work you do.
You’ve done all the prep work. You’ve populated your event with new and old audiences, and things are going smoothly. But your task is nowhere near over. Incorporating social media tactics into the meat of the event is what will ensure your attendees not only have a good time, but that they come back next year (with friends!). These are some ideas to use during the course of your event:
Set up a photo booth
Young and old, people LOVE photo booths. No event is complete without one. Take advantage of this tradition by setting up your own right near your exhibit. Set out a prop table with funny hats and glasses and, most importantly, gear with your logo on it! Snap a photo to use for your Instagram and Facebook (with permission, of course), and encourage attendees to post to their accounts, as well, tagging your company and using that hashtag you made earlier. If yours is an all-day event or is spread out over a number of days, these photos might be the little extra motivation people need to say, “You know what, looks like people are having a great time. Let’s go check it out.”
Pro-Tip: Make sure you save everything! Every Story you post, every photo you publish – save it all. This way, you can utilize these great, candid, in-the-moment materials to promote for next year’s event.
These are great to take advantage of before and during your event. Utilize Instagram Stories to show the progress of things, even if it’s only for a few seconds here and there. Treat it like your own mini-highlight reel throughout the day. Show the set-up of your exhibit. Show the crowds. Show the food. Show the speakers. Give the homeowners who couldn’t make it out a little taste of everything going on, and a chance for those who could make it to be featured on your company’s Instagram.
Pro-Tip: Ask how people found out about your event. This doesn’t have to do with social media in the moment, but the information you gather can be applied to social media long-term. This is a great tactic that accomplishes several tasks in one fell swoop. First, it gives you an opportunity to interact with your attendees and further understand the audiences that you’re reaching or would like to reach. Second, it helps you learn about which strategies are working best when it comes to outreach and success. And finally, you have the chance to show the people who came why they’re here by segueing into information about your business.
Make your social media presence known
Now that you've gone out of your way to build up your event on social media and generate a thriving presence, make sure your event attendees know about it. Craft cards that include all of your social media information on them to hand out to prospective clients. Keep a tablet on-site to physically show attendees how active your company is an social media Connect with them by naming something specific they should look into on your social media. For example, if a homeowner has expressed interest in a wood-fire oven for their patio, pull out your trusty iPad and show them exactly where they should look (Instagram, Facebook, Houzz) to examples of your work with wood-fire ovens.
Well, your event is over. You did it. You take a sigh of relief in the bittersweet notion that you can breathe again. Alas, your work is not finished (but is it ever truly finished?). Now that the event is complete, this is the time to capitalize on everything you’ve done so far. This is where your business can go the extra mile, showing you care and only want to continue to grow for the next big event. Use these social media tactics to do just that:
Don’t stop posting
Just because your event is over, it doesn’t mean you should stop talking about it. Continue to post photos and videos, showcasing the highlights of your event, for a little while after it’s ended. Don’t go crazy – gradually decrease the amount you post as it gets further and further from when your event took place. Have a ton of photos you want to post? The Carousel Photos feature on Instagram you used earlier are perfect for this. You can post all the photos you love without bombarding your followers. Show photos of the crew, the attendees, the other exhibits, etc. all in one post. Most importantly, this will help homeowners in your target audience see why they definitely don’t want to miss your event next year.
Use contests to get others to post
People took plenty of photos at your event, we guarantee it. But how can they help you if no one posts them? Incentivize people to post photos from your event with a contest! Try one like this:
- Post to your business’ Instagram or Facebook, announcing the contest.
- Something like: “Have some cool photos from our event? Post them with the hashtag #TheHashtagWeveBeenUsingTheWholeTime, tag us in it, and we’ll send you a free gift or discount off your next project!”
- Monitor the posts as they flood in, and send a little swag or coupon to them as a thank you for sharing their photos with you.
Create (another) highlight reel
If it’s not clear yet, highlight reels are good. They help you as a landscape contractor emotionally connect with your audience by evoking feelings of excitement, hope, and reminiscence. So, give a big thank you to all those who came and supported your business and event by developing a high-quality video of all the great times spent together. You’ll receive plenty of interactions and shares from those who participated, sponsored, and attended, and hopefully, from homeowners reacting, “Can’t believe I missed out! I won’t make that mistake again!”
Utilize your Facebook event one last time
Recall that Facebook event you created several sections ago. It comes in handy after your event ends, too. It’s important to show appreciation to all the people who came out and supported in as many ways as possible. This event page is a great way to connect with a substantial amount of those people. Post a big, heartwarming thank you to the event page (maybe including that highlight reel from above), encouraging them to share their photos and videos and to come back next year.
Showcase your success on Houzz
If you created a Houzz ad for your event, it’s likely homeowners saw and attended your event because of it. Now, follow that ad by posting photos and videos from your event on your company profile, encouraging homeowners to take a look at some of your finished projects and the amazing services you offer. People who attended your event will find your profile on Houzz and be thrilled to see their own faces from your event, inspiring them to reach out to you.
Don’t forget about the data you’ve collected
During your event, you asked as many people as you could how they found about the function (that is, if you took our advice). Now, you can apply that collected information and start applying it to your marketing strategy. More than 1/3 of the attendees found out from Facebook ads? Perfect – start utilizing Facebook ads for some of your other marketing endeavors. You reached new audiences and homeowners through Instagram sponsored ads? Brilliant – try using Instagram in other ways to expand your reach. Don’t stop learning about your customers and trying new tactics to reach them.
Of course, these aren’t all your options
2,636 words later, and there are still so many more opportunities to help your events go further with social media. The landscape of social media is ever-evolving, so, be prepared to change course at any moment. For now, take this substantial set of guidelines, and get to work planning, completing, and capitalizing your design-build event.