There’s so much energy and excitement that comes from events, and it can feel a bit cold when it vanishes after an event wraps.
As an event organizer, you’ve invested a considerable amount of time in making sure your events are engaging for attendees, and generate ROI for sponsors. Why not keep it going indefinitely?
A community platform allows you to harness that excitement, and convert it into year-round engagement, and continuous revenue potential. With the future of events in flux, a community platform can be a key tool in your event strategy.
What is an Online Community?
Simply put, an online community is a hub aligned around a specific event, brand, topic, or cause, where like-minded people gather to interact and network, consume content, learn about new products, share ideas, and more.
Online Communities Facilitate Year-Round Engagement
With a typical event, all of the networking, engagement, and sponsor interaction is confined to the time when the event starts and ends. By making a community a natural extension of your live, virtual, or hybrid event, you can keep that momentum going indefinitely via smaller, more frequent touchpoints. Think of it as a destination where attendees can continue the conversation with their new connections, and discuss the content they’ve just experienced at your event.
Ongoing community engagement can include a mix of different strategies. It can involve sharing thought leadership content — like your latest blog, white paper or podcast, hosting networking events and virtual meet-ups, and even some healthy competition via a community game, trivia, live polling, and Q&A.
At Socio, we hosted our first virtual event, EventHack 2020, back in April. In the days leading up to the event, we released the community as a launching point to build pre-event excitement. We invited our attendees to join the conversation, seed the Q&A forum, meet the hackers, and network with others in the industry.
We’ve since added almost a thousand members to the EventHack Community, and it continues to be a go-to destination for thought leadership content, weekly virtual events, and Q&A sessions with industry leaders.
Online Communities Build Deeper Connections and Strengthen Brand Loyalty
The opt-in nature of a community gives event organizers and brands the opportunity to engage their audiences in a more intimate setting. And because members choose to be a part of the community, you can expect a deeper connection and more robust engagement.
Beyond the scope of events, a strong brand community can grow customer loyalty, reduce marketing costs, authenticate brand voice, and yield new ideas for product development. Through consistent engagement and support, brand communities can deliver tangible results.
Online Communities Offer More Frequent Sponsorship Opportunities
Think about sponsorship at a typical event – live or virtual. There’s a limited window to get your sponsor messaging in front of the audience, because at the end of the day, the venue closes up or the live stream shuts off.
Because communities allow for continuous engagement, sponsors can reach their audiences more frequently, and in a more targeted and intimate setting. Year-round sponsorship opportunities generate additional revenue, and give sponsors consistent engagement with the community audience.
The best community platforms come equipped with features to showcase sponsors, including customizable layouts, banner ads, splash screens, and the ability to sponsor push notifications, gamification, networking events, and more.
Choosing a Community Platform
An online community can be somewhat basic with limited features, or come equipped with powerful tools to boost engagement, showcase sponsors, and introduce gamification.
As with any tech purchase, you always want to start with your strategy. What are your goals? What are you looking to accomplish with the community? What features do you need? When you start with your strategy, your specific needs become clear, making it easier to home in on the right community platform.
Also, a good community platform should offer robust engagement features. Because, let’s face it, without meaningful engagement, your community is really just a glorified message board. Some of the engagement features to look for include push notifications, gamification, live polling, and Q&A. You’ll also want members to be able to network, chat, and share contact information.
It’s also important to pick a community platform that integrates with your existing event-tech stack. Otherwise, your attendees will have to download and toggle between multiple apps. If already using an event app, choose a community platform that integrates with the app. That way, you can seamlessly pair the systems.
Finally, consider your long-term needs and pick a platform that will grow with you, and have the flexibility to help you easily move between virtual, hybrid, and in-person events.