Promote Your Race Online: An Introduction
Do you want to attract more participants to your event, engage with fans and build a loyal audience for your race? The best place to start is to promote your race online.
In the coming months we will be publishing a number of posts to help you expand your digital presence, from tips to boost your organic (non-paid) reach to tried-and-tested strategies for marketing your race online.
To start you off on your journey to digital mastery, we take a bird’s-eye view of the digital landscape, what tools are available and how each of them can contribute to your objectives.
Your digital HQ: your race website
Setting up a race for your website should be the first thing you do as part of your digital strategy. It should also be your highest priority in terms of effort invested online. Anything you do online should have one objective: to grow the quality and volume of traffic to your race website.
Why so unequivocal? How about those bottomless pools of engagement-ready Facebook users and tweet-hungry Twitterers, you ask?
Social media, without a doubt, will be key to your online success and we’ll get to that in a minute. However, when it comes to long-term online success, nothing beats having your own website, for two very crucial reasons:
- Control. No matter how you slice it, there’s only one place where you have full control of your branding message and that’s your website. On your website, you can control precisely what content is delivered and the way in which it is delivered. That is an option you are not always allowed on social media.
- Ownership. The issue of ownership is even more critical than that of control. You know all those Likes, page visitors, Twitter followers, YouTube subscribers? The fact of the matter is you own none of that. Yes, you can sort of kind of influence and communicate with them, but the means of communication is in the hands of the social media platform. Even your social media accounts exist at the discretion of your social media host. No need to be dramatic here, but you should realise that on social media you are a content provider and a user-engagement tool for the platform you operate on. You do not control the terms of the engagement and you do not own your audience.
So what’s the best way to launch a quality race website on a budget? There are plenty of very impressive website-building platforms out there, such as Wix and Weebly, but our recommendation would be Wordpress. Wordpress powers 27% of all websites (including the one you’re currently on) and can accommodate anything from a simple blog to a full-works custom website experience.
You can get started on Wordpress with a your_race.wordpress.com subdomain for free or use your own your_race.com or any other domain with a monthly hosting plan. Once you get going, it’s easy to add plugins to extend your website’s functionality, add an SEO module (search engine optimization so your content is easily found and indexed by Google) or even change the whole feel of your site with a different choice of theme.
Always look for responsive design in whatever platform you use for building your website. Responsive design simply means your website will function well and provide a good user experience across all platforms, desktop, mobile and tablet. Wordpress themes and most website-building platforms are responsive out of the box, but it’s good to check if you’re only starting out.
If you’ve got your website sorted and are thinking of investing resources in one social media platform, make it Facebook. Not only is it the largest social platform out there (by miles), its user demographic also aligns very well with the racer demographic. Furthermore, Facebook's functionality and marketing tools are awesome.
We’ll be talking in length about what to do on Facebook to promote your race in the coming weeks, from organic content strategies to cost-effective advertising campaigns. For now, just keep in mind that if you don’t have a Facebook page, you should be seriously thinking about building one.
If you don’t even have a Facebook personal profile (you’ll need one before you create a Facebook page for your race), go set one up and start spending some time getting a feel for the platform. Take a look at other race pages or join a Facebook group or two to get started. Here’s our Facebook page in case you want to stop by.
If you have time to expand to another social platform, you should consider Twitter. Twitter has been suffering a bit over the past few years in the race for social media dominance and it lacks the prospects it once held. Nonetheless it remains a formidable tool for reaching out to racers and peers.
Interestingly, Twitter is the easiest platform to get started on. For one, you don’t need a separate personal username (e.g. @JohnSmith). You can get started directly with your race username (e.g. @ABC_Marathon). It’s also easy to follow and post content from your smartphone, so you can be active on the move on Twitter.
Once set up, just start playing around with a few tweets. Tweet about your race registrations opening or special offers or press reviews. Find other races or local partners or sponsors to follow and get a habit for following and retweeting interesting content. Always share content and links of value from your own website.
Oh, and here's us on Twitter!
Other social media
You can use Instagram to share behind the scenes photos and cool race-day visuals. If you have the bandwidth and want to reach a younger audience, Instagram might be a good investment for your race’s future. If not, don’t worry. Go for mass rather than breadth and take your visuals to Facebook instead. If you choose to promote some of that Facebook content at a later stage, you will be given the option to run your promotions on Instagram as well without the need for an Instagram account.
YouTube’s appeal has been significantly - and deliberately - dented by Facebook’s impressive foray into video content. If you have or plan to produce video content, it would be wise to add it on YouTube as well as Facebook, but unless your have serious resources to put into producing quality video content, YouTube will only form a small part of your digital strategy.
You will likely end up creating a Google+ profile sooner or later to access some of the great tools on the Google platform (including YouTube). Whether you choose to actively develop a race page on Google+, given Facebook’s clear numbers advantage and massive head start, is up to you. You should definitely not do this at the expense of your Facebook presence though.
One very important aspect of promoting your race online we left for last. Yup, it’s good ol’ dependable email!
Email is the digital world’s passport. As a result, growing your digital audience should focus on developing a mailing list of your fans, website visitors and participant prospects. There is no clearer endorsement of your brand and effort than people willingly subscribing to your mailing list.
You should use every opportunity to enroll people on your mailing list. Embed mailing lists to your website and Facebook page to attract signups, and ask people reaching out to you through your site’s of Facebook page’s contact page if they'd like to be added to your list.
Always seek user consent before adding anyone to your mailing list.
Like so many things these days, getting the right tools for managing your mailing list is super straightforward. We use the most popular mailing list management platform, Mailchimp, in everything we do and we highly recommend it. The service is free to use with up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 monthly emails and you can create as many different lists as you like, as well as some beautifully looking emails. MailChimp also has great tools for creating signup forms for your website and even integrates with your Facebook page.
A word of caution on email: always use this most precious of assets with great care and consideration. There is no more greater betrayal of your fans trust in your brand than abusing their interest with poor and spammy communications. Always offer your subscribers a straightforward way of unsubscribing from your mailing list - keeping someone who is not interested any longer in your message on your list can only do damage.
So there you go. Go make it happen!