By Sharon A.M. MacLean
“The event’s next week and we have 120 tickets left to sell.” Award-winning broadcaster/producer Lesley MacDonald and board member Era Rowles are on the horn with me 9 days before their annual luncheon, which recognizes the outstanding accomplishments of local women. Tickets are $85 a pop.
“We want to reach a new audience… people who would want to attend the event—if they knew about it. Can you help us with your expertise in social media?” MacDonald had monitored Twitter over a year ago, but was doubtful about the social network’s application to business. She was now open to giving it a try.
The annual Woman of Vision Awards Luncheon pays tribute to the 12 inspirational women featured on the Global TV series over the past year. It’s been running 19 years and is championed by a passionate board of directors; sponsors are blue chip. Fifty young women have their tickets purchased by sponsors and six female university students receive $1,000 bursaries to help realize their visions. We cry in our seats at some of the stories.
This year, organizers took a calculated risk by moving to a larger venue because of ongoing sell-outs. The decision led to a bigger production planned by MacDonald and new co-producer Michael Kryton. Yet, the move required a 38.5% increase in ticket sales to 950 from 650 before breakeven.
I’ve been in this position before. The client is anxious and, often, any profit or in this case, financial breakeven—rides on the last percentage of recorded sales. Still, reputations are precious and these organizers worked very hard over many years to sustain the good works that lay in the balance of a well-attended event.
A quick confab with my partner, Kate Leighton, and we made the decision: Woman of Vision needed our help and we had the tools to give it our best shot.
Both of us believed in the power of social media and knew it was possible for buzz to take it over the top—if properly strategized and orchestrated. We’ve seen the reverse happen many times—where people are recruited to post Tweets for a business or fundraiser—without a strategy to achieve results. The stats are formidable: 340 million tweets posted each and every day and 293,000 statuses are updated every 60 seconds on Facebook (Source: The Social Skinny).
The plan’s implementation needed to begin early next day and looked something like this:
- Link to prominent Twitter accounts with a connection to Woman of Vision;
- Link to vital women’s groups;
- Share links with friends of the event;
- Regularly state the countdown to remaining seats;
- Connect with sponsors;
- Link Twitter to Facebook;
- Tweet 4x per day and monitor conversations.
Results? A sold-out sign went up 4 days later. Other metrics included a 250% increase in MacDonald’s Twitter followers plus an increased frequency of retweets by fans of the event. MacDonald tells me her list of followers grows every day.
Next step is for Woman of Vision to continue incorporating online tools as part of the organization’s development. “Twitter has really proven itself with this experience,” says MacDonald. “The strategy now is how we build on the power of social media to create more sustainability and growth for the entire program all year round.”