In our latest guest blog, event platform and software provider CrowdComms gives the lowdown on why event communities are great for building year-round engagement, and how to go about creating one…
Are you passionate about preparing for the zombie apocalypse? An enthusiastic bug-eater who wants to share their culinary hints and tips? Or maybe you’re a covert yarn-bomber who wants to get involved in some guerrilla knitting action.
No matter how niche your interest, it’s guaranteed that there’s an online community group populated by people whose predilections match yours!
Benefits of Online Connections
In 2019 over 75% of global internet users engaged with some form of online community. We’re taking to the internet in our millions to connect with like-minded folk who share our interests.
Online communities provide a safe space for people to share knowledge and make new connections. Participants can hang out for a few minutes or a few hours, and drop in at any time of the day from any location around the world.
Online Event Communities
This sense of belonging, knowledge sharing, and opportunity to make fresh connections isn’t new; people have been attending physical events for hundreds of years for the very same reasons.
With a natural synergy between events and online communities there’s exciting potential to extend attendees’ event connection from one or two days during the event itself to a dynamic, year-round engagement.
Why Build an Online Event Community?
That’s great, but isn’t building and maintaining an online event community a lot of work? We hear you! Before we get into how to build (and make it easy), let’s look at why you should build.
Leveraging attendees’ shared interests in the event topic and content to create ongoing communities has key benefits for attendees, planners and sponsors:
Events are Changing
We consume information and content 24/7, 365 days a year. From news to TV series; university study to live sports, there’s almost no form of entertainment, education, or information we cannot or do not access online.
While virtual, ongoing content won’t replace the need for live and in-person events, it’s likely that attendees’ expectations will increase for continuous opportunities to access key industry knowledge and networking opportunities beyond a one-off event.
Expanding event engagement across the year not only delivers excellent value and ROI for attendees, it cements an ongoing relationship between them and the event brand.
Event planners and organisers will be connected to a community that is constantly engaged with event branding and content and is enthusiastic about supporting formal event opportunities when they arise!
Extending networking opportunities beyond the event gives attendees…well, time.
Networking at in-person events is always time pressured. It may not be possible to meet every attendee on your radar during a two-day event with a packed agenda. Creating an on-going space where attendees can make and nurture connections takes the pressure off. People can reach out in their own time and undertake meaningful conversations that develop naturally for as long as is needed.
Your industry, association or event theme is likely to be a dynamic entity that is constantly changing and updating.
It makes sense to keep track of those changes and deliver relevant updated content to event attendees when it happens. This not only helps with ongoing engagement, it means in-person or virtual event content can be super timely and on point, without the need for deep dives into old developments.
How exciting for sponsors and exhibitors! Rather than wait 12 months for the next event or trade show, sponsors can also develop ongoing and targeted relationships with engaged event attendees.
The great thing about online communities is they generate and nurture heaps of content. Sharing ideas, posting new discussion topics, and asking for advice – it all helps create an ever-evolving knowledge economy that’s fun and engaging for participants.
With organic content generation, it also means that event organisers aren’t solely responsible for keeping the event community space humming.
How to Build Your Event Community
Creating an online event community starts with giving attendees a place to go; a dedicated space where they can chat, network, and access information.
Start from Scratch?
Building an event community space from scratch sounds like a lot of work to us!
Smart event platforms, such as CrowdComms’ event app, have evolved beyond providing attendees with a simple means of information access on event day. Our interactive platform is the ideal place for attendees to connect with event content and each other, not only at the event but year-round.
It makes sense to utilise your existing event platform rather than build an entirely new and separate community.
To ensure attendees can maximise their online community experience, here are the features to look out for:
Find a platform that replicates the on-site networking experience as much as possible. CrowdComms’ Smart Sessions feature is an interactive networking solution that enables attendees to meet in real-time in a dedicated virtual space. They can join conversations, watch live streams together and chat in small groups – much like they would in-person.
Conversations can then continue via private or group chat channels that are available to access at any time.
If you’re uploading and distributing content throughout the year, look for a platform with a user-friendly CMS.
Overly complicated systems that require lots of support or technical know-how will invariably make it harder to deliver regular and timely content to attendees.
Flexible Content Delivery:
If you’re delivering a great content mix that includes video, documents, graphics and live stream sessions, you’ll need a space where your community can access items easily and in a format that suits their needs.
CrowdComms’ Video on Demand streaming service allows event communities to access content when they need it. Whether it’s rewatching the event keynote, dropping in to research an event-specific topic, or simply hanging out and chatting with the community – our event community space enables easy access to content, round the clock.
Awesome Options for Sponsors:
A varied community space will offer sponsors a whole heap of additional opportunities to connect with event attendees. Sponsored pop-up ads, rotating banners, pre-video ads, surveys and giveaways – a comprehensive community event platform will deliver multiple ways to reach out to community members.
Online event communities represent an exciting opportunity for growth for event organisers, it’s therefore worth investing in resources that can make the space flourish!
Allocate dedicated resources to your online event community. Managing, moderating and populating a space like this requires a specialised community manager who can spend time nurturing and growing the community.
Investing in creating an online event community extends attendee engagement far beyond the event itself. Community event spaces mirror the way we connect and consume content elsewhere in our lives, and are therefore a natural way for attendees to continue conversations, access content, make new connections, and stay engaged with, and loyal to, your event brand.