A Six-Step Guide to Using Influencers in Event Marketing

February 12, 2019

Influencer marketing allows organizations to leverage influential people to help them get their message to a wider (but still targeted) audience. With more people adopting social media every day, influencer marketing is quickly becoming a staple in the marketing mix — and has now made its way to the events world.

Unlike festivals and fairs, corporate events are typically not of interest to the general public, but that doesn’t mean influencer marketing can’t play a role in boosting attendance.

In a recent webinar hosted by the IAEE Mid-South Chapter, Nick Borelli, president of Borelli Strategies, spoke about influencer marketing and how event organizers can harness its power to grow their events.

“If you produce a good show but do no marketing, you will probably increase sales .5 to 1 percent year-over-year via organic growth,” Borelli said.

For some organizations, that may be sufficient. But if you’re looking for significant event growth, influencer marketing may help you move the needle. Here's how to dive in:

1. Find your influencers.

The first step is understanding your audience and what (as well as who) motivates them.

Borelli advised considering “niche micro-influencers” or “nano-influencers” rather than “macro-influencers,” such as a Kim Kardashian. Macro-influencers, he explained, have a very large number of followers, yet because their audience is so broad your message will not be relevant to the vast majority. 

A niche micro-influencer or nano-influencer is more attuned to your specific audience (and doesn’t demand the celebrity-level compensation to promote your event). Niche influencers are celebrities that are not household names, while nano-influencers could be your own staff, speakers or customers who are good at social media and have followers that match your target demographics.

There are software tools you can use for measuring and monitoring social media engagement — for example, Hootsuite offers a free entry-level plan that allows you to monitor up to three social media accounts — or, you can simply spend some time clicking around and searching for hashtags, to find some likely suspects. Weigh engagement more heavily than reach, as it is more likely to result in conversion.

When researching potential influencers, Borelli recommended asking people that you trust, who they trust.

“Survey your attendees and partners and ask them who they listen to the most,” he said.

Also ask them about their social listening preferences and what platforms they are actively using. It doesn’t make sense to hire an Instagram influencer to promote your event if your audience mainly uses Twitter.

2. Determine how you'll measure results.

Three easy ways to measure influencer marketing are:

  • Reach/Impressions (the number of people who see information about your event)
  • Engagement/Top Content (the number and breadth of likes, shares, comments and replies)
  • Conversion (the number of people who take action, such as registering for your event)

These measurement strategies can also be used during your research and selection process. 

“If what people are sharing resonates enough to share and be shared, that is most relevant,” said Borelli.

He also noted that in-person influencers can be different than online influencers. Your most popular speaker may not have a social media presence, but if she verbally recommends your event while speaking at a different event, you may see an uptick in registration. 

Once selected, it’s also always good policy to monitor your influencers. Track their engagements and their impact, both to ensure that any paid influencers are a good fit and to provide recognition to those who have the most impact.  Also use this strategy to monitor any unpaid influencers for recognition or possibly converting to an official paid arrangement.

3. Be authentic.

Authenticity is the intersection point for marketers and influencers, according to an Altimeter Group study commissioned by TapInfluence. Marketing respondents said they view authentic storytelling as the most important aspect of influencer marketing; 71 percent of influencer responders believe their honest and authentic voice is what keeps their audience engaged.

After the spectacular implosion of the Fyre Festival, the importance of authenticity in the events industry is growing.

Once you’ve chosen your influencers, Borelli recommends working collaboratively with them, involving them in your event design and event marketing. When an influencer feels comfortable in their role as brand or event ambassador, they will be more genuine. So, don’t have them memorize your elevator pitch — have them put your message into their own words.

4. Clearly outline compensation.

Make sure the nature of the arrangement is clear, both to your influencer and to your (and their) audience. People today expect transparency and equate non-disclosure with dishonesty.

Being authentic also means being transparent and providing fair compensation. Compensation for influencers could be a retainer, project-based payment, free products or services or anything else that may be mutually agreeable. Don’t assume that anyone will be willing to provide free publicity for you in exchange for “exposure.”

Instead of relying on a verbal agreement, draw up a contract that clearly lists the terms of the agreement.

5. Make it easy.

The easier you make it for people to promote your event, the more likely it is that they will do it. Tools like snöball can help you turn anyone registered for your event into an influencer, with personalized microsite landing pages and tailored social media communications.

“Everyone needs to be empowered to tell your story,” Borelli said. “Consider all these people as your marketing team – exhibitors, sponsors, presenters, influencers, attendees.”

6. Recognize influential attendees.

If your social monitoring discovers that any member of your ecosystem — customer, partner or employee — is constantly promoting your event, and getting active engagements around it that make a positive impact, Borelli said to “give them a stake in the game.”

This could be providing a free conference pass or organizing a room upgrade or special amenity. Consider handing out awards for top influencers or naming them in your keynote presentation. 

The upshot of doing influencer marketing right?

“You’ll find yourself doing a lot less marketing and speaking to a larger group of people,” Borelli said.

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