There’s been a lot of talk in the events industry about the community model. It comes with a slew of benefits, including continuous audience engagement and endless branding opportunities. Since it’s such an amazing addition (or should we say foundation) to an event planner’s event strategy, event profs must learn how to build an event community.
Even though it’s only become a hot event trend recently, an event community is by no means a revolutionary idea. However, communities are no longer sustainable with a traditional, in-person-only, model that associations use. Modern communities live online, either on social media and communication platforms or most recently, on event platforms.
Where & How To Build An Event Community
When tackling the question of how to build an event community, we first need to define the online space where it can live. Anybody can launch a free community on social media or communication platforms, but they do not hold as much potential as community platforms.
The events industry space has witnessed a major advancement in event technology solutions throughout the pandemic. In an all-virtual world, event platforms became the new venues. But since the virtual event format is not limited by time or space, a new idea emerged; why should the activity on the virtual event platform end after the event? Attendees can also communicate and interact with content or exhibitors after the event has already finished. And so, the events industry started moving toward a 365 community engagement model.
So, here is how to get started with building a thriving online event community: turn your event platform subscription into a year-long subscription. Talk to your event platform company’s representative and ask what platform features they have to host a year-long community.
Step 1: Setting Up Your Event Community
Once you’ve chosen your community platform, it’s time to start building your event community. You will host all your attendees’ profiles and webinars in one single platform/app – so choose wisely.
Here’s how to start setting up your online community:
- BUILD A WAITLIST. Start with announcing your community and building excitement. You can use a viral waitlist app to manage your future community members. Incentivize members to invite their peers by moving them up on the waitlist the more they promote it.
- OFFER EXCLUSIVE SIGN-UPS. Offer your first sign-ups a lower price or an exclusive title, such as founding members.
- PRICING. You can price your community to be a monthly fee (i.e. $10/mo) but consider offering a discounted annual subscription (i.e. $100/yr – $20 savings). Make sure your event app/platform can process recurring memberships and not only 1-time purchases.
Step 2: Find A Community Manager
Event organizers have a lot on their plate as it is. That’s why it’s best to dedicate one person whose sole job is to nurture the community and ensure a great user experience: a community manager. A community manager needs to understand the organization’s purpose, social media marketing, content creation, and possess a wide array of soft, interpersonal skills.
A community manager is a link between your organization and your audience. They moderate content and conversations in a way that best suits the target audience, boosting brand loyalty and credibility. They ensure the organization has a cohesive voice across various platforms and that members feel heard and seen.
Step 3: Offer Continuous Audience Engagement
Community managers are responsible for ensuring continuous audience engagement. Providing value and engagement to members is one of the biggest challenges when building an event community. So, here’s how to build an event community AND keep it going.
- WELCOME NEW MEMBERS. Encourage your founding members to welcome new participants as well. Activate new members: they should fill out their profiles and connect with others like they would on social media.
- POST CONTENT AND CREATE A DISCUSSION BOARD. You might need to kickstart some discussions. Once community members get more comfortable on the platform, they should organically take over some of the conversations – that’s a sign of a truly healthy community.
- OFFER MULTIPLE OPPORTUNITIES FOR ENGAGEMENT. Offer mastermind groups where people can share private information, build sub-groups, and include gamified challenges with a leaderboard.
- REWARD MOST HELPFUL COMMUNITY MEMBERS.
- STRIKE DOWN SPAM. Monitor publishing activity and keep spam at bay at all times.
Step 4: Plan In-Person Events
In-person events are the accumulation of excitement within your community and the best way to promote your community to potential members. When your annual big in-person comes up, host it on the same event platform as your community. Your platform should have an “upgrade sale” to give attendees access to event content.
Community members should get exclusive access to tickets to your in-person event. Offer them to them first and give them a solid month before you open up your registration to non-community members. You can still do “early bird” tickets inside of your community to increase initial ticket sales.
And finally, make sure your community members are ALWAYS paying less than a public attendee. Your members need to be reminded of the perks and why they pay monthly to be in your community.
Step 5: Include Event Sponsors
Event communities are not just a great virtual space for your attendees to meet and watch content. They’re a goldmine of attendee data and sponsor opportunities. Your exhibitors can showcase their products and services all year round. Sponsors, too, can benefit greatly from being involved in your community. Here’s how to include them and why.
- Sell annual sponsorships in addition to any specific event sponsorships,
- Don’t allow your sponsors to spam direct messages,
- Onboard your event sponsors to the platform so they will know how it works and how to boost engagement,
- Sponsors should be sharing their content and being helpful as a way of attracting people to want to work with them
- Sponsors need to understand that you’re not responsible for getting them leads.
If a sponsor crosses a line and does not respect the code of conduct, terminate your relationship with them. Community comes first, so do not allow behavior that goes against your purpose for the sake of potential profit. Long term, it can alienate members from your brand and hurt your brand.
How To Build An Event Community
Hopefully, you now have a better idea about how to build an event community. It’s a process that takes time and diligence. While we advise you to follow these steps, you’ll see the most success if you define your target audience and pay close attention to what they need and what their pain points are.
If you would like to see a prototype of a community, Endless Events has launched a free community on Slack, called Event Profs Unite. It does not revolve around events per se, but you might find a lot of valuable information for event planners and event managers. Let’s connect!