For the last several years, I’ve volunteered to handle PR/marketing for a local fall festival in my town – the Conway, Massachusetts Festival of the Hills.
The first year, I spent the majority of my time focusing on traditional PR efforts – contacting local newspapers, radio, TV – for calendar listings, pre-event press coverage, and day-of press coverage. I also worked on traditional advertising/marketing – running print ads in local newspapers and weeklies.
We had a lot of success that first year. The festival has been a local institution for many years, so the local media is definitely interested in covering the event each year.
However, last year, I decided to ramp up our digital marketing efforts. Here’s what we’ve done so far:
Website – launched the Festival of the Hills website – with design/coding help from Erica Goleman. Now, I need to work on SEO for the site. I just noticed when I googled the phrase Festival of the Hills we’re 6th in Google’s organic search results. Yes, there are other Festivals around the U.S. named the Festival of the Hills, but I know we can rank higher than # 6.
Twitter – I started a Twitter account for the festival. I researched local Twitter users and started following them. But, honestly, I don’t think the Twitter account worked all that great. The problem I ran into was Twittering about a local event. What do you Twitter about? Ultimately, since this was a volunteer project after all and I didn’t have a ton of time to develop a full-fledged Twitter persona, I ended up Twittering basic even info reminders – with links to the website. Not great, but we did get some retweets out of it.
This year I’m considering live Tweeting throughout the day of the Festival, and again doing some Tweeting of event info prior to the event.
Flickr pool – As part of the website, we set up a Flickr pool for people to tag photos of the Festival that they uploaded to Flickr.
Event websites – I created event pages for the Festival on both Eventbrite and Eventful. My thinking was to create these event pages to help with SEO and to offer another place online that someone could discover the Festival. Also, I like Eventful’s weekly email newsletters. You can sign up to receive info on certain types of events in your local area – music concerts, arts, kids and family activities. As a parent, I’ve discovered a few kids activities vai Eventful’s weekly e-newsletters that I didn’t know about before.
I wish more events and people used Eventul. I like the concept of Eventful “pushing” info on events that they think I’ll be interested in. And, that beats having to subscribe to a million different e-newsletters from local concert venues, museums, etc. But, I still don’t think Eventful is as robust as it could be on capturing all the great local events in our area of Western Massachusetts.
As far as the impact for the Festival of the Hills, I’d say the impact of the event websites were negligible.
Craigslist – For the past 2 years, I’ve posted event info in the events section of Craigslist. Of all the online marketing we’ve done, we’ve gotten the most response from our Craigslist postings. People routinely email us as a result of the Craigslist postings asking specific questions about the Festival.
Calendar listings – I worked to make sure the Festival was listed on all the local media – newspaper, radio, TV – online events calendars. Again, does anyone read those? I don’t know, but I’ll continue posting on them next year.
Email – With the website launch, we included an email sign-up form. Thus far, the sign-ups have been minimal. This year, I’m going to work on actively collecting emails from Festival attendees. My plan is that email list would be extremely dormant. Maybe, we’d email once during the summer reminding people of the date of the Festival of the Hills and asking them to save the date. Then, maybe 4 weeks prior to the event, we’d send one email per week as a reminder/build up/count down to the Festival.
Facebook – Last year, I didn’t create a Facebook fan page for the Festival. But, it’s at the top of my To Do list for this year.
As I worked on these various digital marketing initiatives for the Festival, I remember looking around online for any insight into local event SEO. I did find this blog post about local event SEO from Katz Web Services which I found helpful.
What do you think? Did I miss something obvious? Where do you think I should spend my time online this year in marketing the Festival? Right now, I’m thinking that I’m going to spend a good chunk of time on the Facebook fan page. With the viral – easy sharing – via Facebook, it seems like a no-brainer to me.