How to Market your Toronto Event

How to Market your Toronto Event

Event Marketing

Are you planning an event in Toronto?

Are you looking to hit the market hard, create a buzz about the event, and sell out all your tickets? Then these tips are for you!

First, consider how well you understand your event’s unique value proposition. Research has found that 44% of consumers are willing to pay a premium for a product or service that provides a unique experience. So how unique is the event that you’re offering? The way that you market the event will need to reinforce your brand to get people excited and ready to buy.

An additional 62% say that previous experiences will impact future decisions about what brands they’ll support. So what you do now for this event and for every event you’ve done in the past or that you’ll do in the future will impact your event brand’s value in the eyes of your attendees.

It goes without saying that no attendees mean no event. So, if you want your T.O. event to be successful, you need to market it in creative ways. Plus, you’ll need to engage with your event participants before, during, and after your event to maintain a strong relationship with them. And, most importantly, you want people to talk about your brand, so your T-dot event needs to stand out.

Here at Barker Social, we have years of experience hosting and marketing events in Toronto (as well as in Niagara and New York City), and as seasoned marketing professionals, we wanted to share our event marketing tips with you.

An Event Hashtag is an Absolute Must

When it comes to marketing events in the 6ix, you absolutely need a unique hashtag.

It’s 2019 and this may seem obvious but we can’t tell you how often we see events that are not leveraging this important and free way to market your event!

Every time you mention your event, you’ve got to use your event hashtag. Period.

Pick an event hashtag that’s clear, and easy for people to remember and spell correctly.

This is especially important when it comes to your social media posts, but you also need to include it on all of your other marketing channels too. For instance, don’t forget to include your event hashtag on your printed material like posters and postcards. Don’t forget your email marketing and it should be boldly listed on your website.

You want people to use your hashtag when they tag all their posts and photos because it acts as free publicity for your future events. This helps to anchor your event and keeps it fresh in people’s minds.

We also definitely recommend putting a sign up at your event with your hashtag to remind people to use it on-site.

Make sure that all of your social media accounts include your hashtag in the bio and ask everyone taking part in the event, like your bands, speakers, performers, etc. to use your hashtag in the weeks leading up to the big day. This will help you reach a wider audience base, create a buzz about your event, and get more people to participate.

Facebook is Key for Marketing Events in Toronto

You absolutely need to create a Facebook Event. First, it will function as a “Save the Date” so that people can mark themselves as interested. Then, it becomes a vehicle, kind of like email marketing, to stay in touch with interested people, keep them updated, and push ticket sales.

Pro Tip: Boost your event on Facebook to get as many people “interested” as possible during the early stages of your event planning. Early on, include the words “Save the Date” in the event title. You can remove that part and adjust the title later. The more people who say they’re interested in a public event, the more their friends will see the event come up on their newsfeed.

Create your Facebook Event as early as humanly possible and send this out during the earliest event planning stages. Facebook events are one of the best marketing tools for you to use. It’s like the gift that keeps on giving. Each time someone marks themselves as “interested” in the event, it’ll help the algorithms share the listing with that person’s network, which is free advertising! Winning!

After your Toronto event is created on Facebook, post updates and content to the event page as often as you have something valuable to say, because this will help drive conversation and keep the event fresh in people’s minds. Ask questions about the theme of your event, share news and announcements, post relevant photos or pictures from your past events, and create a buzz that keeps the event relevant in your audience’s mind.

Once your event plans are more solid, update the “About” information in the event and don’t forget to include the “Find Tickets” button, so it’s super easy for people to buy tickets and attend.

Later in the event planning stage, when you’re ready to sell and really push tickets, don’t just boost posts but create more sophisticated ads using Facebook’s ad manager. Your goal should be to drive people to your website’s ticket page or landing page and to retarget people who have expressed interest. You’ll need to add the Facebook pixel installed on your website so you can re-target people who have shown interest in your event with additional targeted ads. That’s how you turn more warm leads into buyers.

Don’t Forget Other Social Media Platforms

Any good event marketing strategy includes Facebook, but you shouldn’t forget about the other social media platforms. When marketing your event in Toronto, Instagram can be a great option to use for behind-the-scenes photos, such as event preparations or pictures of key speakers and performers.

You can also use Instagram to establish the look and feel of your Toronto event with stellar branding. What is the tone of your event? Is it fun? Professional? Wild? What’s your theme? Who does it appeal to? Search for people who might be using hashtags related to your theme, industry, and brand and comment thoughtfully on their content so they can get to know your brand and get interested in your event.

If you’ve organized previous events, then you should use Instagram to share photos that show how successful your past events were. This will attract more people and get them to take part in your new event. And when your event is over, regram photos that people have shared from your event by searching for your event hashtag.

Twitter is another great option for social media. Twitter is terrific for tagging accounts and related brands that are affiliated with your event. It’s also great for participating in Toronto-focused conversations to help put your brand and event in front of new audiences. And it’s a good way to promote your Toronto event by tagging special interest groups and using your event hashtag!

Twitter is also perfect for real-time updates both before and during your event.

Is your event focused on a professional audience? Then you need to include LinkedIn as part of your event marketing plan. LinkedIn has communities of people who are interested in specific topics, so you can find one that fits with your event’s central theme and start a conversation as a way to market and promote your Toronto event.

Make Sure People Can Find You with SEO

Google is great for finding websites and businesses but did you know many people use the search engine to find events, too? That means you need to keep SEO in mind when you write your event description on your website, your Facebook page, when you publish a blog post about your event, or when you craft your press releases (more on this below).

There are three key things you need to do:

  1. Know what words people use to search for events
  2. Optimize your content for those keywords
  3. Leverage the “near me” aspect of your Toronto location

Some keyword examples include:

  • Events in Toronto
  • Upcoming Events in Toronto
  • Events in X Neighbourhood (Beaches, Distillery, Bloor West Village, etc.)
  • Things to do in Toronto
  • Things to do + Xspecific datesX + Toronto

Strategic blog posts are a great way to target key phrases that people might be looking for. Here are some examples:

  • Are you looking for great Toronto events this new year? Don’t miss the Roaring Twenties Events taking place at the Jam Factory. The super fun January event will take place just steps from Broadview and the Distillery District.
  • Looking for great summer events in Toronto? If you’re wondering what’s fun to do in Toronto this July 20 weekend, check out the Beaches Jazz Festival!

Consider what’s unique about your event and what your target customers might be searching for. If your event has a DJ and a dance floor and you know that people often search for “places to dance in Toronto” or “best dance party in Toronto” then you should use those phrases to describe your event.

If your event is outdoors in the summer and features food and beer, make sure to include: great outdoor summer festival with food and beer in Toronto.

But what if you don’t know what people are searching for? Don’t worry, you don’t have to guess at random. There are several (free!) keyword research tools that will help you, like Keyword Tool or Google’s own Keyword Planner—this one requires an AdWords account, but setting one up isn’t hard.

Press releases are also great ways to improve your SEO and get your Toronto event news noticed. You can send a press release out to your local Toronto newspapers like the Toronto Star, Toronto Sun, Globe and Mail, National Post, Now Magazine, etc. but even if they don’t pick up your story, you can improve your website’s SEO by listing the press release on your website. Then there are great digital-only resources like BlogTO. You should focus on building a good relationship with the local online news sources because they’re often easier to get recognition from than traditional print and television sources.

Using a press release helps get your event out there and talking about your event with a natural, organic buzz.

What About Print & Other Paid Ads?

We are particularly fans of digital marketing because you can completely track your return on investment and it’s less expensive to target your ideal customer. However, in some Toronto event niches, you might consider more traditional marketing methods.

First, take advantage of the Facebook ad recommendations we’ve listed above and see how low you can get the following actions:

  • Cost per exposure – how much does it cost for each set of eyes to see your event
  • Cost per engagement – how much does it cost for every person who is liking, reacting, marking themselves as “interested”, commenting, etc.
  • Cost per conversion – how much is it costing to actually sell each ticket

Then, before printing postcards and posters or taking out ads in NOW or the Toronto Star, or a specialized resource like Zoomer or Jazz FM, think about what those costs will look like. And consider that you probably won’t be able to track the results on those costs. You might still find it worthwhile, but don’t invest money in those channels lightly without considering how little you’ll be able to measure the ROI.

Get People Involved with Your Marketing

Any good marketing strategy will include crowdsourcing marketing material. If you’ve organized similar events in the past, ask your existing customer base to post pictures or videos of the event using your event hashtag. These memories that come from real guests are one of the best ways to build credibility with potential new participants.

And if this is your first event, don’t worry! You can always put on a competition that’s easy for people to take part in. Ask guests to invite or tag their friends for a chance to win tickets. For higher stakes events, you can ask guests to submit pictures and simple videos on a topic related to your event and tag them with your event hashtag. Just keep in mind that people won’t work too hard, so don’t make your competition too difficult to enter or it’ll end up being a flop. There’s nothing worse than a competition where no one participates. Make your contest simple, and you’ll attract more people.

Contests are perfect for creating buzz around your Toronto event on social media, and you can offer so many different prizes from free tickets to food vouchers, swag, backstage passes, or whatever other free things you’d like to include. Just be careful about alcohol because there are often laws about giving away booze.

Use Email Marketing Too

One of the most effective marketing tools is a great mailing list. This works particularly well if you already have a list of attendees from previous events. If not, start building one right away by adding a way for people to sign up to your email updates on your Facebook event page and your website. Remember, email is a direct line of communication to your guests, and that’s the key to any marketing strategy!

People will need an incentive to sign up to your email announcements. So you can opt for things like, the first 100 people to sign up will get a discount on the event tickets, or people who sign up by email can be entered for a chance to win a backstage pass.

Other great ideas on how to use email to market your event and get more people to participate include:

  • “Bring a friend” discounts. Get three or more people to sign up for your event, and they get a special group rate.
  • Announce exclusive deals on your tickets through email such as your guest list, early-bird specials, last-chance tickets, and any sales you’re running.
  • Email is also a great way to keep people updated about any ongoing contests and giveaways you’re running on your social media platforms
  • You can email your list with exclusive previews of your speakers, performers, and activities.
  • Gain feedback through email using quizzes or surveys

A Professional Toronto Event Marketing Agency Makes All the Difference

As you can see, marketing an event is a huge undertaking and takes a lot of work and commitment. Luckily, Barker Social can be a part of your dream team! We have years of experience organizing and marketing events, and we can help you cross important marketing tasks off your list in a way that boosts your ROI and adds to your Toronto event’s success!

We’d love to hear about your event so contact us today and find out how we can help your event sell out and be a massive hit in the Toronto area!

Mandi Gould

Mandi is a social media marketer, copywriter, and project manager for Barker Social™. She's a results-driven planner with an unstoppable ability to churn out quality marketing content. Her creative spirit, project management skills, and copywriting ability make her a marketing dynamo. She is also a bird lover, health foodie, jazz enthusiast, and swing dancer.

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