I know from personal experience that promoting on-campus events can be a daunting and tricky task. I spent 4 years in college working for Auburn University’s University Program Council. We planned all of the student-fee funded on-campus events for students. Our events included workshops, movies, carnivals, concerts and more. After promoting countless events over the years, I have learned what works and what doesn’t. Here are the 4 best tips to get students to your on-campus events.
Use Social Media in a Creative Way
While interviewing committee applicants for UPC, one question we asked was: “what are some creative ways you would market xyz event?” Most of the time, the answers were the same - social media and handing out fliers. Handing out fliers is generally ineffective outbound marketing and social media is ineffective unless you have a way to draw your audience in.
Facebook users tend to be older and less Generation Z and Millennials have accounts, but it can still be a useful platform. It’s a good idea to create a Facebook event page so your attendees can mark themselves as “going” and possibly share the page with their friends. Some people also have their Facebook events synced with their online calendars and your event and the details will show up on them. Be sure to post updates on the event page and include as many details as possible. Encourage everyone involved in the event to invite their Facebook friends that are in your target audience. Facebook ads can also be created that allow you to select specific locations, age ranges, and gender for your target market.
Instagram can also be a helpful tool. Sharing graphics or photos about the event on accounts that are relevant to the event can entice your audience. Instagram ads can also put your event information in front of people who might not see it on your accounts.
Engaging with people online is the best way to get them interested in your event. Enticing people to tag the event or your page in pictures or posts will get the info in front of more people. For example, for our annual UPC Halloween event, we hid ghost posters across campus with a hashtag printed on them. People had to post a picture of the ghost with the hashtag and tag our page on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter for a chance to win a ticket that allowed them to skip lines. This was a fun way to get people engaged and advertise our event. The key is to find what is unique about your event and encourage your audience to be promoters of that.
Use Emails Effectively
For UPC, newsletters were sent every month with information about all of our upcoming events. We collected email addresses at events, freshman orientation, and on our social media accounts. These newsletters brought people to our events that would ordinarily not hear about them or didn't follow us on social media.
The most important part of using emails to market your event is to make sure your emails are not only getting to your target audience, but also that they are being opened. Use a website or program that allows you to track open and click rates. If your open rates are down, you should try to improve the subject line of your emails. When you send emails about an event, be sure to include links to event pages and social media. If they see pictures from your previous events they may be more likely to attend the one you are promoting. When you send emails, make sure that they are informative and entertaining to your audience. The more personal your emails are, the more effective they will be.
Make Sure Your Event Lives Up to Expectations
For a lot of on-campus events, people will choose to attend last minute because they heard about it through word of mouth. Word of mouth can be one of the most powerful tools for events. To get people talking about your event in a positive way, it must live up to expectations and have a cohesive and welcoming atmosphere. When people attend events, they are looking for somewhere they belong and they feel welcome. To create this atmosphere you should have music, food, and activities that include everyone. This means you need to have food options for people with restricted diets and inoffensive music.
Offering hands-on activities will encourage attendees to stay at your event for longer periods of time and a high contact time will make your event more successful. When choosing a location, open spaces (outdoors is preferable if the weather is permitting) are a good choice so your event is more visible. A lot of UPC's most successful events were hosted on the campus green, which almost every student passed at some point during their day. When they walked past and saw what was going on, they were more likely to stop by.
Entice Your Attendees to Come to Your Next Event
Time is valuable to most people, so make your attendees feel like the time they spent at your event was worthwhile. This can be accomplished by having tangible items they can take home. This could be a promotional item, a craft, food, or anything else that fits your event. Crafts were one of the most successful stations we had at our events. They were a good stress reliever for students and gave them something to bring home with them.
Encouraging attendees to sign up for your emails or newsletters at the entrance/exit of your event or promotional table is a good way to keep them in the loop about your future events.
Also, be sure to have someone taking pictures on a professional camera to be posted on your social media accounts. This will entice people to go to your social media pages or website to see them. This also makes them feel valued and included - which will make them more likely to attend your next event.
All of the aforementioned promotional techniques are audience-centered. People will not want to attend your event if you shove fliers in their faces and offer nothing in return. Giving your audience what they want will bring them to your event and eventually turn them into promoters for you. If you want to learn more about how to implement this type of strategy, click here to download our case study on inbound marketing for a local event.