Category Social media

12 cost-effective ways to bring more participants to your NGO’s events


NGO events promotionEvents can be a great way to boost your cause and strengthen or expand your NGO’s community. Mixing face-to-face meetings with your online initiatives can work wonders in establishing top-of-mind awareness for your cause. Events offer an ideal platform to emphasise the urgency of an issue and build the personal connection needed for mobilising support. But how can you ensure successful participation numbers on a limited budget?

1. Craft an irresistible value proposition

This will be the backbone of all your event promotions. An inspiring message that resonates with your target audience, shows the uniqueness of your event and triggers action is key in driving registrations. To craft an irresistible message, don’t forget to use Simon Sinek’s golden circle: start with the ‘why’ and then address the ‘what’ and the ‘how’. An effective approach to help you answer the ‘why’ is to keep asking ‘So what?’ to every answer you give until it’s obvious and feels silly to continue.

Here’s an example:
Learn new breathing techniques (So what?) –> So that you relieve stress and achieve inner calm (So what?) –> So that you feel relaxed, radiant and alive every day.

So the message can become:
Feel relaxed, radiant and alive every day. Discover new breathing techniques that will help you release stress and achieve inner calm.

Once your event information is on the website, don’t forget to optimise the content for search engines. Check out this HubSpot blog post for on-page SEO management tips.

2. Build anticipation

Got a clear theme and a date for your event? Even before you have all the practical details figured out and open registration, start generating some buzz around it.

• Announce the event while participating in another event.
• Let your partners know.
• Post on all your social media channels.
• Send an email to all your subscribers who might be interested in the theme as well as to relevant previous participants.
• Maybe even create a short intro video to accompany the announcement.
• And of course, don’t forget to put a sign-up form on your event page for people who want to receive more information about the event. This way, when registration is open or keynote speakers are booked, you already have an interested crowd.

3. Slice and dice your email lists

Email marketing is one of the most effective tools in event promotions. But do stay away from email blasts and make sure you are GDPR-compliant. Understand your subscribers’ preferences and only target the people for whom the theme of your event is relevant. An effective approach is to identify the key segments in your database and map all the event topics against these segments. In this way you will have a clear content overview to help you in your promotions as well as an easy way to tailor your messages.

An important group is that of previous participants (as long as the theme is relevant to them). These people were previously engaged with your organisation so they are likely to want to participate again. In addition to obvious segmentation by job title, organisation type and size, career level, topics of interest, country of residence etc, this list can further be split based on level of satisfaction with previous events, number of events attended before, sessions they attended etc. And if you don’t have all this information available now, make sure you start gathering it.

4. Launch a new product or publication

If you’re planning to launch a report, a book or a new product, why not use your event as a platform? This way, your launch can receive extra attention and your event can gather more people interested in hearing about the launch. Double win!

5. Develop a content strategy around your event’s theme

Having a content strategy around your theme can help your event get found by the right people and trigger action among a relevant audience without having to fight for their attention. By picking a set of key topics from your event and writing related content that addresses the problems and needs of your ideal participants, you will attract qualified prospects that you can then nurture into registrants. Make sure that each piece of content that you produce ends with a call to action and a sign-up form.

6. Promote the location of your event

While the theme, speakers and set-up of your event will define the unique selling points, the location and venue of the event can also make a difference in your promotions. After a full day of discussions and learning, people love unwinding and discovering new places. You can talk about what the city has to offer and describe the atmosphere of your venue to give your potential participants a taste of the event’s ambiance and thus, an extra reason to join.

7. Unlock the power of your network

The NGO world is highly collaborative – organisations and individuals support each other’s causes and work together towards shared goals. Help your partners promote their work and they will surely return the favour.

In addition, give your speakers ready-made messages to announce their speaking engagements among their networks and also encourage your employees to spread the word. Last but not least, identify influencers and ask for a shout-out. Most of the time, people will step in for a good cause.

8. Prepare a (social) media kit

You want people to help spread the word? You gotta make it easy for them. Don’t expect them to go to your website, figure what to say about your event, craft a message and tailor it to different channels. Maybe you’ve got a few evangelists out there but most of the time people are too busy to make all that effort.

But if you give them the right tools, they will help. So take your event’s value proposition and adapt it to all the different channels where you’d like to get some visibility (eg social media, email). And then make some variations so people have some choice and your message gets out there in different forms. Plus, always attach some channel-specific photos for extra visibility. When your kit is ready, send it to all your employees, speakers, participants and partners. In this way, everyone can just copy, paste and publish your messages, and you can generate a lot of buzz.

9. Raise awareness at other events

Whenever you or any of your organisation’s employees attend other events, make sure to bring marketing collateral to promote your event. And if you have a booth, use pull-up banners, flyers and screens to feature your event’s unique selling points and promo videos. Make sure you allow for people to sign up to be notified about the event and also consider organising a raffle as an incentive.

10. Turn your registrants into event ambassadors

Very often, registration confirmations are the last touch points before the event takes place. So many lost opportunities! What if you could turn your registrants into ambassadors for your event? Here are some ideas:

• Add share buttons and ready-made social media posts to the confirmation page and emails. Make it easy for people to instantly share their excitement with their networks.
• Invite them to the Facebook event and thus raise awareness among their friends as well.
• Send a monthly newsletter to registrants as you book new speakers, add some exciting sessions to the programme or develop interesting content related to some of the topics. This is also where you can mention practical details and boost enthusiasm about the city and the venue. In this way you’ll keep your registrants engaged and give them content to share with their networks.

11. Extend your event participation to the online space

Give the world a glimpse into the content and buzz of your event through live video and tweeting. Think Facebook and Twitter live video as well as live tweeting from key sessions. By doing so, you will boost the visibility of your brand and raise interest in future events. Make sure to have a sign-up form on your current event page for both participants and people who could not make it to be informed about future events.

12. Follow up

The end of your event should not be the end of your relationship with your participants. Follow up with a survey; ask them what they liked and what they would improve; send a link to photos, recordings and presentations; get in touch with each and every person who you promised to contact after the event; send them relevant content (ebooks, webinars) based on their session participation. Establish a connection that goes beyond the event participation and who knows, maybe some of them will even become ambassadors of your brand.

What other tactics do you use to boost participation at your events? Share in the comments below.

Photo credit: @kanereinholdtsen, Unsplash

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The anatomy of a retweetable tweet in international development


Every second, around 6000 tweets are tweeted on Twitter. In a world of information overload and shrinking attention spans, organisations are constantly challenged to come up with unique, competitive ways to capture their customers’ attention. And your NGO is not only competing for donors’ funding, but also trying to raise awareness about crucial global issues affecting humanity and the planet. So as a nonprofit marketer you must find ways to cut through the clutter and get that message across. To help you in this endeavour, I have put together 11 strategies that will increase your chance of amplifying your message and driving more impact – backed by science, experience and creative thinking.

1. Have a clear goal

Before you write your tweet, make sure to have a clear goal in mind. The goal should be more than ‘I need to quickly send out this tweet before moving on to my next task’. If your organisation has a social media strategy, think of your organisational objectives. And even if you haven’t written out your strategy yet, you are using social media for a reason. What do you want to achieve by sending out those tweets? Who do you want to reach? This might sound like a time-consuming process; but especially because of time limitations, you want your tweets to be spot-on. Goals could include:

• Raising awareness about an issue.
• Triggering action regarding a cause (eg raising money, gathering signatures for a petition).
• Showcasing your impact to your donors and thus, increasing engagement.
• Highlighting your expertise around a certain topic to boost your thought leadership.

2. Tell a story

As Turkish novelist Elif Shafak puts it, stories ‘let us leap over cultural walls, embrace different experiences, feel what others feel’. And although a tweet has to be short, it can definitely tell a powerful story. Through the right words, the right visuals and the basic storytelling structure, a tweet can conjure up strong emotions. A simplified storytelling structure for a tweet consists of the following:

1. Current context: the problem
2. Solution to the problem
3. Impact generated by the solution
4. Call to action

A tweet following such a structure could sound like: “1.3 bln ppl lack access to electricity. Our #solarenergy project can #endenergypoverty for 15 mln ppl. Join us!”

1. The problem: 1.3 billion people worldwide lack access to electricity.
2. Solution: Our solar energy project.
3. Impact: Ending energy poverty for 15 million people.
4. Call to action: Join us!

You can of course decide to alternate the content and use one, two or three of the storytelling elements: Problem + Call to action; Problem + Impact; Problem + Solution + Call to action.

3. Use powerful imagery

Studies have shown that the brain processes images 60,000 times faster than it does text. So the ‘story’ tweets mentioned above will get an enormous boost if complemented by the right imagery. According to Buffer, tweets with images get 150% more retweets and 18% more clicks than those without. And Hubspot’s A/B testing tells us that they get 55% more leads. If this is not convincing enough, compare these two tweets:

Which one triggers more attention? The answer is obvious.

And now think of the power of a GIF. With GIFs, you can creatively mix visuals from your most inspiring projects, animate your infographics, give an exciting sneak peek into your latest publication (you name it!) and ultimately stand out more, evoke more emotion and have more impact. Since the introduction of the functionality in 2014, GIFs have been all the rage on Twitter. In 2015 only, users shared more than 100 million GIFs. If you haven’t used GIFs yet, it’s time to get on board.

So go ahead and show the world:

• Images from your programmes to give a glimpse of the context and the impact your organisation is making.
• Collages of people whose lives were impacted by your projects, together with their quotes.
• Infographics based on your studies or on curated content.
• Pictures from events (eg local campaigns; people running at your charity marathon; your experts showing an inspiring slide at a conference; people interacting during one of your conferences etc).
• Glimpses of your latest publications.
• Step by step construction of a home/school/water pipe/solar panel/toilet/cook stove; people working on a project.
• Quotes of end-users, donors, volunteers, members, speakers.

Just organise regular brainstorms to get those creative juices flowing.

4. Enjoy the power of video

If photos can amplify your content to that extent, just hear what videos can do. According to AdWeek’s infographic, videos are six times more likely to be retweeted than photos and three times more likely to receive retweets than GIFs. What’s also interesting is that 48% of the videos watched until the end tend to follow the storytelling structure mentioned above: a problem that is in the end solved.

So take all those videos you’re proud of (maybe add a text overlay for people watching with the sound off) and showcase them directly on Twitter. And if you’d like to only highlight a certain part and make your video snappy and punchy, Twitter offers you the functionality to select a certain time frame.

One more thing! Live video is all the rage now on Twitter. And it seems that Twitter videos around live events increase brand favourability by 63%. So why not give your NGO that extra edge?

Here are some ideas of videos for your NGO:

• A sneak peek into one of your projects, highlighting the problem, solutions and impact.
• Testimonials of people who’ve been impacted by one of your projects.
• Time lapse of something being built (home, school, water pipe, solar panel, toilet, cook stove) or prepared for an event (booth being constructed, signage being hung around the venue).
• Live video from one of your events (a plenary, panel discussion, behind the scenes, marathon, dance, local campaign etc).
• Live video from an important conference.
• Animations explaining how your NGO can address some of the global issues (remember the storytelling structure!).
• An animation explaining a global issue ending with a call to action.

Here’s an example from SNV:

5. Use facts and figures

According to Kim Garst, “tweets containing numbers get retweeted 17% more often than those without”. As Hubspot, Copyblogger, Kissmetrics and many others explain, ‘the brain loves specificity’ and certainty. We are attracted to numbers because they promise structure, substance, relevance and ease of reading. Here’s the proof: infographics are liked and shared on social media three times more than any other type of content. By using facts and figures, you can effectively raise awareness about a situation and establish credibility. Just make sure you triple check the accuracy of your data before you press tweet.

Note: If you’re looking for facts and figures for your international development organisation, check out UN’s Sustainable Development Goals website.

6. Use links and hashtags

According to Buffer, tweets that include links are 86% more likely to be retweeted. Plus, tweets with hashtags get twice more engagement. However, don’t overload your tweets with hashtags; one or two will get you 21% more engagement than if you add three or more. In addition, research shows that placing the link 90% of the way through your tweet increases the retweet rate.

Is there an important event coming up and its theme is relevant to your organisation? Even if you’re not attending, you can still contribute to the online conversation and explain your NGO’s stance on some of the issues discussed. Just be sure to stay away from overly promotional tweets. Valuable content goes a long way in promoting your organisation. Remember to check what the right hashtag is and tag or mention relevant organisations or people.

7. Observe international days

If you’re working in a nonprofit, you’re there for a cause: fighting poverty, gender equality, universal access to water, education for children everywhere etc. Join the global conversations around international days, have your say on some of the most important issues facing humanity today and show the world how you’re addressing these issues. Make sure to use the right hashtags and tag relevant organisations. Here’s a list of international days observed by the United Nations.

8. Engage donors and partners

Tagging or mentioning donors and partners will not only increase the chance of your tweet being retweeted but will also boost your relationship on- and offline. Think of your inbound marketing stages: attract, convert, close, delight. How do you delight your donors and partners? Giving them extra visibility will boost the relationship and create a positive dynamic that will extend well into the future.

9. Ask for retweets

It’s as simple as that. Studies show that when asking for a retweet by using the abbreviated ‘RT’, the retweet rate is 10 times higher than the average. Furthermore, spelling out ‘Retweet’ seems to generate a rate that is 23 times higher than the average.

10. Find the best timing

According to Hubspot, tweeting later in the evenings and at the end of the week will garner more retweets. However, it is important to test what works best for your organisation and remember to cover all the relevant time zones. It is okay to tweet the same tweet several times. Studies show that two identical tweets trigger almost the same engagement.

11. Cross-promote your tweets

Capitalise on your other channels to bring more traffic to your Twitter account and increase the likelihood of getting more retweets. Mention your Twitter campaigns, hashtags and handles on your website and other social networks, in your newsletters, marketing collateral, email signatures and in event invitations. Embed a Twitter feed into your website and blog, prepare ready-made tweets for your blog posts, ebooks and newsletters and mention your campaigns in forum conversations.

Want to mobilise support for a campaign and rally people to spread a certain message? Consider using Thunderclap, a ‘crowdspeaking’ platform that “allows a single message to be mass-shared, flash mob-style, so it rises above the noise of your social networks. By boosting the signal at the same time, Thunderclap helps a single person create action and change like never before.”

In a nutshell…

There are loads of tactics out there to help you amplify your content but in the end, the most important tactic is to understand what your audience wants, tweet valuable content (remember the 80-20 rule!), test, check your analytics and test again. And of course, retweet/quote yourself and people will return the favour.

What other strategies do you use to increase your retweet rate? Share in the comments below.

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