A friend of mine recently attended a business conference around sustainable farming. The event’s attendees and exhibitors were a group passionate about the conference’s focus, yet he said the conference itself was uninspiring. He said he didn’t feel like the organization valued him. He didn't think he would attend that event again. Instead, he’s going to check out a competing event. This is why it is so important for event professionals to build an event community.
Build An Event Community
As he was leaving the hotel, another conference was moving into the venue — BronyCon. My friend wondered why his conference wasn’t drawing the massive crowd that BronyCon was drawing. A crowd, he pointed out, that was wildly excited about being there.
BronyCon bills itself as the world's largest convention for and by fans of the animated TV series "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic." The event in Baltimore attracted over 10,000 fans from around the world. Their first convention was in 2011 and was attended by just 100 fans. That growth is pretty significant.
You might be thinking that it’s unreasonable to compare a consumer event to a business event. Fair enough, let’s talk about two B2B conferences with a fan base as passionate as consumer events like BronyCon and Comic-Con - Dreamforce and Content Marketing World.
How to build a community from scratch
Content Marketing World and Dreamforce are both events where serious business is taking place, yet both events have an almost carnival-like atmosphere. Something these two events have in common is a tight knit community. Communities that have an enthusiastic and sometimes even fanatical fan base. Communities that are supported and nurtured by the companies behind these events, Salesforce for Dreamforce and Content Marketing Institute for Content Marketing World.
You could say that Content Marketing Institute’s community really took hold when the organization began hosting Twitter chats. It was a temporary endeavor set up as a way to promote some of the speakers who would be appearing at their event. Those chats were so successful they decided to continue it after the event was finished. That weekly chat has been going strong for two years now. The chat hashtag #CMWorld was trending during this year’s conference with over 42,000 tweets during the four-day event attended by over 3500 people. That’s in addition to the attendees and speakers who were actively sharing promo codes in the months leading up to the event, encouraging their peers to attend.
Salesforce’s community building efforts took a bit more work. Erica Kuhl, in an article on CMXhub (a community for community professionals…talk about practice what you preach), talks about the investment Salesforce made to create their community from scratch. Kuhl managed to prove the value of the community to the marketing team, then the product team, and now to the employees.
The logistics of putting together a successful event require an incredible amount of effort and resources. Investment in creating a community often gets pushed off in favor of a never-ending series of looming deadlines. But with so many events struggling to stay competitive and relevant to their audiences, it’s time to make creating and nurturing community a priority. Those who’ve made it a priority have proved the return on investment in doing so.
Cathy McPhillips, Marketing Director at Content Marketing Institute, said, “Seeing the CMWorld community in person is like ‘coming home.’ We leave the event smarter, but we also leave happier and more inspired because of the caring, close community that has been built. We are able to say that our CMWorld community growth has given us not only event attendees, but also speakers and sponsors.”
How to get started
If you’re convinced it’s time to take the building of your community seriously, why not start with a chat on Twitter like CMWorld did. Check out our primer for hosting your own Tweet chat to get you started.
You should also read:
- An event coordinators 3 greatest fears
- Why the event industry needs more technology, not less
- A proactive approach to leveraging event technology
Build An Event Community Or Prepare To Lose Money