In higher ed there are a number of possibilities for event promotion. Unfortunately, our students’ lives are so technologically overwhelming that it’s often difficult to navigate all the platforms and connection possibilities. As a result, you run the risk of diminishing engagement with your event, as well as making it more difficult to engage students, period. You probably don’t need advice on what technologies to use to promote your event, (if you do, check out this blog post). However, the best way to boost attendance at your event isn’t to simply use technology—it’s to use technology in a deliberate and strategic way. In my work with student communications, I have found that a two-fold approach to event promotion works best. When done right, you’ll see both commitment and engagement from the student.
- Decide on the one “action item”, ( such as registering or joining a Facebook event), that you want students to do. This “action item” needs to encourage a commitment to attending your event and allow you to follow up with them. Promote only this action.
- Communicate with students in ways that add value to your event (i.e., increases commitment). For example, tweet out information about the event to build excitement.
e.g. “Don’t miss our surprise special guest at the Luau this Sunday in the Quad.” If you have a registration site, then the primary “action item” in your promotion will be for students to register for your event. We know that every site or step we send a student to will result in reduced conversion to the next step. If you need students to register, then every promotion piece you have, (from Facebook posts to push notifications), should direct readers to your registration. The biggest mistakes I see colleagues make is that they clutter an email or poster with multiple action items: “Visit our website for more info!”, “Register now at this other site!”, “Join our Facebook event!”, “Follow us on Instagram!”, “Email us with questions!” Most students will only click on one link or visit one site, so you want to make sure you are sending them in the best direction. If you have a registration site, (e.g., through your University’s app, events platform, co-curricular records, etc.), make sure it has the capability to display an event description and email contact, and can collect registrants’ emails/contact info. If you’re doing registration, you should have automatic or manual emails sent to registrants that push them to a Facebook event. If you aren’t requiring registration, then you’ll want to make your Facebook event your initial action item. If you incorporate a registration component into your Facebook event, make sure relevant information and a link to your registration site are featured prominently. I always recommend promoting your event through Facebook's event app because it offers the chance to communicate regularly with your attendees on a platform they check regularly. Facebook notifications also tend to be perceived as less “spammy” than multiple emails. What’s more, Facebook events also leverage peer influence. A post saying that a number of your student’s friends are attending an upcoming event wields much more influence than a regular promotion post. Once you have a pool of interested attendees, (from your registrant list and/or Facebook event), you can communicate with them about the event, relevant topics, your other social media platforms, your organisation, etc. On Facebook, you should post once every 2-3 days and then daily for the few days leading up to your event. However, you should send emails only once or twice in the lead up to your event. At the end of a student’s interaction with your event promotion, you want them to do one specific thing: attend your event. Use a multitude of technologies, platforms, and media in your event promotion, but do it in alignment with a plan to focus on one link. Then, follow it up with a diversified communications and engagement plan.