Crowdsourcing has grown as a buzzword since 2011. Not to be confused with crowdfunding, crowdsourcing refers to the practice of obtaining needed services, ideas or content by soliciting from a large group, in today’s environment, typically from an online community. Below shows a trend of how crowdsourcing has become more prominent as a buzzword on Google.
Fig 1: Interest over the term “Crowdsourcing” over time (Source: Google Trends)
Last year, the US government sponsored a crowdsourcing game on social media channels, with the aim of leveraging on crowdsourcing to find ‘suspects’ who will be located in 5 different cities. It is part of a longer-term experiment to use crowdsourcing to improve transatlantic security. If successful, you can imagine the whole world looking for a fugitive.
Figure 2: Tag-challenge, the crowdsourcing game sponsored by the US government (Source: ZDnet.com)
So you may ask, what has crowdsourcing got to do with events? Well, the answer is simple. With more and more choices in terms of physical as well as virtual events to go to, potential attendees are spoilt for choice on how best to spend their available time. Events are facing competition not just against events of a similar nature. They are facing a competition for a scarce item: attendees’ time.
Crowdsourcing allows the event organiser to engage the audience at a very early stage of the event planning process. To explain things more simply, I will use the below diagram to break this down into 4 different stages.
Fig 3: 4 stages of crowdsourcing to drive event attendance
Stage 1: Crowdsourcing for Content Engagement
A lot of times, event organisers face headaches with content planning and selection. Often, the potential audience are not involved at this early stage as event organisers plan around what they are comfortable with. I have seen some events where the theme from last year got ‘recycled’ and the potential attendees like myself would ask: “Why should I attend to see something I saw last year?”
Crowdsourcing at this early stage would help to avoid such issues as potential attendees (especially those who attended past editions of the event) would clearly spell out what they feel are missing in previous editions, or cite new trends that they would like more insights on as an incentive for them to attend the event.
There are a couple of ways administratively that crowdsourcing can be conducted:
1) Through formal surveys among existing databases that you can target
2) Through social media channels such as Facebook/ Linkedin
It is important for either option to incentivise the crowdsourcing participants. This can be in the form of prizes, discount off event tickets or a combination of both. While privacy is still treasured both in Asia as well as in other parts of the world, it would be ideal if you could associate the response with the specific contact, as this would help in Stage 3 of the execution, which is described later on in this article. In terms of tools available, low-cost online tools such as SurveyMonkey for conducting formal surveys or Woobox to conduct Facebook polls can be used, where the information can easily be imported to your Event Management software for data matching and analysis. Social media channels such as Facebook can also be used as a channel to grow your target database.
Stage 2: Matching Content to Exhibitors and Partners
Once Stage 1 is successfully completed, you would have a rich database of information to plan your overall theme for your event. After firming up your event theme and armed with the information available, you can subsequently approach your potential exhibitors and partners with more conviction, as you would know that there would be a ready audience for the topics that your event theme is built on. These audience (matched to the topics) are potential leads for your exhibitors and thus, provide a good basis of why the exhibitor or partner should be involved in your event.
The irony of it all is that the more popular the potential topic is among your target audience, the more you want the exhibitor to take part (and also representing the revenue opportunity for the exhibitor), as that Content area will help to drive registrations. So try to sell a premium exhibitor package to these particular exhibitors/ partners but make sure you close them early so as to get their content and brand name in early.
At this Stage, you should also be prepared for some Unique Selling Proposition (USP) for your event, as there should also be elements of your event content that should not be readily available in the public domain.
Stage 3: Promoting your Content and Exhibitors to Potential Event Audience
Often, event organisers spend a lot of internal resource promoting to their own captive database and for those with deeper pockets, through paid advertising such as print ads. What is probably less frequently used or adopted by event organisers is to leverage on their exhibitors and partners to help drive event registration. This could be easily done by generating at an early stage unique promotional codes for individual partners to send out to their own database. If it is a paid event, by offering some discounts early for their partners’ clients will also help to generate some goodwill for the partners’ clients, while at the same time broadening your marketing reach.
Fig 4: Generating a unique promotional code for your partners could widen your marketing outreach
At this stage, it is also important to revisit how you have collected the data in Stage 1, which is your crowdsourcing data, via either your survey or social media outreach.
For example, you may have collected and segmented your crowdsourcing data into a few broad segments, such as the area of interest of Marketing tools available for a digital conference. By segmenting the audience response into Smart Lists, you can then send out target content promotions based on the segmentation, which brings out the personalization and relevancy of your promotions to the target audience.
You can also inter-mix the targeted content promotions with general promotional emails pertaining to your event.
Figure 5: Building a Smart List
Stage 4: Measure and Review
You can measure the effectiveness of your efforts via post-registration analysis. Remember that during Stage 1, you have collected the crowdsourcing response, of which you then planned your event theme around in Stage 2, with the view to attract the potential exhibitors and partners based on the crowdsourcing response. At Stage 3, you will have broaden your marketing outreach through your exhibitors and partners, while at the same time, sent out target promotions based on matching your Event Content against the interest level based on the crowdsourcing response. All these can be measured via generating unique links via your Event Data Management software and matching that against your targeted Smart List. Your eventual promotional effectiveness dashboard could look something like the below.
Fig 6: Your event promotional dashboard, measuring your Partner and Content marketing effectiveness
Summary: The Importance of Crowdsourcing and Event Data Management
There is huge potential to make sense of the data you are collecting, making sense of the data and matching that to your event content. This directly increase the value of your event to both exhibitors as well as event attendees and ultimately, you can measure the performance of your marketing channels. The involvement of your potential event attendees at an early stage to solicit ideas or content could prove to be a game-changer, if timed and executed properly.
PS. This article authored by me first appeared in the SACEOS MICE Business Directory 2013/2014.