It’s becoming more common to see virtual events pop up. Whether a virtual murder mystery party, an online book tour, or even a virtual happy hour, you’ve probably seen it. And the possibilities for virtual events are endless!
Take, for instance, Anne Cocquyt, who created The Guild, a paid membership where women entrepreneurs and leaders can connect, network, and advance their personal and professional development. Anne’s bread and butter was in-person events, but she wanted a way to capture the excitement and energy amongst members before and after these in-person meetups, so she started a virtual event series called SERENDIPITY. It covers a wide range of business topics and really helps solidify the connections amongst its members.
The great thing about a virtual event is that it’s much easier to put together than in-person events, which require a lot of logistics like finding a venue. If you have a great idea and want to bring together a group of like-minded people like Anne did, hosting an online event might be right for you!
But before you actually host one, you need to get the word out about it. Nothing would be worse than no one showing up to the online event that you put your blood, sweat, and tears into creating. Our goal in this article is to give you some online event promotion ideas so that you have people eagerly showing up. Try these 11 online event marketing strategies for your next get-together!
In this article
What to think about before you launch your online event
When you’re thinking about online event marketing strategies, some of the groundwork comes before you even create a virtual event in the first place.
Find your unique story
The most important thing is that you know who you are, either as an individual or as an organization, and what your story/background brings to the table. Of course, you can host an online event just for fun, but having a reason behind it (we like to call this your Big Purpose) will have so much more impact.
If we go back to Anne’s story, she felt that there needed to be an actual community space for female entrepreneurs because she wanted to see them build things (like awesome companies) and knew that she could use her experiences and heart to do just that.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself to uncover your unique story:
- What do I know about X topic?
- What problems have I successfully solved for myself?
- What problems have I successfully solved for others?
- What could I teach someone who is just starting out?
- Why do I want to host an online event?
- What’s my unique perspective? Think about your background, identity, story — the things that make YOU a unique host.
If you can answer these questions, you’re one step closer to creating and promoting your online event.
Who is your Ideal Member?
Once you’ve honed in on your unique story, the next step is to figure out who your Ideal Member is.
A lot goes into marketing an online event and a key factor is knowing who your audience is and what they want. When we mention Ideal Member, we’re talking about your most enthusiastic member, the one who benefits the most from your content and knowledge RIGHT NOW.
When you know who your Ideal Member is, you’ll be able to tailor your content to best suit their needs. Here are some questions to help you figure out who they might be:
- What life stage are they at? In college? Pivoting careers? Retired?
- What goal are they trying to achieve?
- Why can’t they achieve their goal on their own?
- What is their biggest misconception about this topic?
- What will your Big Purpose teach them about this topic?
Not only will this help you create an incredible online event (tailored to your Ideal Member), but it will also help you build a strong community (more on that later).
If you’re unsure about the answer to these questions, a great way to figure it out is by interviewing people 1:1 to get their perspectives.
You can also take this a step further and think about something we like to call a Year in the Life. If you’re planning on hosting a series of online events, this will be particularly beneficial. The purpose of the Year in the Life is to think through where your members will be one year from now (e.g. in a better-paying job, or in the best shape of their life).
If you can get a clear vision of what your Ideal Members will have accomplished, and create a clear roadmap for your content and how it will assist them on the path toward success, you’ve done a good chunk of the work.
How to market your online event: 11 strategies
There are lots of ways to promote online events and it’s important to remember that results can take time. Make sure you give yourself enough time before the event to do enough promotion about it.
1. Email marketing
Creating an email list is a great way to market your online event. Email marketing is low cost if not free and easy! You can expose new people to the awesome content you’re creating and remind previous contacts what you’ve been up to.
If you have an existing email marketing list, great! If you don’t, no need to sweat. Start building your list with strategies like meeting people at networking events, inviting your current social media followers, creating a “lead magnet” where you give away a valuable piece of content in exchange for an email address, or adding a sign-up bard to your website.
Remember that way too many of us have inboxes overflowing with emails. You don’t want your emails to get lost in the mix.
So don’t be afraid to send periodic reminder emails about your event. You can start a few months or weeks out, and slowly send emails about your upcoming event. If you have good email marketing software, you can even schedule them.
Make sure that your emails are interesting and provide value. Let's say your event is about how to actually make a living creating art. Each email could provide a glimpse into what your event will offer (e.g. speaker, workshop, networking session).
At the end of your emails include a call-to-action (CTA) like “Register Today” with a link back to a landing page where your contacts can sign up for the event. When it comes to providing value, you can offer one helpful tip at the beginning of the email, then more information about your event, and include a CTA.
If you’re planning on hosting more online events, make sure to collect attendees’ emails so they’re notified about future ones!
2. Leverage social media
Whether you’re selling a course, an ebook, or in this case an event, if people like you and your perspective, they’re more likely to believe in what you’re selling and purchase it. A lot of people think you need a huge social media following in order to promote your products or events, but that is NOT TRUE.
In fact, many of our creators do absolutely fine, even without huge followings on social media.
Remember to keep things simple, and use any social following you have to your advantage. You already built up an audience there. Create some engaging content that gives your audience a feeling of what your online event will be about and who you are.
3. Create content
Content creation is a great way to build your online profile so that people get familiar with you and buy whatever it is you’re selling. This can be in any format you wish, whether it’s writing, images, or video.
You could start a blog and share your ideas. You could incorporate an eye-catching infographic, post client testimonials, or simply write compelling social media posts for your audience. You could look at creating a YouTube channel.
Whatever avenue you choose, be consistent in your video style, topics, and frequency of posting so that people get a feel for who you are. That way, when you want to sell them something, you’ve built up trust, and they’ll be more likely to buy into whatever it is you create (like an awesome online event).
4. Host a free webinar
Speaking of creating content, another way you can build trust and persuade people to register for your online event is by hosting a free webinar. Think about times when you were offered a free sample and actually bought the product later because of how good it was (e.g. perfume, food delivery service, TV subscription platform, etc.).
You can do the same thing when it comes to marketing your online event by offering a free webinar or even mini-workshop to potential attendees.
- You can take a sample of a segment that you will discuss at your event and put it up for free as a talk.
- Or, maybe you do a panel discussion with three speakers and talk about something related to the event.
- Or, you could even create a webinar that simply introduces yourself, your story, and the event you’re hosting.
Don’t just make your webinar a sales pitch about your online event, provide some value (or even some homework) that your audience can take away from it. Leave them happy with the information they got but still wanting more.
You can choose live or recorded webinars, it’s really up to you. What we will say though is that when people run pre-recorded webinars … it shows. If you can make it live, it’s more personable.
When you’re new to this, it can be hard to gain trust from potential customers. Offering some free content is a great way to market online events because it gives people a taste of what they’ll be getting when they attend the event.
5. Create an online community
You might think that building a community is too much work on top of planning an online event. But it’s actually the perfect segue.
You’re already bringing together a group of like-minded individuals to learn something new, grow, and provide a safe space where they can face challenges, and find solutions together.
Essentially, you’re already building a community! So why not build a dedicated space for them to meet before, during, and even after the event?
Your community space should be a place that makes people excited and feel valued. People want to feel seen and understood — make sure that at the bare minimum your community is doing that. To do this, set some ground rules; after all, you want everyone to treat each other with respect.
Overall, the excitement and the fun you want your members to have at your online event should also be how they feel in your online community. It should be a fun and interactive space where they get to connect with each other, your content, and you.
When you pick a platform like Mighty Networks, you can easily build an online community and host virtual events, all in one place (under your brand).
With a Mighty Network, you get:
- The ability to charge for memberships, courses, community, and more.
- Multiple ways to connect with your members from polls to direct messaging.
- Create engaging content (surveys, Q&As, live streaming, webinars).
- Accessible anywhere on the web plus iOS and Android devices.
Another good option for marketing your online event is asking clients (if you have a business), students (if you have a course), or members (if you have a community) about their success stories. This sort of proof goes a long way towards building trust with your audience, and people need to trust in order to buy.
If you’re wondering how testimonials will help market your online event, think about it in this way:
- Relationship building: Highlighting stories is a way to show support to the people who are your biggest cheerleaders. When you have systems like this in place, you’re building a relationship with your audience and providing them with a unique experience.
- You’ve got proof: People aren’t likely to take you for your word when they don’t know who you are. When you have your clients, students, or members promoting your online event, you’ve got their stamp of approval. It shows that people trust you and value what you do.
At the end of the day, if you’re providing value and giving people the necessary tools to solve their challenges, some of them will be happy to not only provide you with a testimonial (that you can use for promotional purposes), but they’ll want to spread the word in any capacity they can. And word of mouth is powerful!
7. Build relationships
One of the keys to good promotion is good networking. Remember the people you already interviewed to narrow in on who your Ideal Member is? Since you’ve already made a connection with them and you built an online event catered to them, they might be interested in signing up!
Approach them with a low-pressure invite, like “Hey! I wanted to let you know about my online event that’s happening on (date) at (time), I think you’d get a lot out of it and it’s only (price). Let me know if you can make it!” The timing might not be right for them. But don’t be surprised if you do get a few takers.
Now, take it a step further. Relationships and networking are the foundation of great events. That’s why building a solid networking strategy can make a HUGE difference.
Here are some other ways you can network:
- Attend networking events (online, hybrid, or in-person).
- Speak at events or conferences.
- Post in relevant LinkedIn groups.
- Make genuine 1:1 connections on social media.
- Be a guest on a podcast.
- Be a guest writer on someone else’s site.
These last two examples are also part of cross-promotion (you can subtly plug your online event into the podcast you’re featured on or blog you’re writing). This brings us to our next strategy…
8. Make it easy for speakers to promote
Getting the word out about your online event to as many people as possible is no easy feat. Why not enlist a little help? One way to do this is by asking your guest speakers to promote the event.
This is known as cross-promotion — where you promote them as a guest speaker at your event, and they promote the fact that they’ll be speaking at your event. What’s great about this is that you’ll reach people who you might not have had access to before (like their social media followers), plus it’s a win-win for you both.
The key here is to make it as easy for them as possible to advertise your online event. You could even provide graphics or messaging for them.
9. Assign ambassadors
It’s no surprise that people like being rewarded for their work. A simple and useful way to get the word out about your online event is to have your members help with marketing. After all, if you have a social media following, or built a community, who better to assign as ambassadors than your number one supporters?
Your ambassadors might know how to market an online event in a new and innovative way that you haven’t thought of before. You could reward them with a commission (e.g. for every registration, they get 15% commission of ticket sales), or you could reward them with your latest online course or ebook.
10. Offer incentives
Just as people like being rewarded for their work, people also love a great deal! Think about times when you were eyeing up an item like a designer handbag or an electric bike and it FINALLY went on sale. You get a dopamine hit just from knowing you scored a great deal.
You can use this same strategy for marketing your online event. Yes, your priority should be ensuring your online event provides value and offers solutions to your members’ pain points. But giving them something a little extra? Now we’re talking.
You could offer an early bird discount, say 10% for individuals who register early (this can be tied into urgency as well, “today’s the last day to save 10%”).
Here are some possible bonuses you could offer:
- Premium subgroup
- Special webinar
- 1:1 coaching call
11. Validate with presales
Ok, now that you’ve done all of this work, from narrowing in on who your Ideal Member is to strategically promoting your event, you’ll want to test the waters. This is where preselling comes in. You might be thinking, But what does preselling have to do with marketing? Well, when you offer a presale for your event you’re increasing the buzz around it, and you’re also gauging interest levels.
It’s easy for people to say, “That event sounds so interesting, I’ll be there!” and then not actually show up. Having a presale validates the idea and shows that people are willing to pay for it.
The other nice thing about a presale is that it can help fund the online event and any equipment you may need for it. It also allows you to change course if need be. Maybe you get potential registrants asking questions because something about the event just isn’t clear (like the schedule, or whether or not they get a recording if they missed it). Now is the time to make adjustments!
You could even have a target goal in mind — say if you get 20 people to sign up, you’ll for sure host the online event. If you don’t, go back to the drawing board.
Conclusion: Ready to start?
We’ve discussed 11 online event marketing strategies, but none of that will matter if you’re not hosting it on a great platform.
When you choose Mighty Networks, you’re getting more than just an awesome virtual event platform. Our powerful, all-in-one cultural software platform brings together content, courses, community, and commerce too.
Mighty offers flexible Spaces that bring features like forums, courses with pre-recorded or live teaching, live events, live streaming, custom course communities, messaging all members, a ton of content options, plus Q&As.
On top of that, you get access to amazing features for delivering your virtual event, like RSVPs and messaging (to send out reminders).
Best of all, you get to cultivate a thriving network for your community that’s accessible at any time. Might Networks lets you publish speaker bios (ahead of time), repurpose conference sessions that you can turn into online courses or mastermind groups, and offer replays and recorded videos. And it’s all under your own brand.