It happens every single time.
If you're planning an event, you get the panic. No matter whether you're throwing a virtual event--such as a webinar or a Google+ hangout--or full-weekend-long physical conference, there's that unavoidable moment when you think: "How on earth do I make sure these seats are full?"
You may not know it, but you've got an invitation list right at your fingertips. You'll find you're A-list when you use LinkedIn to research, plan, publicize, and produce your event.
Barbara Rozgonyi is the founder of CoryWest Media. Her blog wiredprworks.com was named a top-50 marketing and PR blog in 2012. If anyone knows about A-lists, it's Barbara. With her strategies you are more likely fill the seats at your next event with just the right crowd.
1. Use LinkedIn Guest Filters
Begin by deciding what sort of person is the ideal target for your event. Then, sign into LinkedIn to fill your invitation list using the filter feature in the upper right-hand corner.
Go to the advanced people search and fill in the desired criteria to see who how many ideal people you are already connected to. For example, your filters might include Chicago, healthcare, technology, senior level. How many people are first connections?
Not enough folks on your A-list? Then you need to expand your reach. Search second-connections and group members to find additional people to connect with. Looking for more local connections? Type in your zip code and a 10-mile radius and watch as the group appears on your screen. (Keep in mind this important note: It's poor form to simply hit the connect button. Instead, go to that person's profile and create a personalized invitation to connect. You will get better results and start out on the right foot in your new relationship.)
Now that you've expanded your list, download your connections. To download names and e-mail addresses, go to connections and look for the export link on the lower right hand corner. Click it and all of the information will be stored in an Excel file for download. Voila! You have your list!*
2. Use Groups to Build Your List
Hopefully you participate in a number of LinkedIn groups. They are one of the most powerful benefits of being an active member of LinkedIn. The best way to connect with members for this purpose is to reach out to the group manager. Get acquainted and let them know you have an event coming up that may interest their members. Don't post event notices or you may be in violation of the group's rules. You may be able to post event announcements in a promotions section--but understand that visibility may be slim.
Instead, offer the group manager member discounts, comp tickets and exposure on your event site. Ask them to include your event in their member announcements and on an events calendar. Some group managers may list your event with no promotional ties, but it's always good to have a partner plan in place.
3. How to Invite Your List
To get the invitation to your LinkedIn connections, you can send a group of messages through LinkedIn. Or, you can send an email using the downloaded connections list. Be careful about sending large groups of messages all at once. Your email provider may have a limit on the number of emails that can be sent at one time.
Whatever route you choose, make sure the subject line grabs attention, is inviting, and states the date, location and name of the event. Personalize the email as much as possible. You may want to give your A-listers a discount only available to your LinkedIn connections.
If you're not interested in emailing, you can use LinkedIn's messaging to send up to 50 messages at once. Again, you may risk annoying people and losing connections. The open rate may be lower if your contacts don't frequently check their LinkedIn inbox.
Make sure to integrate event updates with your LinkedIn company and personal updates to keep information coming and interest building. (Tip: Want greater search power? Upgrade your account to the business level. Yes, it will cost you $24.95 per month [less if you sign up for the annual plan], but you'll be able to get better results.)
So what are you waiting for? Set a date, pick a topic and log onto LinkedIn to start growing a prospect list for your business with an exciting event!
*Remember not to add anyone to your e-mail marketing list without their permission. Instead, communicate with these folks, get to know them a bit, look for common groups and join them. You may even want to start your own group.