How Startup Canada Uses Social Media To Successfully Promote Events

On November 26, hundreds of Canadian entrepreneurs, investors, industry leaders, and government decision makers will meet in Ottawa for Startup Canada Day on the Hill. The event is a unique opportunity for entrepreneurs to interact with political leaders and make connections with some of the country’s most respected startup mentors. For Startup Canada, a grassroots network of entrepreneurs, the event is the culmination of months of preparation and tireless promotion.

Startup Canada has actively used social media to build a community of entrepreneurs since it was founded in 2012.  As the organization planned its second annual Day on the Hill, Startup Canada wanted to use social media to:

  • Generate awareness of the event
  • Drive attendance through registration
  • Provide recognition for partners, sponsors, and exhibitors

Using Hootsuite, Startup Canada achieved all of their social media goals. Here’s how they did it, in 5 easy steps:

1. Coordinate your team

Startup Canada represents more than 85,000 entrepreneurs, 400 enterprise support partners, 300 volunteers, and 20 Startup Communities that are spread across six time zones. To keep everyone involved and talking about the Day on the Hill event, Startup Canada needed to work together seamlessly with their sponsors, speakers, and media partners. But first, they needed to work together as a team.

Before getting everyone on the same social relationship platform, Startup Canada’s social media team used a variety of tools to monitor, engage, and publish social media content. This led to confusion and duplication of effort within the team. It was difficult to tell which team member was engaged in a given conversation, and nobody could be sure what content would be published on which social channel, or when.

Startup Canada consolidated their team of staff, volunteers, and contract workers into Hootsuite, which allowed them to collaborate and engage with their community far more effectively. When tracking @mentions, keywords, and hashtags, they were able to see which messages had received a response, and from whom. They could also assign incoming mentions and direct messages to other team members, so no critical issue went unresolved. Melloney Campbell, VP of Communications for Startup Canada, gained an overview of all team activity and could review all outgoing messages before they went live.

2. Schedule social content to save time

“We’ve pooled our scheduling into the Hootsuite platform so we can have greater visibility and control of content that’s being published across all of our networks.”— Melloney Campbell, VP of Communications for Startup Canada

Promoting a major event over a period of several months requires a lot of outbound messaging on your social channels. To save time and provide a steady flow of content on Twitter and Facebook, Startup Canada used Hootsuite to schedule some of its promotional messaging in advance. The Hootsuite Publisher allowed their team to collaboratively maintain an ongoing schedule of social messages on a week-to-week basis. They were able to avoid duplicate posts and see exactly how often they were promoting the Day on the Hill event to avoid flooding their followers’ feeds.

Learn more: How to Schedule Tweets and Save Time

3. Monitor social media to identify advocates

In the early stages of your promotion strategy, it’s critical to generate as much awareness as possible and create interest that can help attract new exhibitors, attendees, and speakers. To do that, you’ll need ambassadors who can spread the word and generate goodwill on your behalf. Using a hashtag—and encouraging other people to use it—is an effective way to consolidate the conversation about your event and will help you identify advocates.

Months before the Day on the Hill and before the full speaker list had even been announced, Startup Canada used Hootsuite to monitor social media and identify the people who were using their event hashtag, retweeting their Tweets, and sharing their Facebook posts. They also watched who was sharing media stories and partner content about the Day on the Hill, and then reached out to engage with them.

4. Promote your speakers, not just your event

Social media allows you to create an emotional connection between attendees and speakers before your event even begins. In the weeks leading up to the Day on the Hill, Startup Canada used social media to introduce various speakers to their social audience, which not only helped to drive registrations but also encouraged a strong and engaged community of attendees to form around discussions with the speakers. Simply @mentioning speakers in social messaging about your event is a great way to promote them and makes it easy for people to learn more about their background. For greater engagement, involve speakers in Google Hangouts on Air or live webinars. These online experiences generate excitement leading up to your event and give people a taste of what they can expect from speakers when they see them in person.

Startup Canada’s prefered method for getting speakers engaged with potential attendees was a regular Twitter chat on the #StartupChats hashtag. These educational chats were focused on Startup Canada’s mission of empowering entrepreneurs. Speakers were able to interact organically with the community, demonstrate expertise, and promote the event at a more intimate level.

5. Co-create social content with partners and exhibitors

Creating enough social content to drive engagement around your event can be challenging, especially if you are a non-profit, volunteer-driven organization like Startup Canada. But you likely have more resources at your disposal than you think. In fact, every relationship your organization develops is another chance for content creation. Present your sponsors, speakers, and exhibitors with mutually beneficial opportunities and they will jump at the chance to drive brand awareness or sales with a new audience.

If your organization contributes to a partner’s project, make sure that the topic is relevant to your audience. Don’t waste time and energy on unrelated content just for the sake of getting brand exposure. The content should be useful to the people who you are trying to attract to your event. For example, Startup Canada partnered with Intuit, an event sponsor, for a live Google Hangout aimed at helping entrepreneurs scale up their businesses.

With these 5 steps, Startup Canada met their goals and have had hundreds of people register to attend Day on the Hill. After integrating social media into their event promotion strategy, they expect to see a 50% growth in attendees from last year. To follow Startup Canada’s Day on the Hill event, use the hashtag #StartupDay.