#MakerBizChat No. 11: Six Free Ways to Host Virtual Events to Build Your Brand

On Wednesday evenings from 8 to 8:30pm ET, I host #MakerBizChat, an Instagram event to help Makers and Handmade Entrepreneurs build a solid business foundation, increase your income, and use your business to create the life you love. Our topic tonight was SIX FREE WAYS TO HOST VIRTUAL EVENTS TO BUILD YOUR BRAND. In my 15 years of serving Makers and Handmade Entrepreneurs, I have seen far too few hosting virtual events to build community around their brands.

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The opportunities are numerous here, and the technology is free, so what are you waiting for? No matter what you sell, you can use free technologies in innovative ways to spread the word . . .

You can read the full transcript on Instagram, including questions, tips and resources from the Maker community, at this link. Because Instagram is designed for mobile viewing, the entire chat on Instagram, which has dozens of comments and some great questions and discussion, is best viewed on a mobile device. Here is a summary of last night's #MakerBizChat.

Q1: HOW DO I HOST A VIRTUAL BOOK CLUB?

A1(a) Virtual book clubs are great ways to connect your target audience around shared topics of Interest. Book clubs build community. I hosted a book club through the Indie Business Network a few years back and it was a great way to learn and share with like-minded people.

A1(b) First, choose a topic that interests everyone. Relationships, entrepreneurship, “how to” topics, women, families, mystery. The list is endless. Ask your target customers what kind of books they like and see if you can choose books that complement your business that they will enjoy. A well known athletic wear company hosts a monthly book club to read and review health and fitness books, and other books women in their target audience will enjoy. IBN's book club from a few years ago focused on small business and entrepreneurship. Our member, Lela Barker at Lucky Break Consutling now hosts her own book club meetings to talk about branding and other topics of interest to small business owners. And we all know about the community Oprah created with her book clubs!

A1(c) Decide on frequency. Will you read 12 books a year? One book per quarter? Check with your community to find out what suits them. Then, pick a day to host your meetings — monthly, quarterly, or whatever.

A1(d) Use a service like Free Conference Call HD to record your club meeting. You'll get an MP3 file, which you can turn into blog content and/or distribute to your group.

Q2: HOW DO I HOST A CHAT OR TALK SHOW ON A SOCIAL NETWORKING SITE?

A2(a) The first step is to choose a topic area that interests your customers. (See A1(a)) Then, choose what social networking platform you will use. The best options will be Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Choose a name for your event, select the frequency and days/times that work best, create some graphics and announce your event.

A2(b) The power of Facebook for a virtual event cannot be denied. You can use the sponsored post option there to spread the word and invite people to attend. You can have guests, like we sometimes do here for #MakerBizChat, or your can be the host and the “speaker,” like I am tonight.

A2(c) Chats on Twitter can spread like wildfire because the hash tags are used more frequently on Twitter than they are on Facebook. They can brig in your customer base from around the world. If your customer base is on Twitter, it's a great option. I hosted #HandmadeChat on Twitter a few years ago, and it was a great deal of fun. Today, I host #MakerBizChat and it also creates community around people I want to connect with, and people I want to introduce to the Indie Business Network.

Q3: HOW DO I HOST A PODCAST?

A3(a) A podcast is another virtual event that builds brands. I have been podcasting since 2005, when there was no such thing as a “podcast.” (Dating myself …) My podcast, Indie Business Podcast, is self hosted on my WordPress blog using a plugin called Blubrry. There are also free ways to set up your podcast so you don't have to pay anyone or learn any new technology.

A3(b) Blog Talk Radio, Podomatic and Podbean are just a few free platforms. The downside of free is that they sometimes have ads. Either way, if you have a message that complements your products and services, and that can be conveyed verbally, a podcast is a great way to solidify your messaging and your brand. Our member, Pooka Pure and Simple, recently launched her From the Kitchen to the Board Room Podcast on Podomatic, so check it out!

Q4: HOW DO I HOST A WEBINAR?

A4(a) Google Hangouts is a super option. It's free and you can automatically upload the recording of your event to Youtube. You can interview a happy customer, host a virtual home party, or invite people to a live video hangout where you show them how to use your products. Our member over at Bramble Berry does an awesome job of this (though I think they switched from Google Hangouts to Livestream (which is not free).

A4(b) Two new options are also possible: Periscope and Meerkat — live streaming services that are super easy to use. I've played around with them a bit, but have not used them publicly yet. Check them out … they link to social networking sites.

A4(c) I am pausing here to say that I would love to see more Makers using live virtual events. Most people think they have to be content or information product type Makers to do this, but I do not think that's true at all. With a Google Hangout, you can host a live video for the world to see you showcase your products, take live customer questions and comments, post links to buy during the event, and save the whole thing to your website as a unique marketing tool. There is must uncharted territory here …

Q5: HOW DO I HOST A TELESEMINAR?

A5(a) No matter what you make and sell, you can create a way to host a teleseminar to complement your products. Let's say you make spa products and you are also into a healthy lifestyle. Think of 12 healthy lifestyle topics that mean something to your customers, and you have 12 teleseminar topics ready to go. Exercise, healthy food choices, product ingredients, general well being, weight loss … if you market your spa products as healthy, why not build your brand by creating community around it, as you also educate your customers and help them live a better life.

A5(b) Use a service like Free Conference Call HD to record your event. You'll get an MP3 file, which you can turn into blog content and/or distribute to your group.

Q6: HOW CAN I HOST A LIVE VIRTUAL EVENT ON FACEBOOK?

A6(a) This is so easy, I wish more people would do it. Pick a date and time frame (no more than 30 – 45 minutes) to host an event to provide your customers with answers to questions they have around topics that complement your products. Do you make and sell natural hair care products? Host an event on Facebook to answer women's questions about caring for natural hair without relaxers or chemicals. Or pick a totally unrelated topic that's just fun!

A6(b) For example, our member, Pooka Pure and Simple, hosts live events on her Facebook Page from time to time. One event was in conjunction with the Oscars, where customers joined the fun on Facebook to talk about what the stars were wearing. Now and then, someone would win a prize of Pooka products. If your customers care about fashion and what the stars wear, something like that is an inventive way to engage your customers around topics they enjoy and let them get to know you a bit better as well.

When Is The Next #MakerBizChat?

The next #MakerBizChat will be Wednesday, July 1, 2015, at 8pm ET.

Our guest and topic will be announced shortly.

#MakerBizChat takes place Wednesday evenings at 8pm ET on Instagram. Be sure to follow so you can catch all of the questions and participate in the live and lively discussion.

Question

Do you host virtual events to promote your products? Now is the time — very few Makers do this, so why not be an industry leader? Please share your thoughts and feedback in the comments below, or share on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

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About Donna Maria Coles Johnson

Donna Maria is an author, podcaster, attorney, and the founder and CEO of the Indie Business Network, providing affordable product liability insurance and mentoring. Donna Maria teaches Makers and Creative Entrepreneurs how to use technology and community to build a profitable, sustainable business.