While Twitter, Facebook, and newly-emerging tools like Google+ may be the latest hot trends in social media at events, it's easy to neglect the slightly less-fashionable blog. However, blogging is still in the mix as a great way to get content to a wide audience in a form that can be easily shared, and in many cases very inexpensive if not free. It is a marketing channel businesses should not shy away from.
Blog posts can act as effective tools to build up to and wind down from major conferences. Their longer, reflective nature makes them perfect for providing a context to an upcoming event or a summary of a recently completed event, while also being close enough to traditional media in form that less digitally-orientated audiences will still engage. You don't need an account to read or comment on a blog post, thus reducing the risk that you will lock out a section of your intended audience.
The mantra in blogging circles is that content is king. But where should that content go? And should blogging really be all about you and your event, or more about the event's audience community?
In this article, we assess the pros and cons of the different ways you can incorporate blogging into your event's promotional strategy to help answer these questions.
The Self-Hosted Event Blog Strategy
Many event organizers opt to have a blog as part of their event website. This is often used as a news feature, focusing on logistical updates and marketing messages about the event, announcing early-bird promotions, etc. However, some event organizers use their blogs in an attempt to build a topical community around a conference, providing more contextual and discussion posts, rather than just promotional updates. Keeping it all in-house like this has both advantages and disadvantages:
- You have full control over branding and content
- An active blog with regular, high-quality content can help improve your site's SEO
- Blog content can be easily shared via other social networks, helping to attract readers directly to your event website, where you can sell to them
- You can offer speakers and sponsors the opportunity to write guest posts to increase their profile in advance of the event
- A good blog needs regular, high-quality content. This can be costly and time consuming to produce
- Your blog will be competing with other, more established and trusted sources of topical information within your event's domain
- Blog content does not promote itself, so you'll still need to work hard with other social media channels to drive traffic
- Once the event is over, you might not have the resources to preserve the blog for ongoing use by the community
The “PR 2.0” Blog Strategy
The “2.0” suffix should give you the clue that this strategy is all about sharing and audience participation.
Event organizers who recognize that their event is serving a pre-existing community with established blogs may choose to embrace those blogs rather than compete with them. Instead of hosting their own blog they'll encourage other bloggers to write about the event, either before or afterwards, thus creating more genuine content that is published out in the wilds where their intended audience spend their time. These bloggers might be speakers, sponsors, industry-focus blogs or even registered participants.
Again, this approach has a range of advantages and disadvantages:
- Commentary about your event is appearing in an authentic setting, with a ready-made audience
- By building relationships with other bloggers, you recruit advocates to increase the amount of coverage generated
- You can concentrate on aggregating and promoting links to all this content to help demonstrate the hype around your event
- Asking bloggers to tag their content with the event hash tag helps to make aggregating relevant posts really easy and increases your event's visibility online
- You don't have editorial control over what is said about your event or how your brand is represented
- You'll need to spend time researching the best blogs to make sure you reach your intended audience
- You need to make time to monitor and comment on posts to help generate a discussion and show your presence
- Nothing is free: You may need to consider offering discounts to bloggers in return for blogging about about your event, so make sure you measure how many hits you get from their post
Content Production or Content Facilitation?
What all this boils down to is a simple question, with complex ramifications:
Are you a content producer or a content facilitator?
If you see yourself as a content producer, who feeds into your event audience's community over the long term, then maintaining your own blog makes sense.
If you see yourself as a content facilitator, who provides the support infrastructure for your invited audience to explore issues, then supporting external blogs to help facilitate that conversation in an authentic space, while linking back to your event as a resource, makes sense.
In reality, these strategies are not mutually exclusive — you can run your own blog for logistical and SEO purposes while still encouraging speakers, sponsors and participants to blog independently about your event. However, you do need to consider your attitude towards blogging and what you're trying to achieve before you go ahead and launch a blog.
As with all social media tools, using it because your competitor is using it is not a good enough justification. There needs to be a strategy behind your engagement that makes sense for your event and the audience you are trying to reach.