A special "Event Website" might be a perfect way to promote your event. But is it worth the effort?
Let's say your company or group decides to hold a special event six or twelve months down the road. Eventually somebody on the planning committee will suggest the group create a special website for the event: "We can create an online registration form, include information about the special speakers and entertainment, post a schedule, and provide links to accommodation, travel agents, etc., etc."
Sounds like a good idea.
But how can you maximize the effectiveness of such a site? Will it be something that people actually refer to and use? Or will creating it just be a waste of time and effort? Do you have somebody in the group who can get this kind of site up and running quickly? Or will you have to defer to your already overworked company webmaster or the same creative volunteers who are always exploited for such projects?
And will anybody apart from a few select insiders (your committee members) actually be able to find the site once it is set up?
Some important issues to consider
Here are some of the more important issues to consider before you go ahead and create another website that nobody looks at.
1. Will its content be "deep" enough to make it more than just an online announcement? Many websites start out as good ideas, but quickly fizzle when their creators realize they don't really have much to say. In the case of event websites, the "depth" of a proposed site will depend on the event itself.
For instance, say your Agricultural Society is running a Fall Fair. Wouldn't an event site be ideal for providing details about competition categories, judging criteria, daily schedules of events, as well as online registration forms, entertainment highlights, and general program notes? In other words, an extended event of this sort provides lots of fodder for making a site "deep" enough to be a valuable resource for visitors and participants alike.
On the other hand if your committee is in charge of organizing a one night Fireworks Display, then chances are the program will be pretty light. There's not much need for a complete website. You would be better off just creating a web page or an announcement and asking the webmasters of relevant sites to give you some exposure.
Of course there are lots of events right in the middle between these two examples. Family Reunions, for instance. What could be better than a "Jones-05.org" site? You could include contact information, program descriptions, historical photos, comments from family members across the country...on and on it goes.
2. Should your "site" be part of another already existing one, or should you register a new domain specifically for your event?
Say you are organizing the 50th Anniversary Acme Widgets Company Picnic. The Company already has an active website -- www.acmewidgets.com. And the company website already has a skilled webmaster. Would it be better to ask your company webmaster to put your event in a directory on www.acmewidgets.com -- for example, www.acmewidgets.com/50th, or www.50th.acmewidgets.com? Or would you be better off to create a brand new "domain" just for the event -- something like www.acme50.com?
First of all, don't worry about the cost to create your own site. Yes, it does cost something to register a new domain and find a host. But these costs are insignificant in the larger scheme of things. You can register a ".com" domain for as little as $12.95 (per year), and an .info or .biz domain for as low as $7.95 or less. And hosting is very cheap as well. The standard these days is about $5.95 per month for a reliable host. Here is an inexpensive source for domains.
Much more important is whether or not your group has the know-how to actually create a website from scratch and then maintain it for a year or more. If you have an experienced web designer or webmaster on your committee he or she will probably be able to set the group up for next to nothing. If you don't, I suggest you find one before tackling the job. This is not the time for flying by the seat of your pants.
If you are able to find someone with the necessary skills, then it's a no-brainer. Go ahead. Register your own domain and build your own site. You won't have to beg your overly protective company webmaster for favors. And just as important, you will be able to register a memorable domain name that will help you in your promotional efforts. Which do you think would be easier to remember and find: www.acmewidgets.com/50th or www.acme50.com?
3. Should you create an Event Blog instead of a normal website? Or both?
Blogs have several advantages over "ordinary" websites. First, you do not need a dedicated domain name, or even space on an already existing site. You can create a perfectly satisfactory blog site on one of the free blog services such as Google's own blogspot.com.
Second, blog entries are usually easier to make than changes or updates to a normal website. Blog posts are made by using a web form. No knowledge of html is required (although it is helpful), and you do not have to use mysterious computer functions like "FTP" to "upload" your files to a server somewhere out in cyberspace.
Third, blogs have a more "happening" chatty feeling about them because they are generally less formal. You bang your posts off as regularly as you can. This allows you to issue regular updates to keep your readers informed as plans develop, schedules change, and so on.
Fourth, blogs have some advantages as far as "networking" and traffic generating are concerned. There are many directories where you can list your blog, and you can network with like-minded bloggers - other people interested in your subject matter. You can also use your blog to do some serious "power linking", as I outline in my series of articles called Power Linking with Blogs.
The down side is that a blog may not be the best place to keep your definitive schedules and descriptions of events - the ones you expect people to refer to as authoritative sources of information. This is more a matter of perception than reality. A blog is quite capable of being home to "static" information which you can readily update and provide links to. But the perception may be that this is transitory and changing.
About the Author: Rick Hendershot is a marketing consultant operating out of Conestogo, Ontario, Canada. He publishes several websites and blogs, including Web Traffic Resources, Marketing Bites, SuperCharge Your Website with Power Linking, and many more.
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